City Giving Day 2020: The power of Creativity, Collaboration & Community

Written by Sheetal Mistry, ELBA Community Development Project Manager

Tuesday 22nd September 2020 marked City Giving Day, the annual celebration of corporate giving, philanthropy and volunteering activities across the City of London and beyond. ELBA has recognised and commemorated City Giving Day for many years, and this year was no different, despite the unusual arrangements of running sessions online!

The Connect team at ELBA – responsible for our business-skills activities with a focus on charities and community organisations – ran a unique workshop to mark the occasion. Centred around ‘Design Thinking’ and its applications to the challenges of the current pandemic.The workshop formed part of our ongoing series entitled ‘Learning from Leaders’, bringing together leaders from across both corporate and community sectors to learn together and share knowledge and expertise. It was designed and co-facilitated by a team of volunteers from the Learning & Development team at Linklaters LLP and the Innovation stream at Societe Generale, and incorporated volunteer expertise from UBS. All three companies collaboratively deliver the Hackney East project along with ELBA.

The session began with an exploration of the significance of creativity and innovation in the workplace, and included some activities to encourage ‘out of the box’ thinking. Attendees – staff from multiple community organisations across Hackney and East London – were then introduced to the design thinking cycle, and tried out the different stages in small groups. The thinking was centred around the challenges raised by the current coronavirus pandemic, both in corporate and community contexts, and how we can use design thinking and the learnings we’ve gained over the past few months to prepare for an uncertain future. It was incredible to see how many ideas were generated in such a short space of time, with many attendees noting they were taking away valuable tools and suggestions to apply to their own organisational challenges.

Alison McBurney, Senior Learning Manager at Linklaters, shared:

“It was an honour to deliver a Creative and Design Thinking session on City Giving Day with ELBA and other corporate volunteers, to re-imagine the post-pandemic future and it was humbling to hear the incredible work that ELBA’s community partners are doing. It is so important to volunteer right now – because these organisations are essential in getting our communities back on their feet again when, hopefully sometime soon, this pandemic is over. I am delighted that Linklaters actively encourages everyone to take the time to volunteer. We can all make a positive difference!”

We were also delighted to have been joined by Alderman Sir Peter Estlin, a previous Lord Mayor of the City of London, who attended in acknowledgement of City Giving Day. He shared his insights on the challenges raised by the pandemic, particularly that of digital inequalities and access, and the importance of shifting our thinking in order to address them.

Overall it was an extremely dynamic and productive session, reinforcing the benefits and value of collaboration between the corporate and community sectors. Whilst City Giving Day may only be an annual event, we are constantly reminded through our work with our incredible member companies of how much can be gained from corporate expertise and knowledge, and how much there is to be learnt and shared across the sectors. A huge thank you to Alison McBurney and Emma Forbes-Cockell from Linklaters and James Green from Societe Generale for developing and delivering the session, and to the fantastic volunteers from UBS & Societe Generale, and community attendees for their insight and contributions. Whilst the next few months are indeed uncertain, we know there is power in connection, creativity and community in getting us through these challenging times.

Hackney East is a collaborative partnership between Linklaters, UBS, Societe Generale and the Societe Generale UK Foundation, delivered by ELBA, which aims to empower and support local people and organisations in the east of the borough of Hackney. ELBA’s ‘Learning from Leaders’ series forms a part of this. If you are interested in learning more about the Hackney East project, please contact

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