Morgan Lambert McCluskey and Cecelia Ahern at the launch of KPMG and St Michael's House Multi-Sensory Stories, which won the Best Creative Staff Engagement Award at the 2015 Allianz Business to Arts Awards

When KPMG employees collaborated with St Michael’s House, a service for people with intellectual disabilities, they helped to produce something tangible and enduring

Developing a partnership that can both inspire staff and have a significant impact on the organisation with whom you’re working is no easy feat. Last year KPMG managed just that when it collaborated in a unique art project with St Michael’s House. The partners have won the Best Creative Staff Engagement Award at the Allianz Business to Arts Awards.

As one of the world’s largest professional services companies, KPMG takes corporate social responsibility seriously, and a relationship with St Michael’s House is an integral part of its CSR strategy.

St Michael’s House is heavily community based and develops as well as provides services for people with intellectual disabilities, their parents and family. Since its foundation in 1955, it has grown from a small day school to an organisation that supports 1,663 children and adults in its 170 centres.

For some time KMPG has sponsored the organisation’s corporate volunteer days, which encourage corporate employees to develop and work on projects while learning more about the needs of people with intellectual disabilities. The programme allows St Michael’s House to cut some of its costs by making use of a wide range of trained volunteers.

But in 2013, work began on a new project that would take the relationship further. Multi-Sensory Stories was based around imagination, learning and development of sensory awareness. It was the perfect endeavour for KPMG to engage in, given that the company values creativity highly, and the project gave staff the opportunity to write materials and produce their own book.

Karina Howley, head of CSR at KPMG, says: “We are very lucky to have a young, dynamic workforce who loved the opportunity to give back and do something different.”

KPMG employees were tasked with writing a short story with just seven simple sentences. Although most were excited to be involved, some were nervous and not quite sure if they could create. Through workshops and training that helped “make the concept reality” the staff found their inner creativity, and from simple ideas came amazingly creative stories, says Howley.

The senses are extremely important for people with intellectual difficulties and it was essential that the book had sensory elements to bring the story to life. Each story comes with sensory objects that people can touch, taste, see, hear and smell. Team members sourced the various items and designed a box with compartments to contain the book and objects, as well as a handle for ease of carrying.

“There were so many unforeseen elements to the project that took time,” says Howley. “The marketing team sourced the packaging, which needed to be colourful, washable and suitable for tagging, but also high quality at a reasonable price. Staff members were responsible for designing a logo to go with the project, another departure from their normal routine.”

The books proved a hit with St Michael’s service users and parents alike. Demand for them far exceeded expectations.

Within KPMG the project bolstered camaraderie as staff embraced the opportunity to create and give back, says Howley.

“Social responsibility should be at the heart of every company, big or small. Companies, regardless of size, can add value to the community and help make a difference.”

This ethos has served KMPG well in the past and looks set to be an important part of the company’s future as Howley looks to the next generation of employees. A company’s willingness to invest in CSR can act as a strong recruitment tool.

“KPMG wants the best and brightest, and we hope they will be attracted by the chance to tap into skills and talents that are different from the day to day tasks,” says Howley.

By Linda Daly

This profile first appeared in the Allianz Business to Arts Awards Supplement in the Sunday Independent on 6 September 2015

Further case studies are available at www.independent.ie/allianzbusinesstoarts2015

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