Suffolk ProHelp is a countywide network of businesses which provides professional and strategic support free of charge to voluntary organisations.
The guiding principle of Suffolk ProHelp is that members approach this work in the same way as they would any other fee-paying customer. The only difference is that the community client is not charged for the work undertaken.
Suffolk ProHelp is co-ordinated by Community Action Suffolk and funded through the Transformation Challenge Award, made possible by Suffolk Public Sector Leaders group.
We’d like to introduce you to one of the Suffolk ProHelp members, who has signed up to support Suffolk’s voluntary organisations.
Tell us about your business
We are a small architectural practice based in Ipswich with a focus on high quality contemporary design. We engage in a range of projects and have a wealth of both design and practical experience. We pride ourselves on our ability to deliver projects to a very high standard. We are passionate about spatial connections, distinctive design and attention to detail to create buildings that are contemporary yet responsive to existing contexts.
Why did your business get involved with Suffolk ProHelp?
We are aware that many voluntary organisations are not sufficiently resourced to be able to pay for our services and as socially minded people we enjoy offering our experience and skills to help make projects happen. We are particularly interested in offering our support to organisations for which design is important. This could include local arts organisations where the ambition is to improve the cultural offering in Ipswich.
Which voluntary organisations have Suffolk Prohelp matched you with and how did you help them?
Ipswich Arts Centre and St Clements Church
- We have helped IAC by developing a design for the first phase of work, contributing to their business plan, negotiating with various statutory bodies including Ipswich Borough Council and Historic England. We prepared and secured planning and Listed Building consent for the first phase of St Clement church to be used as an arts centre.We continue to contribute our time to the project to assist with the procurement of sponsors and other logistical and design issues in connection with moving the project forward. This includes liasing with Suffolk New College with the aim that their construction students be involved in the proposed building works to give them some practical work experience on a live project.
Suffolk Refugee Support
- Our assistance has included a measured survey of the property, design advice and proposal drawings, liaising and coordinating various consultants including a quantity surveyor, structural engineer and CDM advisor. We prepared drawings for a Building Regulations application including meetings with the BCO, and information for a Landlord’s License to Alter application. We have prepared information for builders to price and met with the tendering builders on site.We continue to offer our support for the design of the main shopfront area, and for the period when works starts on site.Nick Feldman, Vice Chair and Treasurer of Suffolk Refugee Support Forum, said:”We have now signed the lease and have all the permissions. We have a contractor lined up to deliver an office we shall be excited to use. We are so grateful to you [all] and, through you, to all the professionals who have helped us, not only for their generosity in giving their time, but also for their full, timely and helpful advice. Even if we had been foolhardy enough to embark on the venture without them, we would have given up in despair very quickly. It may be that we will call on some of them again on the odd occasion, but now seems to be a good moment to let you know how happy we are.”
How else does your business get involved with the local community?
We were involved with and offered our services to the Ipswich Recreate project that aimed to support the development of creative business in Ipswich in 2014.
Similarly we have offered our services to Start East, an organisation set up in 2017 that has similar objectives to support for the development of performance arts industries in the East of England.
Informally, we continue to make connections with other creative industries in Ipswich with a view to nurturing a more visible creative network in the area.
Ellie is an occasional lecturer at UOS on the Interior Architecture and Design degree course.
What would you say to voluntary organisations which might need professional support?
Building works can often be a complex aspect of a project and the bureaucratic process of building is often underestimated. We would suggest that organisations prepare a concise but thorough brief of their aims and objectives and approach suitably qualified consultants for guidance as early on in the process as possible. This way, expert advice will make for a more time and cost efficient process.
Design is also often an under valued aspect of a building project. Good design does not have to be expensive and a careful and thoughtful approach to a project will not only save money but will provide an uplifting experience for the end users.
Why would your recommend businesses join Suffolk ProHelp?
It is rewarding to be able to offer your skills to those who ordinarily might not have the resources to engage your company and utilise your expertise. It can also be personally satisfying to feel that you are helping a good cause that makes a positive social contribution.
There is also the benefit of being introduced to and working with other Suffolk ProHelp members both in terms of networking, and forming future working relationships.
Suffolk ProHelp would like to hear from you if you are:
- a business in Suffolk that would be interested in joining Suffolk ProHelp
- a voluntary organisation or charity in Suffolk that would be interested in probono services from Suffolk businesses
Read more about Suffolk ProHelp here, or contact:
Angela Lee-Foster, Suffolk ProHelp Manager
01473 345 338 / 07407 097750