Symposium highlights

By Ivo Clifton, Head of Specialist and Charity Business

Our sixth charity symposium, which took place last Thursday at the beautifully-restored IET London: Savoy Place, explored a subject close to the heart of most charities – legacy.

Our chair, the broadcast journalist Mishal Husain, said at the start of the afternoon, legacy is a crucial issue for charities – just over £2 billion was left to them in wills in 2012/13. And, as well as those legacies received, charities large and small create important social legacies through their ongoing good works and positive impact on society.

Just 99 days before the opening of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, it was an opportune moment to reflect on the very successful London games of 2012 and we were delighted to welcome to the stage the driving force behind those games, Lord Coe, who explained how the concept of ‘legacy’ helped shaped London 2012’s successful bid.

Legacy is an easy touchstone for sporting bids, yet the reality has often been way wide of the mark as many empty and decaying arenas and swimming pools around the world testify. Lord Coe described how the nascent bid team identified the importance of legacy in London’s proposal. While the ‘how (to deliver the games)?’ was relatively easy to address, what became London’s defining proposition was explaining ‘why’ London and the UK wanted to host the Games.

When pressed, they all focused on how sport could change the lives of young people and the importance of inspiring children to lead more active lives. The core legacy was born: now the team had a purpose and it was enshrined in the master plan rather than left as a nebulous concept. This was a key factor in London’s success. As an example, he explained that partners such as BP and BMW were chosen as much for their commitment to legacy as their financial proposals.

Four years on from the London Olympic and Paralympic games, with memories of the wonderful opening ceremony, the army of volunteers and the advanced sporting facilities, it is somewhat easy to underestimate the scale of the vision required to make the Games a reality. As Lord Coe pointed out during the discussion, the first step to deliver the legacy was to first deliver an outstanding Games. If not, there would have been no interest in the Olympic legacy afterwards.

What about the legacy? Citing an additional 1.5 million people participating in sport, Lord Coe is satisfied that it is established and a generation has been inspired, although you can never be complacent and there is always more work to do to keep sport at the forefront of everyone’s lives. He also regards the success of the Paralympic Games as the standout success of 2012.  The Paralympic Games changed our country’s perception and understanding of disability.  Our sporting heroes from London 2012 are both Olympians and Paralympians. But the legacy stretches much further:

  • the regeneration of a blighted area of East London, which was achieved with as much input from the local community as possible.
  • the crucial role played by women who were strongly represented on the senior organising team (not usually a strong point for sport).
  • the success of the ‘games maker’ volunteers.
  • the hugely-successful Cultural Olympiad that accompanied the sporting games.
  • the breakdown of tribal barriers between the public and private sectors.
  • the fact that the games didn’t become a political football even though the British government and London mayor changed party hands in the years before the games.
  • the successful use of technology for ticketing and engagement with social media – it is mind-boggling that there was more social media and website traffic in the first two hours than in the whole of the Beijing games.

Following Lord Coe’s talk, Mishal Husain chaired an interesting Q&A with the audience. Asked whether legacy has to be aligned with your overall mission, Lord Coe said no, it can be about gender or ethnic equality, or local involvement – the key is to commit fully to whichever legacy you wish to achieve and promote it through your overall activity.

Otherwise, Lord Coe answered a number of questions about his current role as President of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), which is arguably more challenging than winning two Olympic gold medals or organising the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He was remarkably open about the scale of the task he faces to restore the credibility of athletics and the time it will take, but again he has a clear vision and nobody who experienced London 2012 should doubt his determination to create a third great legacy.

Before Lord Coe, our guests were addressed by three speakers from Rathbones on important investment issues:

At the end of an enjoyable afternoon, our guests were able to meet friends in the charity sector over drinks and canapés and enjoy the IET’s beautiful views along the River Thames from the MI6 building to the City. We are very grateful for the effort that our guests made to attend and hope that they found the symposium informative and enjoyable.

View selection of photographs here from the day

If you would like to know more about Rathbones’ services for charities, please contact Ivo Clifton, Head of the Specialist and Charity Business, or Louise Willows, Marketing Manager for Charities and Professional Intermediaries.