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Interview with Debra Brunner, CEO, The Together Plan

Interview with Debra Brunner, CEO, The Together Plan

Jo Major Social Purpose - Impact Stories

Can you tell us about The Together Plan?
The Together Plan was established in 2013, by two people who had developed a close relationship with the former Soviet Union and had spent many years close to the people understanding the challenges and the obstacles in developing communities. The Together Plan has spent four years working with communities in eastern Europe winning hearts and minds to help communities help themselves. There are four key areas through which The Together Plan has transformed the communal landscape in the region: Youth, Aid, Heritage and Judaism. We have found that change is affected only when young people adopt positions of leadership in their communities. Our youth projects empower young people to experience active leadership within a revitalised intergenerational network of people.

What is your role in the charity?
I am one of the two Founders and Directors. My co-founder director lives in Minsk, Belarus.

What does a typical day at The Together Plan look like for you?
There is no such thing as a typical day really, as a small charity, we are all very hands on. One day I could be training with the UK volunteers, or at our warehouse sorting out humanitarian aid donations, Skyping in to one of our communities in Belarus or Poland, or I could be meeting with potential donors, giving a talk, filling in a grant application, or working with our wonderful volunteer Frazer Jones HR specialists creating policies for the charity. It is non-stop, and it never stops.

How have Frazer Jones supported the charity over the last year?
As a charity that we have grown from inception, we have had to learn as we go. There has been no template for us. Our aspiration is to be professional in every way possible. We came to understand that it is important to have policies in place, to be compliant, however we don’t have HR experience. Thankfully, we came across Frazer Jones and discovered their social corporate responsibility programme which was almost too good to be true. Within a week of registering, we had been contacted and I am delighted to say that we now have the support of a most wonderful HR professional who is helping us to create our policies, write an employment contract, has set us up on an HR platform and is guiding us through an area that we simply had no knowledge of. This would have been a big cost for us to have bought this service in, but having the support pro-bono has enabled us to continue to pay the part-time staff we have now and support the charity projects overseas as we grow the charity. It has been a truly enormous support for us.

 

Why do you feel the partnership works well?
The support from Frazer Jones has been extraordinary, so much more than expected. Not only were they able to offer us a professional HR volunteer but they also have office space. We now use this facility on a regular basis. It is a fantastic resource where we bring our UK team, run strategy
and planning meetings and hold staff training. We also use it as a space for meeting with our HR support professional. The partnership is of enormous value to us and it is helping to propel us forward as a small charity at a faster pace than expected.

What would enable the charity to do more?
Funding is a huge challenge for us. We really need to find financial support now – a corporate sponsor or a philanthropist or two to get behind us. Having the peace of mind to know that our staff are supported while we grow the charity is a real goal for us. We would love to find office space where we can establish a base, and we always need better IT. With real support and backing we know we can build resources and deliver skills to
the communities we are striving to support in a bid to help build better civil society.