Societe Generale, together with the SG UK Foundation, raise £1 million to support Shelter’s GROW (Getting Real Opportunities of Work) programme

Published: by Mary Foulkes

Colleagues sit around a table having a discussion in Shelter's London office

Mary Foulkes, Shelter’s Director of Equity and Inclusion, reflects on the impact that funding from the Societe Generale (SG) partnership has had on our GROW (Getting Real Opportunities of Work) programme.

GROW programme offers personalised training and support  

Shelter’s GROW programme aims to give people with lived experience of the housing emergency access to paid employment, and personal and professional development opportunities. We know that people who have experienced homelessness and challenges can face complex barriers to obtaining or sustaining meaningful employment. Through personalised training and enhanced support over 12 months, the programme seeks to help people overcome these barriers, build confidence, and gain new skills to enable them to secure employment at the end of the traineeship.   

SG funding boosts career opportunities for people with lived experience of homelessness 

Societe Generale has been in partnership with us since 2021, supporting our GROW programme, and I’m delighted to announce that their staff, together with the SG UK Foundation, have raised over £1 million to support people with lived experience – six months ahead of their target. The impact that these funds will have on individuals and on Shelter’s work cannot be understated. 

Every GROW trainee is unique and able to offer a valuable, diverse, and specialised skillset through their lived experiences. They are empowered to use their expertise to help, inspire change and act as positive role models for people who are currently going through similar experiences as they did.   

Through the support of Societe Generale, its employees and corporate foundation, Shelter has been able to expand the programme, and offer many people the opportunity to not only enter but thrive in the workplace. As a result of this partnership, the programme has been able to offer each trainee one-to-one wellbeing and employability support from a dedicated GROW officer, career mentoring, and a personal budget to support their personal and professional development.  

With the additional funds that the SG partnership has raised, we’ll be able to improve the support we offer our trainees by extending their length of employment with Shelter. This will mean that our trainees have the best chance of moving on from the programme into education, employment, or training. We’ll also be able to use the learnings from the GROW programme to extend our offering to more participants, volunteers, and staff through additional employability and skills development opportunities.  

Delivering early on impact 

Beyond the impact SG’s funding has had on the trainees, our partnership has helped Shelter deliver on one of the pillars of our 10-year (2019-29) strategy which is to ensure that ‘expertise by experience’ is at the heart of how we deliver our campaigning and support work. People with lived experience of homelessness, such as the GROW trainees have unique insights into what it’s like to be homeless, or under threat of homelessness. And it’s only by bringing these people into our organisation that we can truly shift the power in our fight for home and ensure we are representing communities, in the best way possible. GROW trainees in England have supported the delivery of fantastic peer research projects and engaged with their communities in a unique way meaning we can have a better understanding and make informed decisions to tackle the issues people face.

On behalf of everyone at Shelter, I would like to extend a huge thanks to Societe Generale colleagues for their fantastic support to Shelter and our GROW programme, and to the Societe Generale UK Foundation for matching these efforts. I think this story from Chris, one of our fantastic ex-trainees, helps to demonstrate the life-changing impact of your support. 

Thank you so much Shelter and the GROW programme for showing me I’m worth it 

‘My GROW Traineeship gave me the structure and confidence I needed and a new meaning to self-acknowledgement and self-respect.  

‘I faced stigma and discrimination for a massive part of my life. To then be made a part of the GROW traineeship which only showed me loving kindness, I was just full of support and decency. This made me aware and feel that no matter what somebody’s past is there’s a place for everybody, and most of all, people are willing to accept you for yourself and your past. This filled me with happiness and made me want to be a better person, and better at the opportunity I’ve been given.  

‘I’m so humbled to have done the GROW traineeship and it’s turned me into an inspiration for myself and others thank you GROW Team for believing in me.  

‘Since my GROW traineeship, I now have the ability to look at bigger things for my life and future. This is all due to the massive opportunity I was given as a GROW Trainee. My hard work, determination and resilience were seen by my colleagues, and I have now been given a new job opportunity within Shelter as an Involvement Officer. 

‘Thank you so much Shelter and the GROW programme for showing me I’m worth it and capable of what I want to achieve. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this beautiful family within Shelter.  

‘I sit in awe and gratitude for the human being I am today and how I am able to look in the mirror and acknowledge I am worth all the good things that are happening to me.’