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In 1997 Business in the Community (BITC) responded to a request from Marks & Spencer to help them initiate an employee community involvement programme in Paris, which they had already successfully implemented in their UK stores. David Halley, Head of International Relations made contact with an NGO called IMS-Entreprendre, Institut du Mecenat et Solidarite, which focused on corporate community investment and was founded by the then Chairman and Founder of Axa Assurances, Claude Bebear.
The programme was implemented successfully, followed by similar identification of partners in Spain, the Netherlands and further West European countries. For a number of years our network was known as the Cecile Network which stood for Coordinating Employee Community Involvement Links in Europe.
With limited one year funding from the European Commission in 1998, the Cecile Network expanded in Europe. Employee involvement remained the main focus, concentrating on identifying partners, who could be trained, with whom to share tools and case studies with and support them at their own promotional events.
The EC funding was matched by additional funding from the founding companies of the network, which included IBM, KPMG and Freshfields. With this funding, the network continued to expand into Central and Eastern Europe, always with a focus on employee involvement.
Some of the large partners, being by and large the key organisations in their country in this area of work, also became partners with EBNSC, now CSR Europe. BITC is the UK National Partner Organisation (NPO) for CSR Europe.
About the time of the Millennium, the expanding network invited other key CSR organisations from around the world to join including Ethos in Brazil and Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP). This development coincided with the growth of the CSR movement worldwide and the nature of the network evolved from a community focus to the broader one it has now.
Cecile, as a name was no longer appropriate and The Global Partner Network was adopted instead. The network grew consistently until the current number of 124 partners. This development was mostly funded by agencies in the respective countries and was supported by a number of corporate sponsors.
Many Cecile partners were involved in employee volunteering, however in 2002, two of our partners, IBLF and Business in the Community, developed an international employee volunteering toolkit designed to involve a number of companies collaboratively working on a project. This programme was called ENGAGE and was enabled through the Global Partner Network. ENGAGE today remains a highly successful programme expanding from Europe and throughout the world.
Along with new staff and management and more sponsors, we have now been able to develop a new website, and implement a better structure, Leadership Team and governance model, reflecting growing demand and real unique potential.
The new brand and CSR360 Global Partner Network name was chosen, as it establishes a distinct unique brand; it says to the outside world what it is for, which the letters GPN by themselves do not.