Corporate Social Responsibility is about so much more than ticking a box or "giving something back" - with the right approach, strategic CSR activity helps with brand positioning, strengthening bonds with regional communities and networking.
Darren Ridge, CEO of Onecom, approached Polymedia with the idea that he wanted to contribute in some way to the school he went to as a teenager - decades before he became a successful entrepreneur and head of the UK's largest independent business-to-business communications provider.
Polymedia's approach was to develop a Future of Technology competition, which encouraged pupils of the school, formerly Wakefords but now known as Havant Academy, to develop ideas for apps, devices and software that could revolutionise lives.
They were encouraged to focus on technologies that made use of the "Internet of Things" - networks of smart devices that connect to each other by high-speed internet.
The competition, covered in regional media and with images and video on social channels run by the Academy and Onecom, underlined key messages about Onecom's key messages around innovation, product knowledge and cutting edge technology.
It also enabled Onecom to raise its profile as a potential employer based in the region, while inspiring pupils to develop their thinking, presentation and language skills.
Students developed their concepts with the help of teaching staff at the Academy, and a visit from Emma and Graham Doe, head of IoT at Onecom, halfway through the project for mentoring and support.
On the day of the final, the judges heard the students pitch ideas ranging from a fashion app that could choose an outfit for any occasion to a car controlled by a Virtual Reality headset.
Two winners were chosen - a Handy Household app, which reminded users about chores and tracked food stocks to help reduce waste, and a “smart bin” concept which encouraged users to recycle by awarding points and vouchers.
Winning pupils received a leading-edge Samsung mobile phone and virtual reality kit, while all participating pupils received a camera drone.
Darren Ridge said: "When we launched this competition, we had no idea how successful it would be – but we have been bowled over by the enthusiasm and ideas we have seen from the pupils.
“I have no doubt that there are future app developers and entrepreneurs here as well as young people who are definitely potential future Onecom employees.
“These young people have shown that they grasp the concepts at work and the limitless potential of the Internet of Things to transform the way we live and work in the future.”
Victoria Adams, Head of School at Havant Academy, said: “We are very grateful to Darren for coming back to his former school and inspiring the students here.
“The competition has created a huge buzz, and shown the young people how somebody from a background similar to theirs can go on to achieve great success through hard work and innovation.
“The pupils are delighted with their prizes, and have learned a great deal thought this project about technology, business and the process of pitching.”