The firm aims to support and encourage all staff to contribute to the community in which we do business. In recent years, Arthur Cox has worked closely with Special Olympics Ireland and St Vincent de Paul. In addition to this, the Arthur Cox Zambia project, which is trainee-led, continues to go from strength to strength as a unique stand-alone project that has received several external awards, including most recently, being commended for the Chambers Ireland Excellence in Community Volunteering Award 2016.
Raising Standards of Living in Zambian Communities – The Arthur Cox Zambia Project (“ACZP”)
Since 2008, Arthur Cox trainees have developed a project designed to raise standards of living in some of the most rural regions of Zambia by investing in healthcare, agriculture and education. Since then, nearly €350,000 has been raised for various initiatives, with the participating trainees covering all administrative and travel costs. The trainees, along with volunteers and contractors from the local community, work on the designated projects during a two week period every year, which typically involves construction, renovation or agricultural works. To ensure sustainability and avoid dependence, the programmes are designed to become self-funding with a carefully-managed handover to the community or local government.
For the first six years, the ACZP was based in Mwandi, Zambia, where the trainees refurbished a regional medical clinic servicing over 4,000 people, constructed a bespoke maternity ward, constructed ablution blocks and provided running water and electricity to the clinic and health centre. The ACZP also pioneered a programme which brought a rice crop to the area for the first time, creating a new economy which now involves over 500 farmers and contributes approximately USD$500,000 annually to the local economy.
Since 2014, the ACZP moved to a new location, near Chikuni, which is the burial place of the firm’s founder Arthur Cox. Here, the trainees have partnered with the local Jesuit mission, where Arthur Cox himself was based, to build radio schools in conjunction with the community which teach a government-approved curriculum to children who cannot attend formal schools due to geographic and financial barriers. Lessons are broadcast over wind-up radio and facilitated by locally trained mentors. The radio schools, which are solar-powered, also operate as adult education and agricultural training centres for the local communities. In 2016 the ACZP partnered with Suas to pilot the use of award winning iSchool teaching software, delivering classes through the use of durable teacher tablets and projectors (via solar power). Our vision is to build a radio school in each location and to replace the one way monochrome radio broadcast with interactive and visually rich teaching resources designed by iSchool specifically for Zambia. To date, the building of four ACZP schools will be completed by the end of 2016, with two further planned for 2017.
In 2015/16 the ACZP began a pilot programme in partner schools in the Mwandi region to deliver washable and re-usable sanitary wear for female students who were missing out on 6-8 weeks of school every year because of inadequate facilities and education around mensuration. Over 120 packs have been distributed to date as part of this pilot by the school health co-ordinators. Data has also been collected to monitor the impact on school attendance and general attitudes to menstrual health among students, teachers and the wider community. Feedback has been extremely positive and the ACZP is exploring options for the future rollout of the programme.
The overall aim of the ACZP is to raise standards of living by investing and developing healthcare, agriculture and education in a sustainable manner and in conjunction with the local community. One of the most important aspects is to ensure that dependence is avoided. In order to achieve this, the ACZP, with the assistance of our partners in Ireland and the communities themselves, ensures that the community is mobilised before any work is undertaken and that each project has been identified by the community itself as a need. If the project comes from within the community, it brings a sense of ownership and facilitates a carefully-managed handover by the ACZP to the community and/or government. These goals evolved over time, based on the ACZP’s experiences since 2008, and following a careful strategic analysis with our partners in both Ireland and Zambia.
Each year, a group of approximately 20 trainees volunteer with the ACZP and almost 150 trainees have participated to date. The trainees plan, fundraise and travel to Zambia, with the same spirit that Arthur Cox himself had over 50 years ago, namely to help the local community.
Of the €350,000 that has been raised to date, the majority of this comes from staff at Arthur Cox. Every cent goes directly to ACZP, as the trainees cover all their own costs. The trainees devise new and exciting fundraising initiatives every year and everyone has shown tremendous support. Events have included an Arthur Cox ‘X Factor’ night, a ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ evening, a triathlon and an annual table quiz.
All of these events have resulted in fantastic staff gatherings that have also proved to be excellent fundraisers for the ACZP. While not everyone within the firm may have the opportunity to travel to Zambia themselves, through participating in the fundraising and seeing the progress and huge developments that the ACZP achieves each year, everyone feels that they are playing their part in this key volunteering initiative that has become the cornerstone of the firm’s volunteering programme.
- Commended, Chambers Ireland Excellence in Community Volunteering Award 2016
- IBEC International Environment Cooperation Award 2013-2014
- Chambers Ireland Best in International CSR Award 2014
- Highly commended, The Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Awards 2014
PRIME Work Experience
Since May 2012, Arthur Cox has run a work experience programme called PRIME which is designed to provide fair access to quality work experience for school-age students from less privileged backgrounds. Arthur Cox is one of 23 founding firms involved in the establishment of the programme, which is being led by Allen & Overy.
The main objective of PRIME is to offer students exposure to the legal profession. By helping them understand what is involved in working in a law firm, we aim to broaden their career aspirations and ambitions. All of the students involved in PRIME come from backgrounds where no one in their family has completed third level education yet. Our intention is that their time in Arthur Cox encourages them to consider pursuing that possibility.
Feedback from those who have participated in the programme has been positive with students describing their experience as “wonderful.” All of them commented that it has helped them believe that the prospect of an office job is now attainable and suitable for them.
Boardmatch Ireland aims to support the development of the voluntary and community sector (the nonprofit sector) by strengthening boards and management committees. It has developed a web-based model which recruits skilled, talented and diverse people willing to volunteer on the boards of nonprofit organisations of their choice, and matches them with openings on nonprofit boards. This matching between people and organisations happens on Boardmatch’s website.
Once introduced, candidates and boards each follow their own procedures to see if a successful match can be made.
We worked with Boardmatch on their first ‘Sharing Knowledge’ guide. We drafted a guide which gives an overview of directors’ roles and responsibilities and good governance practice within charitable companies. The guide is intended primarily for people either thinking about joining, or already volunteering on the boards of charitable companies.
The firm is an active supporter of the Trinity College Dublin Pathways to Law programme which is part of the Trinity Access Programme.
Arthur Cox also supports the DCU Access Programme, a ground-breaking initiative that co-ordinates a range of programmes aimed at increasing participation in higher education by students who, for a variety of financial or social reasons, do not view going to university as a viable or attractive option.