What are nine men in pinstripes doing wandering around Newtown, one of Birmingham's most run-down council estates? Underpriviledged residents, understandably nonplussed, initially took them for yet another group of town planners.
They were in fact the latest participants in Business in the Community's Seeing is Believing programme and included GKN's Sir David Lees, Tarmac's Neville Simms, Land Rover's Terence Clarke and Brian Howes of Kimberly Clarke. The programme takes businessmen out of the boardroom and into inner cities where they can see, and, with any luck, act on a range of local initiatives in their own communities - most typically aimed at reducing joblessness.
Issues tackled by Newtown residents ranged from the relatively mundane - a request for employers to write kinder rejection letters to a call for companies to second staff to work in the area. Previous trips to other black spots have led to action - the joint efforts of, among others, the Ladbroke Group, Alfred McAlpine, and Forte Hotels in the Vauxhall district of Liverpool, for example, resulted in a newcentre for the homeless. There are indeed heartstrings to be pulled in business.