Celebrating the social in social enterprise
This week, we celebrate social enterprise day, a day each year when we reflect on all the amazing businesses and ventures out there that put people ahead of profits. It really feels like social enterprises and community businesses are taking off and that change is here to stay. There’s so much you can buy now that will help the wider community or the wider world. Cooperatively owned chocolate, loaves of bread that help to employ refugees, plastic free fruit and veg to help the environment, olive oil that supports farmers in Palestine, water that helps people overseas. So many exciting new things!
But when I reflect on my short time working at Community Catalysts, it’s the people, the ‘social’ in social enterprise, I remember most, not the products.
There was Jean and Phil at an event that we set up to help locals to connect with community business. Phil had just started baking, Jean proudly told me, at the age of 82. “He gets a bit mixed up with the difference between tablespoon and teaspoon, but he’s pretty good otherwise.” I’m with Phil, why do they make tbsp and tsp look so similar?!
Then there was Lesley, a softly spoken woman I was trying to coax into being videoed for a funding bid. She runs a weekly craft group in Telford and Wrekin, where ten people gather each week to make things together. The group was really mixed: a well-dressed middle-aged lady recovering from mental health problems, a young east Asian mother and her baby in a sling, a grey-haired lady with a learning disability. One older man, Tom, told me that crafting had given him new meaning in his life. The glamorous lady working in the cafe told me “I love it here!”. I also met Maddy who said she comes to the community centre a few times a week to have lunch because it has “nice people” and she lives just across the road. Maddy struggles to communicate using speech so we both celebrated when I was finally able to understand what she’d had for lunch. “Cake..? Hake? Like the fish? Cake? Are you sure it wasn’t cake? There’s lots of cake here… ah, egg!”
At Community Catalysts we help local people to make connections with other people in their neighbourhood, to grow those connections and make them sustainable through their business or enterprise. There’s so much diversity in what we and other social enterprises do, and in what we offer. But what makes all these enterprises so compelling and uplifting is that they really do put people, the social, first. Let’s hope that the tide is truly turning and that they and others like them can be a real force for positive change for our communities for many years to come.
by Victoria Armitage
Communication and Marketing Officer