Ten years of amazing people (and enterprise)

28 July 2020 · Categories: Communities Care, Innovators Learn, Local Area Coordination Network, People Can, Small Good Stuff

Sian Lockwood, CEO of Community Catalysts, takes us on a journey of the last 10 years; from the launch of Community Catalysts to some of the amazing people and projects we’ve met along the way…


For those of us who were there at the start, it is hard to realise that Community Catalysts is actually 10 years’ old. It seems only yesterday that we were starting out with a grant and one precious contract – and yet here we are 10 years’ later, enriched immeasurably by our work with nearly a hundred imaginative councils, a mosaic of wonderful projects and thousands upon thousands of amazing enterprises!

In the beginning…

Our beginning lies within another organisation, Shared Lives Plus, where I was then Chief Executive. We had been funded by the then Department of Health to develop and test a programme of support for really small (micro) enterprises set up by local people to help other people in their community. This was all about creating real choice for people with personal budgets. We tested our support model in Oldham and Kent, supporting inspiring enterprise leaders like Dance Syndrome and Funky Fitness and Fun (still thriving today). The model worked and we brought all the learning from it into a practical guide, launched by the then Minister of State for Care in the Department of Health Ivan Lewis.

We knew from previous high-profile launches that our practical guide by itself would not deliver much impact but felt that the learning from this was so important that it could not be allowed to run into the sand. So we launched Community Catalysts as a CIC, to work with local authorities (and subsequently many other kinds of customer) to help create an environment within which people could use their gifts and talents through enterprise and contribution.

We were ambitious from the start, aiming to help people across the UK who need care or support to live their lives in the way they want to, as connected and contributing citizens. And while we haven’t in any way achieved our aims (yet) we have been able to work in England, Wales and Scotland and across 93 areas!

Some of our projects…

Dudley and Nottinghamshire were early adopters, commissioning our new CIC to find and nurture new community enterprises. There are many examples from that period of wonderful community enterprises who are flourishing still. Pulp Friction is one splendid instance – an enterprise set up by a young woman with learning disabilities and her mum which started with smoothie bikes and has gone on become a major force in outside catering in the Nottinghamshire area.

Almost from the beginning, we were surprised and delighted by the diversity of requests for our help. The Innovation Challenge was a Leicestershire County Council initiative, in which we were funded to work with housing organisations and their tenants to co-produce and deliver solutions to issues they felt were important. We worked with 9 groups of tenants and staff on a range of projects from an intergenerational quilt (produced by older tenants with children from a local school) to  a practical aid to help people who couldn’t read to remember important appointments. There were so many outcomes to this wonderful project, for the people involved of course but also staff from the housing associations and the wider public.

We began to be asked to work with creative providers who wanted to help the people they support to use their gifts and talents to make a contribution. Hansel’s Enterprising Minds project is one early example in which more than 30 of the people they supported were helped to turn their dreams into reality. We developed long-term relationships with two providers in particular, MacIntyre and Camphill Village Trust, working in different ways to help staff and the people they support to find new ways to use their strengths.

So many creative programmes and so many enterprises, that it is hard to know what else to pick out…

…Perhaps just 4 more…

There was the launch of our membership organisation Small Good Stuff in 2015 which gives small community enterprises across the country the opportunity to share information about the fantastic things they do and to connect with and learn from each other. Membership is free and since launching has attracted over 1000 members.

Somerset of course. The council had challenged us to support home-care start ups in the most rural parts of the county. They had already made substantial investment in community infrastructure and that, together with courageous leadership and a decision to provide everyone who needed homecare with a direct payment with full information about what was available (and an extremely talented Catalyst) led to rapid growth in the numbers of community enterprises. Over the 4 years we were there our Catalyst supported 362 ‘start-up’ enterprises which were included in his full directory of 425 community enterprises delivering home care. Between them, these enterprises supported 1500 people and created 372 local jobs. Collectively they provided 12000 hours of care or support a week. And the growth continues…….

Then we fell in love with community business. We had been funded by Power to Change to see whether our model of support to community enterprises would also be useful to much larger community businesses who were keen to diversify into health and social care. We worked with community businesses in Telford and Warwickshire, learning from them about the challenges they faced and helping with their diversification. We were awe-struck by the commitment, imagination and creativity of the people we worked with and saw at first hand their power for good in their neighbourhood. We continue to work closely and collaboratively with Power to Change and to support community businesses individually and collectively where we can.

And finally – but very much not least – we became the home of the Local Area Coordination Network and responsible for the development of the model in England and Wales. We have been much enriched by this new addition to our family and inspired by the work of Local Area Coordinators generally and perhaps especially during this pandemic. There is emerging evidence of the important contribution that Local Area Coordination has made to the coordination and effective delivery of local community support to people who are shielded or alone during the pandemic.

And now we are 10…

Bigger, busier and continuing to work with amazing people across local authorities, local communities, and voluntary sector providers. Our infographic, launched today explains something of our 10-year journey – but this is just a pause as we look forward to the next 10 years with many more amazing people making a positive difference to other people and their area.

by Sian Lockwood, CEO Community Catalysts

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