Thinking back ….and planning ahead………..
It was nearly 12 years ago to the day when Angela Catley and I, with a colleague from Shared Lives Plus sat down in the restaurant of a local pub and started to sketch out the organisation that would become Community Catalysts. A year later and with a lot of hard work, Community Catalysts was launched – with a grant and loan from the Social Investment Business, a year’s project funding from the Department of Health and two new contracts in Dudley and Nottinghamshire (thank you first-adopters!).
We have stayed true to the aim that we agreed 11 years ago – to help more people across the UK who need care or support to live their lives in the way they want to, as connected and contributing citizens. Our underpinning values continue to drive us and are shared by all our staff. But like any good social enterprise we have diversified and adapted as the sectors within which we worked evolved and changed.
The work we started with – helping local partners create an environment within which sustainable and legal enterprise can thrive – has continued to be a strong strand of activity. We have worked in nearly 100 areas now and supported nearly 4,500 community micro-enterprise, all offering some kind of support or care to local people in their area.
The explosion of growth in the numbers of wonderful and diverse enterprises continues to this day. Some have grown, like the fantastic Space Inclusive – co-founded by two ex-teachers with the aim of helping young people with learning disabilities to develop life and work skills and enjoy the kind of adventurous experiences that many of us take for granted. After 8 or so years they have expanded into four different areas of Nottinghamshire and support many different kinds of activity including home-care. They were Winner of the National Home Care Employer Award 2019-2020 and give generously of their time to other emerging enterprises (and to Community Catalysts).
Many community micro-enterprises have chosen to stay small and focused on serving people in their neighbourhood. Lots have diversified and just a few have closed for sad reasons (when a wonderful creative leader has become unwell or died) or simply because of changes in life- priorities. We stay in touch with many of them and are inspired and moved by their stories of triumph (and near-disaster…..!).
As time moved on, we developed many different strands of work including People Can – helping people who need some support to use their own gifts and talent to make glorious contributions. The wonderful Dance Syndrome are particularly close to my heart. They are one of the first enterprises we helped 13 years ago and we have stayed part of their journey ever since. Their founder Jen Blackwell leads an inclusive dance company which has achieved remarkable things over the years. I was proud to be asked to be a patron a few years ago and even prouder to be with Jen and her colleagues when she won Inspirational Businesswoman of the Year in a competition for Women Business Leaders in the North West. The award ceremony was at the Blackpool Winter Gardens and Jen’s powerful acceptance speech is one of many amazing moments that make up our 11 years.
As our work, networks and influence grew, so did our family. We launched our membership organisation Small Good Stuff in 2015 – free to use and one way to keep in touch with our lovely community micro-enterprises. We fell in love with community business (thank you Power to Change for that opportunity) and became the home of the Local Area Coordination Network and most recently Coalition for Personalised Care
And now I’m retiring next year (how did that creep up so quickly) and there is still so much to do. In too many areas of the UK people who need support are living isolated and lonely lives, disconnected from their communities and with inadequate help delivered in ways that prevents rather than supports their strengths, connection and contribution.
We will be recruiting for our new CEO early next year – and (you would expect me to say this) we are looking for a remarkable person. Someone who shares our strong value base, vision and aims; who really understands the social care, health and community sectors; who has a track record in driving the strategic growth of an organisation while remaining true to its vision; who can talk about what we do with passion; who has the skills (and patience) to influence central and local government……..I could go on… and on……
For the right person though this is a wonderful job. We have a committed, knowledgeable, experienced and passionate staff team, a supportive board and ……well, there’s just so much left to do.
by Sian Lockwood – CEO of Community Catalysts