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People and community enterprises continue to do amazing things in Rotherham

How it all started…

Between 2017 and 2021 Community Catalysts and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC) worked in partnership on the Rotherham Community Options Project. The focus of the project was to support local people and groups to develop small enterprises offering innovative, community options for adults with a learning disability – we call these community enterprises. Community enterprise leaders are local people who shape what they do around what people want, working together to achieve true ‘coproduction’. Find out more about the wider impacts of community enterprises.

Graphic showing the strengths of community enterprises. They: - are passionate and experts in their area - have a big social impact - are focussed on people - are innovative and creative - are embedded in the community

How it’s going…

From the start of the project in Rotherham it was clear to see how strong the community is and how much talent it holds. So much of the wonderful work in Rotherham is led by (and with) people which is something we’re passionate about at Community Catalysts so it’s fantastic to see the legacy of our work continuing….

Championing ‘people-led’ work and true ‘coproduction’

I was struck by how different a conversation is happening in Rotherham, a very equal relationship with people having a very strong yet respected voice.

Martin Walker – Policy Advisor Self-directed Support, Think Local Act Personal – Following the Employment is for Everyone and Speakup presentation at NCASC 2022

Hayden on the catwalk showing off his upcycled clothing range. He is striking a pose with one arm out to the front and the other held above his head
Hayden’s Trashion Show

It’s fantastic to see Artworks continuing to innovate with the launch of their ‘Trashion show’ earlier this year which follows previous high impact art shows including their international art competition for people with a learning disability and/or autism that attracted over 1000 entries from people from across the world. For the ‘Trashion show’ Hayden and Artworks had the idea of re-using clothes rather than throwing them away. Along with fellow artists, they created the show which included 5 catwalks and live music and was held from the iconic Wentworth Woodhouse.

Employment is for Everyone launch event. Shows a room full of people sat around tables at a conference. Above them is an inflatable pirate blimp
Employment is for Everyone launch event

SpeakUp, a self-advocacy organisation, is also a great example of people directly impacting on how things are run. Every project they do is co-produced with and by experts by experience. They continue to lead on numerous local, regional and national projects and they employ people with a learning disability and autistic people as well as helping many others take up opportunities elsewhere, such as the NHS.

Members of the Community Catalysts and Employment is for Everyone team stood in front of a feedback wall at the NCASC event
Community Catalysts & Employment is for Everyone at the NCASC

With their high level of expertise, they recently co-founded a new movement – Employment is for Everyone – which aims to improve employment opportunities for people with a learning disability and autistic people. Employment is for Everyone is a partnership between several community enterprises and is supported by the South Yorkshire ICB and RMBC. The coproduced approach has led the team to present at several national events including the National Children & Adult Services Conference (NCASC) last year.

“Community enterprises excel because they tend to do things with, rather than to people. They are dedicated, are often experts in what they do, are embedded in their community and often started because they knew they could do things differently. I think one of the greatest strengths from the Rotherham community enterprises is how many of the great things happening are people led and truly coproduced.”

Harry Clarkson – Programme Development Officer (RMBC) and former Rotherham Community Catalyst

Growing in size and scale

While community enterprises start off small in scale, they are often built upon great ideas, passion and potential which can grow in new directions with the right support. Community Connect started their community enterprise with activities running from their base. In time, their members then went onto to run the coffee morning in the local community centre and with the support of local businesses, they have now transformed an unused piece of land into a sensory garden for the community!

Community Connects sensory garden:- before showing a bare site with soil and a mini digger - during showing two people securing two pieces of wood together with tools - after showing a landscaped garden with a gravel area in the foreground, raised troughs to the right and a covered seating area and grass in the background
Community Connects sensory garden – before, during & after

Parity Care initially set up offering community options but went on to develop a hub in an otherwise unused building, an allotment and an offer of supported holidays! Dexx LifeSkills set out as a community-based scooter park and now offer a supported employment and training pathway for people. Social Eyes started with just one base before expanding into several others and running their brilliant café that is fully booked each week.

Maintaining flexibility and innovation

From set up, community enterprises are flexible, shaping their offers to fill the gaps. This approach allows them to navigate through new systems and direct payments, and remain agile through difficult times such as Covid and more recently, the cost of living crisis. A great example, of this is New Forward Care who originally supported people with a learning disability but have extended their offer to people who might need support in relation to their mental health which they identified as a gap locally.

The choice and range of community-based support and opportunities for people in Rotherham at the end of this 5 year period is fantastic…The enterprises offer flexible, creative support to people using local assets and also recognise the assets of the people they support.

Helen Allen – Director of Community Enterprise, Community Catalysts

What’s next…

The impact of community enterprises in Rotherham is clear and it’s amazing to see them recognised as central pillars of their local community. They are driving positive change, innovating and creating new ideas and growing the choice and quality of options that people can draw on. People and community enterprises are running campaigns and training, starting new activities and clubs, running international art competitions and starting social movements. They are working together and also collaborating with RMBC and the Voluntary Community Sector (VCS). They are employing local people, spending money locally and bringing in funding to Rotherham. Sometimes this is referred to as ‘social value’ but it’s just the way they work.

I think the successes in Rotherham show what is possible when people, community enterprises, support organisations like Community Catalysts and the local authority work together with a shared vision to give people real choice and opportunities to follow their aspirations. It is crucial that people and community enterprises continue to be a central part of driving positive change in Rotherham and beyond.

Harry Clarkson – Programme Development Officer (RMBC) and former Rotherham Community Catalyst

The ripples from the legacy of our work in Rotherham are far reaching and long lasting, with people from other areas visiting Rotherham to learn from the great things happening there. We hope to continue supporting the work in Rotherham and helping to create more pockets of this exciting work in more areas across the country.

Community Catalysts has helped us to think outside the box and deliver on our strategy of My Front Door to build local infrastructure and provide better, greater choices for people with a learning disability. They have worked creatively and in partnership at all levels to support the necessary system and culture change required for our transformational vision.

Garry Parvin – Joint Head of Learning Disability, Autism and Transitions Commissioning, RMBC

Get in touch

If you’re interested in doing something similar in your area do get in touch, we’d love to chat

By Helen Allen – Director of Community Enterprise Community Catalysts

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