For the last year Community Catalysts has been working on a project with Hansel, a leading social care provider, working across Ayrshire in South West Scotland that offers a range of support choices to learning disabled people http://www.hansel.org.uk/ In 2013 Hansel reached their 50th birthday and decided to mark this historic milestone by investing in imaginative, quirky legacy projects and initiatives that broke new ground, stretched their thinking and challenged others to do the same. All credit to them.
They decided to work with Community Catalysts to design and implement an exciting new project called Enterprising Minds. Between us we had bags of energy and enthusiasm and more ideas than was healthy but at that stage neither Hansel nor Community Catalysts knew exactly how the project would pan out.
The Enterprising Minds concept is based on our shared belief that that people with learning disabilities and those living on the autistic spectrum have assets, talents, skills and aspirations (and that often these are hidden, untapped and unappreciated). We felt strongly that with a bit of help some of these people might want to use their skills and passions to establish their own enterprise and/or make a sustainable and meaningful contribution within their community.
We also came up with the concept of Community Enterprise Circles –intentionally linking disabled entrepreneurs with local people, businesses and agencies who might be willing and able to help get their idea off the ground.
Through the direct support of disabled people combined with Community Enterprise Circles the project aims to unlock people’s potential; stimulate different ways of thinking; foster new connections and break down barriers and misconceptions. It links really well with all the changes happening following the Self Directed Support Scotland Act in 2013 and offers new ways to think about services and service use.
Coordinator Alyson Miller was appointed by Hansel to lead the work and she has brought a real energy combined with a passion for people and her local community that is more than a little infectious! We established a group of people from the local community called the Enterprise Connectors, folks with all sorts of connections and links to the project and the people involved, The connectors have been so good at steering proceedings, making connections, imagining possibilities and supporting Alyson with a real ‘can do’ flair.
We are just over half way through the project and have learned such a lot already.
We started with a big, vibrant launch event, attended by more than 70 people with a learning disability. At the event people shared their passions and ideas – some exciting, some more restrained but all highlighting that positive, aspirational thinking wasn’t something that everyone had much experience of.
Since the launch there have been some challenging times when we wondered whether we were barking up the wrong tree. There have also been some tales so splendid they made us realised we definitely weren’t. For example:
Ashleys Bow Wow Biccies
Ashley, 21, attended the Launch Event in June and knew straight away that she wanted to be involved in the project. Alyson met up with Ashley and it was clear that she really enjoyed baking every week with her support worker, Julie. After thinking what she could do with baking, Ashley came up with the idea that she could bake biscuits for her dog, Murphy.
The idea then developed into baking biscuits and selling them in and around her local community. Since then, Ashley has been very busy! She has decided to call the enterprise Ashley’s Bow Wow Biccies. Ashley has been supported to get in touch with vets to check recipes, conduct market research and to contact local dog groomer who is interested in buying and selling the biscuits. Ashley has been helped to think about all the rules and regulations for making and selling the dog biscuits (and there are a lot of rules!) and to think about packaging and labelling. Lots of businesses and organisations have helped Ashley on her enterprise journey.
John Foxall came to the launch event and had the idea that he wanted to do something in the community. He thought of the idea of leaflet distribution as this would get him out of the house and give him a chance to help a local business. Alyson supported John to contact local businesses in Saltcoats and a local restaurant called Beijing City were keen to work with him. John got 100 menus from Beijing City to distribute in the Saltcoats area. John did this over a few weeks, and kept a note of all the streets that he had visited. He took this into Beijing City who cooked him a meal of his choice in exchange for his work! John really enjoyed being out and about and is motivated to build on the experience.
Plans are underway to write up and graphically record the experiences of Ashley, John and around 20 other people supported by the Enterprising Minds project. We are trying hard to capture people’s journey and the impact all this enterprising and innovating has had on them and their lives. Everyone is coming together for a big celebration event in the Spring which should provide an amazing opportunity to take stock and to think about the future.
If you are interested in Enterprising Minds or want to receive a copy of the final report once its published please do get in touch
Stories and photos kindly supplied by Hansel