Local Social CIC

James, Karin and Andy all live near each other in Hertfordshire. James and Karin have learning disabilities; Andy has personal experience of mental illness and is a Shared Lives carer and Shared Lives Plus carer Champion.

James lived in residential care for most of his life until he went to live with Andy and his family in a Shared Lives arrangement. More recently James has moved into his own home, but he and Andy continue to share their lives together. Karin lives locally and knows James and Andy well. James, Karin and Andy felt there was something missing in their local area – a lack of opportunity for people to connect with each other.

I wanted to meet other people and make new friends and become more independent. I like to help other people – James

The trio decided to work together to set up a new venture.

Local Social

Local Social, a new social enterprise and Community Interest Company (CIC) was established in April 2016 in Ware, Hertfordshire. The main aim of the new venture was to forge bridges between communities by getting people to interact. James and Karin were also hoping the new venture would open opportunities for them – James was particularly interested in making friends and gaining paid work.

We wanted to do something that gave James and Karin the chance to meet new people, but also provided a wider benefit to the local community. – Andy

Initially, they used a local office space, but now operate Local Social out of a café/community space. They provide free drinks and an opportunity for local people to come and chat. They have also recently started hosting a get together in a local pub once a month. James and Karin are supported by Andy to run Local Social, and over time they have taken a more active role.

I help facilitate it, I am a conduit for their ideas, experiences, words and enthusiasm. But Local Social is all theirs and over time they are getting more and more involved. James, Karin and I are here early in the morning to set-up – Andy

What helped?

Key to the establishment and success of Local Social has been a real desire by James and Karin to get involved, be social, make new friends and become more independent. Andy’s support to help James and Karin to realise their ideas was also essential.

Local Social has been helped by the goodwill of local organisations/companies, such as the Country Market where they run the Local Social café and a local pub that allows them to host events. It has also been helped and supported by local people and community organisations such as the CVS.

None of this would be possible without the goodwill of the community. We’ve received donations, advice, help and support and people from all parts of the community. The young, the old, people with children, come here to spend time and talk with each other – Andy

Challenges

Initially the trio were uncertain about the business model of their new venture and how best to set up a CIC. Managing the organisation, including the necessary administration has also been a challenge especially as none of the founders had business experience. Expanding the scale of the activity and attracting more funding was also a challenge.

We learnt in the end that you had to start fairly small. At first, we went for big pots of funding, but this was a distraction and not successful. You don’t need a lot to start. Once you start doing it, people and funding and support will come to you. But our biggest challenge now is the management and administration of it all and wanting to take it to the next level – Andy

Achievements and impact

Setting up the CIC is a real achievement as its success in engaging and connecting people. The trio have had lots of positive feedback from people in their community. Local Social has helped James and Karin become more confident and independent and has improved their health and wellbeing.

I like helping and talking to people. I am more independent now – James

When my mum died, I didn’t want to leave the house. But this gets you out and you meet people. I like coming here. I like to talk with people. It is nice to meet new people – Karin

Local Social has also provided a means for different parts of the community to come together.

The aim was to increase community connectedness and provide a space for different people to meet each other. You can see looking around that there are lots of different people here, all interacting. There’s a positive atmosphere. So, it’s doing what we set out to do – Andy

The future

Local Social want to carry on, getting more people involved.

We want to advertise to get more people to come here – Karin

They want to run more workshops to share their stories.

We want to tell people about what we’re doing and how it can help them – James

They want to also extend the reach of Local Social and have a vision to work with other organisations, such as the Isabel Hospice Compassionate Neighbours Scheme.