For the past two years our Catalysts have been working with a wide range of community businesses in Telford and Wrekin and Warwickshire, supporting them to grow and become more sustainable. This project is particularly significant because it is being evaluated by the University of Birmingham to find out how similar work can help to support community businesses across the UK.
Some community businesses in Warwickshire
One of the inspiring businesses in Warwickshire is run by Jane, the Methodist minister at Rugby Church. Rachel, our Catalyst, helped Jane to set up a Community Interest Company to support young people and those challenged by substance abuse. Rachel was able to organise meetings with local decision makers and arrange for Jane to visit a similar project to find inspiration. After a lot of hard work, Jane’s dream of creating a more connected community is beginning to happen. Just recently, a young unemployed woman came into the café within the newly opened hub – just to use the toilet; she got chatting with a hub member and ended up joining a group – she is now starting her own business helping people to market and sell their homemade crafts.
Rachel has been inspiring us and challenging us along this journey and we would not be where we are without her. The input and added value that has come from Rachel has led to the project developing in a much more community focused way. We already have people from the community volunteering and it is starting to change lives. That is wonderful to see and makes all the hard work worth it. Thank you for all your support, we just wish it could continue! Jane, Manager of the Methodist Cafe CIC
Jo at Chase Meadows Community Centre wanted to create a social hub and bring in money by hiring out the space. At a co-production event organised by Rachel, Jo met a parent of an autistic teenager and they decided to work together with other parents to create a café to give young disabled people an opportunity to learn new skills that could lead to employment. The café is now open and attracts daily regulars who like to come in, complete crosswords and drink their morning tea.
Celebrations with inspiring community businesses in Telford
Local people, councillors and businesses recently gathered together, at the close of the two-year pilot project, to celebrate the achievements of community businesses in Telford and Wrekin.
One of our happiest stories from the project was the re-homing of the Cottage Crew Craft Group. At the event, we watched a video of members talking about how they had been together crafting at a day care centre for many years, but when that day care centre closed – they didn’t know what to do and were worried they wouldn’t see their friends anymore. Chris was able to work with the council and others to help members of the group move to a local community venue. She also helped to arrange for a second community centre to supply the support people needed for the sessions to continue. It meant that the group could stay together on their own terms – and it’s so great to see them meeting and having fun together in a lovely public space.
It’s helped us as an organisation to explore other opportunities. It’s worked with that group – could it work elsewhere? One of the nice things is that people aren’t scared of using a public space – whereas in the past it was very much if someone needs that support, we’ve got to take them somewhere that is enclosed. What we’ve done is said, no – you can use a community space, it’s actually probably the best space. Terry Yarnall, Centre Manager, Hub on the Hill
At the event we also heard from Forge Urban Revival, a community café and arts space that can’t help but engage anyone who goes there. There are so many people who just popped in for a cup of tea and ended up making loads of friends and even volunteering. Chris was able to introduce the founder Ann to the School for Social Entrepreneurs course and to help the Cottage Crew’s move to Ann’s venue.
Due to austerity we needed to change the way we do things. We recognised a number of years ago that we needed to make changes in the way we support vulnerable adults and children in the borough. I think this project has helped us to think differently. The number of vibrant businesses here today is also a key measure of success, and we feel that we have a really good platform to build upon. Chris Clarke’s role has helped to look at some of the practices in our council and how we can remove some of the barriers in our system that may stop community businesses from developing. Chris has also played a vital role in providing a network for our community businesses and has brought the businesses together with our practitioners. This has really helped to build relationships. Clive Jones, Director of Children’s and Adult Services, Telford and Wrekin Council
To find out more follow the link to meet the community businesses and audience members.