Tales of Social Enterprise from Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter
TALES OF SOCIAL ENTERPRISE Foreword
Social entrepreneurs are special people. They not only have what it takes to set up and run a successful business, they are also able to see opportunities to apply a business solution to tackling social, environmental and community issues, where other solutions are failing. They are the most determined and creative of all entrepreneurs. Their inspirational approach is what drew me, after 20 years of working in the private sector, to specialise in supporting the social enterprise sector. I set up Spot On Marketing & Communications in 2010 as a Community Interest Company, with the aim of bringing understanding and good marketing practice within the reach of charities and social enterprises. Working through a mix of education, mentoring and direct delivery, my goal is to help them tell their stories; and get the recognition and public support they deserve. I am also passionate about maintaining high standards in communication and finding the most appropriate form of expression for the task in hand - what my French teacher memorably described as identifying ‘le mot juste’; hence the name Spot On! I am keen to train and support young people looking to make a career in marketing and communications and have undertaken a number of projects and initiatives in recent years to facilitate this. One such project has led to the publication of this ‘Tales of Social Enterprise’ - a set of fascinating profiles detailing the development of six social entrepreneurs based in the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter. Alison Sharp of Careers Network at the University of Birmingham (UoB) joined the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter networking group looking for ways to build a link between UoB students and social enterprise. She wanted to know how students reading for a variety of degrees could get to know the sector and explore career opportunities – even consider setting up their own social enterprises. Always on the look-out for good writers I asked her whether any students from the Department of Film and Creative Writing might be interested in interviewing a number of social entrepreneurs and telling their stories. Two enthusiastic students applied to take part in the project and you can read their output in this booklet. I think they have done an excellent job and hope you enjoy reading their work as much as I did. Alongside the profiles, I have included information about the authors, Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter, social enterprise, and the many ways in which you can get involved and support the sector. I hope you will be inspired to take some further action of your own! Sally Edwards www.spotonmarketing.org.uk
My thanks to everyone involved and to Social Enterprise UK, supported by Santander, for their financial contributions; Alison Sharp, the University of Birmingham Careers Network and Department of Film and Creative Writing for their excellent organisation skills and enthusiastic engagement with the project; Louis Mason and Jessica Murray for volunteering to take up the challenge and apply their expertise to telling the entrepreneurs’ stories; Sarah Crawley, Lee Blake, Birgit Kehrer, Martin Hogg, Pat Bend and Graham Beaumont for agreeing to participate and take time out of their busy days to be interviewed; everyone who contributed photographs, including Ian Cuthbert and Indie Deol; Mike Watts of Bigbeano for speedy professional design, which has enabled us to get Tales of Social Enterprise printed; and Nigel Sidebotham of Berrington Print for a quick turnaround on high quality print. 2
CONTENTS Foreword 2 What is Social Enterprise?
Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter
Creative Writing Project 5 Social Entrepreneur – Sarah Crawley, iSE
Social Entrepreneur – Lee Blake, Made by Young People
Social Entrepreneur – Birgit Kehrer, ChangeKitchen
Social Entrepreneur – Martin Hogg, Citizen Coaching
Social Entrepreneur – Pat Bend, BITA Pathways
Social Entrepreneur – Graham Beaumont, Health Exchange
Get Involved! 18
What is Social Enterprise? Social enterprises are businesses trading for more than just profit – their primary aim is to make a social or environmental difference. There are thousands of them across the world and they are believed to have started as long ago as the 6th century when there were workers’ co-operatives in China. They have no standard legal form; they are more about a recognised approach to business. The word ‘business’ is often used pejoratively, to signify ruthless, unethical, greedy behaviour. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Trade can lift people out of poverty and a life of subsistence into education and a more rewarding life. Social entrepreneurs believe in fair trade, caring for everyone along the supply chain and in using business as a positive force for social and environmental change. Social Enterprise UK, the UK’s trade body representing social enterprises, says they should: • Have a clear social and/or environmental mission set out in their governing documents • Generate the majority of their income through trade • Reinvest the majority of their profits • Be autonomous of state • Be majority controlled in the interests of the social mission • Be accountable and transparent www.socialenterprise.org.uk/about/about-social-enterprise
Digbeth, Cheapside & Highgate Social Enterprise Network Sarah Crawley, Chief Executive of Digbeth-based iSE (Initiative for Social Entrepreneurs) first noticed a concentration of social enterprises trading in the area. Knowing that there are welldocumented economic benefits to a market sector of ‘clustering’ together, she thought it would be interesting to find out more about these enterprises and create an opportunity for them to network and explore what they could achieve together. She initially formed the Digbeth, Cheapside & Highgate Social Enterprise Network, which included the local residents association, Universities and colleges – and from this group, the concept of Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter (DSEQ) was born. DSEQ was launched on 12th December 2013 by the Leader of Birmingham City Council, Sir Albert Bore. Birmingham City Council has pledged to support the development of a thriving social enterprise sector, seeing it as an important part of a healthy mixed local economy. Whilst Digbeth is seen as the heart of social enterprise activity in the city, its aim is to promote and support the development of social enterprise across Birmingham.
Sir Albert Bore speaking at the launch of Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter.
Creative Writing Project with University of Birmingham After attending a session on ‘Professional Writing’ delivered by Sally Edwards of Spot On at the University of Birmingham (UoB), Creative Writing students Jessica Murray and Louis Mason were inspired to give up a week of their Christmas holiday and try their hand at creating profiles for six social entrepreneurs based in the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter. The ‘Professional Writing’ session was organised with lecturer Dr Luke Kennard and Alison Sharp from UoB’s Careers Network, with the aim of showing students how their creative writing skills might be applied, beyond careers as novelists, playwrights or poets, in the business world.
Louis Mason and Jessica Murray at the DSEQ first anniversary event.
Having studied different forms of profile, published in a variety of newspapers and magazines, Louis and Jessica set off to interview Sarah Crawley, Lee Blake, Birgit Kehrer, Martin Hogg, Pat Bend and Graham Beaumont. Commenting on the experience, Louis said: “My mind has been opened up to a whole new world of possibilities. I have been given a unique insight into what this kind of professional writing involves – and I would like to do more of it! To me social enterprises are one of the most important parts of society. Giving vulnerable people the help and support they need and looking after the environment for future generations is the most admirable work I can think of.” Jessica added: “With less and less help from the government, in a fluctuating financial landscape, it has never been more important for us to be the change we want to see in the world. I firmly believe this is at the heart of social enterprise. I am pleased to have had such a fantastic opportunity to support social enterprises by helping to tell their stories and to learn about a career in PR, which I have always been curious about. It has helped to develop and challenge my skills as a writer in a working environment.”
For more information, or to contact Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter: firstname.lastname@example.org www.digbethsocentquarter.co.uk
SARAH CRAWLEY Interview by Louis Mason
Fifteen years ago in Birmingham Sarah Crawley set out on a mission; a mission to develop social enterprises so that they could create employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Within no time, Sarah and her business partner Tony Davis had founded the Initiative for Social Entrepreneurs (iSE). Sarah soon found herself spearheading the day to day activities of the business and became CEO of iSE in 2004.
How did you start your working life? A psychology graduate from Aston University, Sarah tells me that she began her professional career working with people who couldn’t read, write or do simple maths. She then moved on to working with people who were ex offenders and people with addiction issues; people she believed had been ‘failed by society’. “I began to understand that some elements of our society weren’t getting the services and support they needed,” she says, “and it really bothered me. I had always had a passion to enable people with disabilities to play a full and economic role in society; after all doesn’t everyone deserve a chance in life?”
What attracted you to social enterprise? Having worked with vulnerable members of society and run several large European projects in previous years, Sarah says she and her colleague Tony felt that they had gained a substantial amount of experience and understanding of what it meant to be social entrepreneurs and were ready to branch out in to providing more in-depth services to help more people. They knew immediately that they didn’t want to set up in private business. ”I know that in our hearts we felt we wanted to do something that actually made a difference and we saw the potential to change an element of society for the better,” she says. Fifteen years later and iSE has worked with over two hundred social enterprises, developing and building them to enable them to reach their full potential. As an organisation, iSE constantly aims to do business differently to ‘exploitative and ruthless’ corporations. Sarah says: “I don’t think it’s good enough that companies can behave in such a way that they are damaging the local economy and also the people that live there.” She is proud of the fact that social enterprises as a whole are better behaved and ethical, particularly by trading fairly with people to add something to society rather than take it away.
Are there any particular challenges associated with being a social enterprise? Sarah is no stranger to the difficulties that come with setting up a social enterprise as opposed to a private sector business and explains that in recent years there have been a lot of challenges. “Having previously been funded largely through public sector contracts,” she says, “the impact of the funding cuts introduced by the new coalition government in 2011 was significant for iSE and for many of the organisations we were working with. The hardship of switching to an income-generation model in order to fund the projects they were working on became a particular concern.” Sarah also sees that having an eye on the social mission you want to pursue whilst having to fit whatever the latest funding is available for, and proving the difference that your work has made, can be difficult. iSE prides itself on being an environmentally-aware organisation, through recycling and understanding the environment in which it works, but Sarah realises that this too is a challenging part of the day to day running of the business. 6
What does the future hold for iSE? Sarah has high aspirations for the future of iSE, and for Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter, which she was instrumental in establishing in 2013. The Quarter is home to over 50 social enterprises and aims to increase their impact by enabling them to work together. Sarah confesses that her dream would be to one day nail a social issue that they have tackled and eradicate it completely. As an organisation Sarah wants iSE to be able to extend its reach and begin to help build social cohesion in the Digbeth area for the residents within the next five years, enabling people to become more connected with each other. She wants the organisation to continue to help social entrepreneurs to set up and create strong enterprises which all work together.
What does the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter mean to you? “To have the potential social power of all of those organisations coming together to address social issues really excites me,” Sarah enthuses. “It’s enormous but we are still at the very early stages of our journey. The combined volunteering value that we have created in Digbeth is almost one million pounds so far, which is absolutely phenomenal. To know that we have had that kind of impact on Birmingham when previously it was unrecognised is amazing.”
Who or what would you say is your biggest inspiration? “Tim Schmidt at the Eden Project is awesome, he has the most amazing vision. He has created something that has had a huge impact environmentally and socially. They took a derelict quarry and turned it in to the most amazing space, they’ve created jobs enabling local producers to sell their products there and they recycle everything that comes out of it. To have that big vision and to realise it as a social enterprise is phenomenal. Sophie Tranchell of Divine Chocolate is another inspiration. Divine Chocolate is a fair-trade chocolate purveyor, which gives the cocoa farmers a fair price for their produce and also invests profits back in to the community to help build schools and hospitals.”
What do you do to relax when you are not working? “I bake a lot. From time to time, when we have social enterprise network meetings, I bring along cakes and we sometimes sell them to raise money. I actually have quite a reputation for how good my cakes are! I also like to swim and I am an avid reader.”
For more information, or to contact Sarah: 0121 771 1411 @iSE_CIC www.i-se.co.uk 7
Interview by Jessica Murray Lee Blake’s love of football took him on a surprising journey into enterprise. In Made By Young People, he combines his desire to help young people with his entrepreneurial drive. Lee Blake CEO of Made By Young People (MBYP) gave me a tour of his small but productive office based in Digbeth. Lee has always loved football and his business really began after he saw England play in the European Championships in Portugal. “It was a really good game. England won 4-2 so we took the train into the centre of Lisbon to have a few drinks to celebrate. But what started as football banter on the train from the English fans soon became xenophobic racist chanting. I was standing there being racially abused by other England fans despite having an England top on,” he recalls. Lee’s father is Jamaican and his mother is English. This experience gave him the idea to create T-shirts with mixed flags printed on them. “I’ve always seen my identity as half and half or 50FIFTY. I took the colours of the Jamaican flag and put them into the pattern of the Union Jack. That’s my flag, 50FIFTY; I call it the United Kingdom of Jamaica Flag. From there I had lots of requests for mixed flags.” Heritage is very important to Lee and to customers of 50FIFTY “We’re proud to be British but we’re also proud of our other identities.” Before establishing MBYP Blake worked for the council as a teacher and youth worker with children who had been expelled from school. “When I started to make money through T-shirts I realised it was a good way to engage young people. Some of them are highly creative and have a real interest in fashion.” Knowing this would be a fantastic opportunity for the children to learn life skills and possibly inspire them to start their own businesses, Lee argued that the kids he and his colleagues were working with were natural born entrepreneurs, who knew all about buying and selling, but that what they bought and sold criminalised them. “They had the skills to make money,” he says, “so if we could find a legal way for them to make money we could really help them.” Lee admits that he didn’t know a lot about social enterprise when he started and MBYP was originally a project of 50FIFTY. As the business grew Blake set up MBYP as a CIC (Community Interest Company). “The biggest challenge I’ve faced - which is really part of the territory - is that a lot of the staff are young people, which can be a nightmare at times. Sometimes they just don’t show up for work, which makes trying to run a professional business printing t-shirts, banners and flyers and getting orders out on time difficult.” In the future Lee would like to be able to employ equal numbers of adults and young people to enable one-on-one mentoring whilst paying everyone a fair wage.
Lee says he always wanted to start his own business. “As a child it was always a big dream of mine, but I didn’t really have the confidence. I didn’t know anyone in business; my dad was a taxi driver and my mum worked in various blue collar jobs.” Lee didn’t have anyone to mentor him in the art of business, but knew that he wanted to be his own boss and help to transform young people’s lives. “The first winner of the Apprentice, Timothy Campbell, was a big inspiration for me,” he says. After two years of working with Sir Alan Sugar at Amstrad, Timothy Campbell MBE set up Bright IdeasTrust which aims to help young entrepreneurs start their own businesses. He then went on to become Social Enterprise Ambassador in 2007 and was awarded an MBE in 2012 for services to Enterprise Culture. Like Timothy, Lee developed a desire to help young people to become entrepreneurs. ”I’ve always been interested in the educational side of MBYP, it wasn’t always about entrepreneurship but it has become very much about entrepreneurship. I don’t want to simply get kids to the job market for them to get a job in a shop or fast food restaurant. I want to plant seeds about running their own businesses.” In the future, Lee has plans to expand the business. “I want MBYP to become the go-to printer for social enterprises and big businesses as well. We recently did an order for the Big Lottery Fund. It would be great to work with more big organisations like that and with more private sector companies. These companies can feel a sense of pride in the fact that they used a social enterprise with a social mission to do their printing.” Lee also has aspirations to give young people the chance to travel to other countries. “I went to Morocco when I was about 19 years old and it was the first time I saw real poverty. We live in the fifth biggest economy in the world and a lot of young people don’t understand that we’re actually quite lucky. Even though the economy might seem poor at the moment, if you have drive then you can succeed.” Digbeth was designated Birmingham’s Social Enterprise Quarter in December 2013 and makes an exciting base for MBYP. The area has always been renowned for its association with the creative arts. Lee says: “There’s a real buzz in the area and MBYP benefits from both Digbeth’s proximity to the city centre and the growing social enterprise scene here”. Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter is evidently an ideal location for social enterprises allowing them networking opportunities, support and the chance to share ideas.
For more information, or to contact Lee: email@example.com @madebyyoungpeople www.madebyyoungpeople.co.uk
Interview by Jessica Murray Birgit Kehrer CEO of ChangeKitchen CIC has “always had a passion for supporting the underdog”. Her love of community and food as a way of bringing people together is where ChangeKitchen truly began. Birgit’s youth in Bavaria has influenced many of her ideas about cooking, community and health. At the age of 20 she worked in catering to support her studies in Bavaria. “It was the first job I really enjoyed,” she says. “I was working in a vegetarian restaurant after recently becoming vegetarian. At this point I still couldn’t really cook and it was the place that I learnt how to cook well”. Birgit grew up in a culture where food is a vital element in creating a sense of community. “Food in continental Europe is about sitting down and sharing a meal with friends and family. It’s all about being inclusive and in Germany most people eat some vegetarian meals every week. If you believe in quality then you will want to eat the best quality meat possible and this is too expensive to buy every day.” Birgit has a background in charitable work and has always had an interest in helping others “I realised whilst working for a European Union funded project at a charity in Walsall that supported women going into business that I wanted to start my own business. I knew that I wanted to start a social enterprise because it was important to me to work for more than just profit. A unique amalgamation of interests and skills has enabled me to create ChangeKitchen.” Birgit’s work delivering healthy eating sessions for a homeless charity was a great influence on the work she now does. “It was clear that it was often a person’s background that was preventing them from securing a job,” she says. If you don’t have an address it is very difficult to find employment. This inspired me to give work opportunities that are supportive and get those furthest from the job market into employment.” The people Birgit works with at ChangeKitchen are trying to cope with a variety of difficulties. It might be homelessness, financial worries, mental illness, alcoholism or addiction, for
example, which have left them unemployed. “I’ve faced many challenges since I established ChangeKitchen,” she says. “It has been more difficult working with the people I work with than I thought it would be, as there is a lot of pastoral care involved. One of the most rewarding and motivating parts of the business, however, is when someone makes a significant journey. Staff often come with ‘baggage’ and it takes time to draw them out.” Birgit is clearly driven by her desire to help others “I hope that I’m making a difference rather than just money,” she says. Located within the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter, ChangeKitchen benefits from the support of a wide network of social enterprises. “I have an affinity to creative industries, which is why I love the Digbeth area. There are many other social enterprises here and we are regular customers of each other. We all aim to buy from social enterprises where possible – if we don’t, how can we expect others to do so! Networking is an important part of being in business. It has allowed ChangeKitchen to learn and grow as an enterprise.” Birgit has a hectic work life yet still finds time to relax with her son: “Three years ago I adopted my son at the age of seven, he’s nearly ten now and he is my favourite pastime. I am very blessed and spending time with him is very important to me. I also enjoy eating out, eating other people’s cooking and eating with friends. There is something special about sharing a meal.” Spending time outdoors is also important to Birgit: “The thing I miss the most about Bavaria is ‘wild swimming’. I love any outdoor pursuit whether that’s skiing, ice skating on a lake, or just spending time outdoors. In Bavaria the whole community meets at the lake to ice skate, it’s completely different to ice skating in England.” BIRGIT KEHRER’S TOP TIPS FOR A HEALTHY DIET: 1. Invest in a three tier steamer and learn to steam vegetables well. 2. Use a good quality oil that is high in Omega 3, I recommend Extra Virgin, locally produced Rapeseed Oil or Coconut Oil. 3. Learn to love lentils and beans; they are an affordable source of protein. You can buy them dried and they are relatively cheap. 4. Cook vegetables that are in season and don’t see vegetables as merely a side dish but elevate them to the centre stage. The Italian cuisine is a great inspiration here.
For more information, or to contact Birgit: 07828 825 850 @changekitchen www.changekitchen.co.uk 11
Interview by Louis Mason Citizen Coaching, situated in the heart of Digbeth’s Custard Factory, has been striving to improve the lives of vulnerable people in Birmingham for almost ten years. With the idea “people are inherently good and if you treat them with respect and empathy you will always win in the long run” firmly in mind, Citizen Coaching’s main aim is to help people with anger management issues get the much needed counselling, coaching and help they deserve. Spearheading the organisation is social entrepreneur Martin Hogg, founder and CEO.
The journey to setting up Citizen Coaching From humble beginnings washing dishes in a pub in Kent, straight out of college, Martin quickly moved on to bigger and better things securing a place at Aston University as a mature student and achieving an MBA in business. He then got a job in the private sector, working there for 18 years. During that time, he began to notice a degree of inequality as budgets were being cut and people were beginning to have to work harder and longer for less pay and with fewer resources. Commenting on the effect of this Martin says: “It was a really frustrating environment to work in.” So, having identified the parts of the job he enjoyed, such as coaching and personal development, he set out to create a business that was self sustaining, didn’t rely on grants and funding, had a strong revenue stream and most importantly was there to improve people’s lives, and in 2005 Citizen Coaching was born. The business steadily began to thrive and in 2009, with the help of colleagues Nate Sheridan, Creative Director, and James Farrell, Social Media Manager, it began to scale up in size and prominence as a social enterprise. The company now employs twelve counsellors, other media professionals and is still actively expanding the team.
Why a social enterprise? When asked what inspired him to set up a social enterprise, Martin had this to say: “For me the social problem I saw was that people had to wait to get access to counselling and personal development. I thought that we could do that better. We could make counselling and coaching more accessible to people and we could do it more effectively. That’s very much at the core of what we do”. Of course there are a lot of difficulties and challenges that come with building a successful business and Martin is well versed in the trials and tribulations associated with being a social entrepreneur and how to combat them. He states: “With a social enterprise you are investing all the profits back in to the social aspect of the business, so when it comes to a step change in growth it’s hard to fund things. Typically plenty of funding is given to start up businesses but there hasn’t traditionally been much funding for scaling up. Luckily we have been fortunate to be involved with a company called UnLtd which gave us the necessary funds to enable us to move premises from two counselling rooms to four rooms, doubling our revenue and social value over night. Grant programmes are always very useful.”
What does Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter mean to you? “Well first and foremost it has brought us all closer together, and that’s just brilliant. 10-15% of our income comes directly from trading with other social businesses within the social enterprise quarter so it has been a very large increase to our sales, triple what it was previously in fact, and it has really raised our profile.” Martin also noticed that the formation of the quarter has allowed him to observe common problems between his business and others in the area and working together with similar entrepreneurs he frequently manages to tackle these issues head on.
What next for Citizen Coaching? Looking to the future Martin says: “2015 is a big year for Citizen Coaching.” After recently being awarded some money from the Big Lottery Fund, he hopes to expand the business by purchasing a new building, giving more space for counselling rooms which will provide the opportunity for more counselling and coaching sessions. He also plans to improve Citizen Coaching’s national presence by branching out in to thirty new locations across the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Who or what would you say is your biggest inspiration? “Well the organisation Timpson’s has always been an inspiration to me. They recruit employees from groups that are traditionally hard to reach such as offenders and recovering addicts. The other would probably be the ice hockey player Wayne Gretsky whose big quote was: ”I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been” and that has always made me think about moving the business further in the market and anticipating things.”
What do you do to relax when you are not working? “Oh gosh...I don’t really relax! I do like to get involved in other local business. I have an interest in politics and getting involved with where I live, making a nice urban environment. If I get a chance to relax I like early mornings at the gym and travelling to the calming waters of Stockholm. One of my favourite places to hide out!” For more information, or to contact Martin: 0121 314 7075 @MartinHogg www.citizencoaching.com
Interview by Louis Mason When Pat Bend embarked on a dramatic career change in 2006 by moving to work within a social enterprise, she had no idea what a social entrepreneur was let alone about the scale of the task she was about to embark on. Pat joined BITA Pathways and was welcomed with open arms. However, she faced a huge challenge; she was given six months to turn its social enterprise Textiles by St Anne’s around and secure its future!
What is BITA Pathways? BITA Pathways was founded in 1963, with the aim of helping adults experiencing mental health problems on to a pathway towards recovery through personal development, learning, volunteering, employment and well-being. By the early 2000s the charity had established a number of enterprises, including Textiles by St Anne’s, to offer training and work experience opportunities to its clients. Having worked in the private sector for many years and founded three of her own clothing, jewellery and bridal design businesses, all whilst raising a family, Pat decided that she wanted to give something back to society and do something more meaningful with her work life. So she sold her businesses and started on her journey as a social entrepreneur.
What attracted you to social enterprise? Although she had never really heard of a social enterprise before, she was attracted to the job by the idea of a different way of doing business. Unlike most ‘for profit’ companies, BITA Pathways was re-investing the money it made through its enterprises into their further development, with the primary aim of supporting adults facing mental health challenges. With the help of a very supportive CEO, Pat began to apply her business skills to Textiles by St Anne’s and move the enterprise towards a more stable and thriving future. Within no time the turnover of the business increased substantially - and so did the self worth and progression of its employees. Growth brought new opportunities for design and production staff in the workshop and within 12 months it was safe to say that Textiles by St Anne’s was truly in business. In 2012 Pat’s entrepreneurial flair was recognised when she was appointed business development manager for all of the charity’s social enterprises. These currently include Production Assembly Services, Textiles by St Anne’s, Park Lane Garden Centre, Garden Services and Express Signs. Pat began to feel that the academic teaching provided in schools and colleges didn’t prepare people sufficiently for life at work, so she helped to set up a work progression programme. This was aimed specifically at helping people with mental health problems to develop their career skills. Last year two people received full time employment after completing a BITA Pathways work progression programme.
What next for BITA Pathways? Pat sees a very bright future for BITA Pathways claiming: “We’re here to stay! We are constantly evolving and finding new ways of doing things.” One of the aspirations she has for the organisation in the coming year is to be able to engage with more of the harder to reach communities and members of society and inspire them to get involved in some way with the work opportunities BITA can provide. Clearly very passionate about helping people with mental health issues, Pat says: “Mental health doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. 1 in 4 people are affected by mental health issues - that’s a lot of people! BITA Pathways is playing a crucial role in breaking down the barriers between mentally ill people and employment. Our mission is to help them find their ideal career.”
What does Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter mean to you? Commenting on the founding of Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter in 2013, Pat was enthusiastic: “It’s amazing...really. So much more awareness is being raised about social enterprises. It’s like a snowball becoming bigger and bigger! The more we can portray this as a vibrant area of enterprises with social missions, the better! And it’s not just about the social enterprises; the quarter raises the profile of Digbeth as a whole. It might not be a visually attractive area, but it’s a great place to be as there is so much energy here.”
Who or what would you say is your biggest inspiration? “I’d say that potential is my biggest inspiration. I love the idea of someone or something having so much potential and that I can help them reach it. BITA has a lot of potential for example; we are currently working towards developing companies and services to provide better opportunities for vulnerable people. Potential is a big part of life.”
What do you do to relax when you are not working? “Well I backpacked in India four years ago for nine weeks and then did six weeks in Thailand after that! So I guess you can say I’m a keen traveller! I absolutely love the outdoors and nature. I just love life to be honest, I couldn’t have a better one....I’m very fortunate”.
For more information, or to contact Pat: 0121 773 1455 @BITA Pathways www.bitapathways.co.uk
GRAHAM BEAUMONT Interview by Jessica Murray
Graham Beaumont has a vibrant CV with a background in psychology, education and work with the council as a Business Support Manager; he has also been involved in economic regeneration projects around Birmingham. Perhaps this is what makes him such an impressive entrepreneur. It has taken just 10 years for the Health Exchange to grow from a concept on a drawing board, into a social enterprise which now employs around 95 staff. Part of the reason for the Health Exchange’s success is undoubtedly Graham’s attitude to enterprise and what he calls a “long-term eye”. His ethos of delivering above and beyond the requirements of his contracts has developed both trust among commissioners and trust in the community. Graham is constantly looking to grow and change the Health Exchange as a business: “Our annual report for this year will look completely different to the one from last year and that one was different from the year before. This would worry some corporate companies but for me it means that we are constantly doing something different and growing as an enterprise”. Growth is definitely a motivating factor for Graham but “money doesn’t get me out of bed in the morning” he tells me - it is his social mission to “help to change behaviour to improve health and deliver public health information in an engaging way” that drives him forward. One of his biggest influences is his experience of mental illness within his family. His father suffered from mental ill health which was, at times, hard for the family. Through the support of a local MD for whom Graham’s father worked, Graham’s family was supported when his father was well and helped when he was not. “This has enabled me to understand the value of sustained employment in supporting people’s mental wellbeing; a role which the NHS cannot always provide. More of this kind of support would prevent many social problems, which is why our enterprise is so important.” Workforce wellbeing is something Graham is passionate about. According to the Office of National Statistics 131 million working days were lost due to sickness in the UK in 2013. Although this figure is lower than the 1993 figure (178 million days lost), more days were lost due to back, neck and muscle pain than any other cause. Workforce wellbeing is, therefore, extremely important, with stress being another cause of absence. “Employees often already have the skills necessary to look after each other,” Graham says. “With our WorkStyle programmes we create a context in which to give them permission to use those skills. This small investment means that employers have a lower turnover of staff as people stay in work for longer.” Health Exchange works with businesses such as John Lewis and Network Rail to deliver courses on workforce wellbeing. “It takes a while for an individual who has been unemployed for a long period of time to build up the physical and mental strength to work for a full day. Even standing up for 8 hours is a challenge. This is why it is so important to create an environment where an employee’s wellbeing is nurtured.” 16
Health Exchange helped around 15,000 people in 2014 alone through its different contracts. “We’re successful because we’re good at saying what we’re going to do and actually delivering it,” says Graham. “We always aim to over deliver and help the organisations we have contracts with by providing them with useful intelligence to aid them in their future plans.” Graham is also quick on his feet, having set up mental wellbeing services in as little as three weeks whilst maintaining professionalism and quality. His confidence and desire to change the way healthcare works is what lies behind everything he does: “I’ve always had the self-belief to assume I can make a difference. I believed that I could do something differently and had to prove it.” Quality of services is also highly important to Graham: “One of the best ways to improve a business is to appoint people who are better than yourself,” he says. “To be successful, you need to employ people who want to drive the business forward”. He originally became CEO on a temporary basis, but has now been with the Health Exchange since 2006 when it was formally launched. “I will only leave when I know that it’s in better hands than mine” he asserts. Health Exchange is based in Digbeth, which was designated Birmingham’s Social Enterprise Quarter in December 2013. Although Digbeth has only been a designated Social Enterprise Quarter for 12 months, it is clearly a community with strong links between enterprises or a “network of networks”. Graham says: “It makes us part of a brand which allows the community to relate to us as a social enterprise. The impact on the local community has been the development of trust between social enterprises and the people who live in the area”. He believes that “the reason Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter is so special is because it is an area where you are surrounded by social enterprises which help each other by co-operating and competing. This healthy balance drives up the quality of services whilst also creating a sense of community”. Health Exchange has not always been based in Digbeth and actually started out on Hagley Road. “I soon realised that this industrial district, and even the building itself, was alienating the community the Health Exchange desired to help. Being in Digbeth is like being a shop window into the community.”
For more information, or to contact Graham: 0800 158 3535 @HealthExUK www.healthexchange.org.uk
GET INVOLVED The social enterprise sector is innovative, growing and worthy of everyone’s support! There are many ways to get involved and make a difference to people, places and the planet. Here are some of them.
Volunteering Volunteering is a good way to develop skills, discover the kind of work you enjoy and connect with others, whilst helping to change lives. As an individual you can offer your time for a few hours a week in a wide range of roles from cooking to admin, caretaking to retail. As a company you can offer to undertake specific projects – such as creating a garden or refurbishing a building. Social enterprises have a good track record of supporting and training volunteers and quite often volunteering leads to employment. You can put your existing skills at a social enterprise’s disposal or learn something new. There are organisations that match volunteers with opportunities, or you can make a direct approach to the social enterprise that interests you.
Employment If you would like to work for a social enterprise, there are many fixed term contracts available, linked to commissioned projects or grant funding, in addition to full and part time posts. Both The Guardian newspaper and Social Enterprise UK advertise jobs in social enterprise. If you are interested in supporting a specific cause or group of people, social enterprises clearly state their missions on their websites and quite often include vacancies.
Start Your Own Social Enterprise If you have been thinking about setting up a business and are inspired to make it a social enterprise, iSE (Initiative for Social Entrepreneurs) is a good place to start. www.i-se.co.uk Many of the processes you need to follow are the same as for any business. You will need: • A clearly defined purpose – social or environmental mission • A good business idea • An understanding of your ‘market’ and ‘customers’ • An appropriate legal structure • Good governance and leadership - Directors/Board Members/Members/Chief Executive • Skilled staff/consultants/volunteers • An appropriate ‘route to market’ - premises/catalogue/website • A business plan • Funding • A good name, which makes your purpose clear • A strong logo/‘brand’ identity • Effective/ongoing communications with all stakeholders When it comes to choosing and registering an appropriate legal structure, detailed information is available on Social Enterprise UK’s website. www.socialenterprise.org.uk Success as a social entrepreneur involves: • Vision and creativity • Energy and enthusiasm • Long-term commitment • Good organisational and planning skills • Acceptance of your own strengths and weaknesses • The ability to accept expert help • Emotional intelligence – being good with people It takes 20% inspiration and 80% perspiration. It’s challenging, but rewarding!
Buy When you buy goods or services from a social enterprise, as an individual or another business, you are supporting ethical trading and helping to make the world a better place. To identify a social enterprise, look for: • Clear social purpose – social impact reports • 100% of surplus used to achieve social purpose • Over 50% of income from trading • The Social Enterprise Mark - internationally recognised • Legal structure • Membership listings • Directories, including: www.shopforchange.info and www.buysocialdirectory.org.uk
Collaborate Consider how your place of work could support or undertake a joint venture with a social enterprise – perhaps as part of its CSR programme. The possibilities are endless. If you have an idea, contact a social enterprise and put it to them. Social entrepreneurs are generally very flexible, collaborative and ‘can-do’ in their approach to ideas and taking action, so will be open to suggestions!
Invest There are opportunities to invest directly in social enterprises. Some seek money through crowd funding schemes. Others have a legal constitution that allows them to raise money through membership or shares. You may qualify for Community Investment Tax Relief or Social Investment Tax Relief on your investment. You can find out more by researching opportunities online. If you are interested in becoming a social business angel, speak to Sarah Crawley at iSE. 0121 771 1411.
Help to Spread the Word! Find out more about social enterprise – perhaps book on to a Social Enterprise Walk around Digbeth, which includes visits to enterprises en route. Social entrepreneurs have some fascinating work to show you and stories to tell. Look out for details on the DSEQ website www.digbethsocentquarter.co.uk. Then help to spread the word – encourage your family, friends and colleagues to get more involved in social enterprise.
Join the DSEQ Network If you are a social enterprise, or supporter of social enterprise, you can join the Digbeth, Cheapside & Highgate Social Enterprise Network, which is the core of the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter. It meets every other month to foster collaborative working and plan activities to meet the quarter’s strategic objectives. These relate to social, economic and environmental impact. For more information, and to register, visit www. digbethsocentquarter.co.uk.
The Digbeth area of Birmingham was designated the cityâ€™s Social Enterprise Quarter in December 2013, after it was discovered that over 50 social enterprises had already made it their home. These enterprises are run by people passionate about making a social or environmental difference; people who see fair trade as a way to give people a better life. Here, six of them share their stories with two creative writing students from the University of Birmingham.
Published on Apr 17, 2015
Discover social enterprise - six inspiring tales of social entrepreneurs working in Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter, Birmingham, England.