The second in this series of blog posts sharing inspiring stories from across the SSE community, curated by Helen Mincher
Everyday we are hearing how our fellows and students are stepping up and facing the challenges posed by the coronavirus. Diversifying their business to continue to deliver their social mission, leading and uniting communities to support vulnerable people through isolation, or using the enforced break from service delivery to develop strategy and plan for a stronger impact once measures relax. We are also hearing that many of our fellows and sector are in crisis, with cashflow drying up, overheads that cannot simply be paused, and eligibility for the various support packages not relating to many social enterprise.
A heartfelt thank you from all of us to everyone that continues to put people first in the wake of incredibly tough conditions. We need social enterprise to build now and be successful more than ever.
Jo Rhodes runs Settle Community Hub in rural North Yorkshire. Her community were quick to respond to the threat of the Covid-19 measures, setting up a community wide-response team. The local theatre forms the central point, with a phone line and email to coordinate food and pharmacy drops for those isolating. Within 24 hours, Jo’s team had delivered 4,000 leaflets across Settle and its surrounding villages to inform and reassure her community that support was there.
Jo is focusing her efforts now on mentoring local business through the crisis and helping to shift delivery online. A lot of the community activities that were popular in her hub are now running online, such as aerobics, pilates and poetry reading. She is working with a local chef to bring simple cookery demos, using local produce, online. Jo comments that she feels fortunate to be able to connect local professionals, who now have more time on their hands, to worthwhile local causes. Jo cites the example of an Emmerdale cameraman helping local residents to make videos.
Diversifying Business Models
Our Place Support based in Sutton Coldfield, have been helping people to make positive changes in their lives for over nine years. The founder, Kelly Round, currently on our Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland Social Entrepreneurs Trade Up Programme, is immensely proud of how her team have adapted in such a short space of time to continue to provide support and meet the new demands the crisis has raised.
Kelly shifted their mentoring scheme that supports children’s mental health in schools to an online channel. They are trialling Zoom and have sent out new resource packs to the children within their scheme to supplement the online service and help children to manage their emotions during this time.
Within a week of social distancing guidelines being announced, Kelly and her team had scaled their welfare advice service from a weekly drop in session to a remote phone system. This helped them deal with the sudden volume of enquiries and people trying to navigate how to access help.
To further deal with this need they witnessed, Kelly created a new Covid-19 Information Service. Staffed by volunteers, the service guides people impacted by the pandemic through the huge amount of Government information and identifies what is available for them and how they can apply.
Kelly is keen to build on this intense period of learning and skills development in order to scale and strengthen their service delivery in the long run.
Rachel Tweddle, CEO of Teesdale Community Resources is similarly reflecting on how her quick response to diversify her business in order to continue to meet the needs of her community, may hold advantages for her in the long run, as she seeks to rebuild her community business.
Forced to hibernate her community cafe and furlough the majority of staff, Rachel was acutely aware that the need her cafe served; local access to cheap, healthy food, was not only still present, but exacerbated by the lockdown. With the asset of a large, and now, unused community space, Rachel opened a food bank, distributing care packages across Teesdale. The community can donate money, which in turn is used to purchase goods from local businesses to fill the care packages.
Rachel received funding from the County Durham Community Foundation and North Star Housing to help to cover the core costs of this initiative. Keeping her brand present and relevant in the minds of the community she serves will benefit Rachel when she reopens the hub and cafe once the Covid-19 measures are relaxed.
Impacting Further Afield
From inspiring communities to reaching across continents. Founder of Women In Travel, Alessandra Alonso, launched an online mentoring circle for women in the Travel, Hospitality and Tourism sector impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Eighty women submitted a request to join the circle within the space of one morning, so Alessandra moved to scale the offer and now runs a number of mentoring circles. Women from the UK and as far as Guatemala, Brazil, USA, Germany, Spain are being brought together to share challenges, support and ideas for coping and recovery.
London based travel company Seable run life-affirming (and in many cases, life-changing) holidays for the blind and partially sighted. Their activities are now on pause for the immediate future. However, founder and Lloyds Scale-Up fellow, Damiano La Rocca, is taking the opportunity to focus on internal processes in order to maximise the enterprise’s social impact on the visually impaired community.
As part of this strategic planning process, Damiano is now taking the time to actively source four non-executive directors with expertise in areas such as governance, financial planning, travel and tourism.
Anyone interested in contributing to Seable’s social impact should contact Damiano directly for more information on the roles.
Register interest in our Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland Social Entrepreneurs Programme, in partnership with The National Lottery Community Fund.