In a nutshell…
- Founder: Karl Stabler
- Organisation: Conservation Management Services (CMS). Through wildlife conservation and grounds maintenance, CMS helps people find employment, learn new skills, and improve their physical and mental well-being.
- SSE programme: Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Start Up Programme, September 2016
- Business model: A mix of public grants and local authority contracts
- SSE school: SSE North East
I was working with the naughty kids, that’s how it all began. I’d been working in a local secondary school as the design and technology assistant, but after a couple of years they asked me to deliver ASDAN, an alternative qualification to GCSEs.
The kids put forward for ASDAN weren’t interested in being in a classroom, so I’d take them to the allotment and outdoors instead – and they performed so differently. They changed completely once you got them into the natural world. Even non-attenders would come by, helping with hanging baskets, planting, selling flowers – we caught a rabbit once and cooked a stew!
“The kids put forward for ASDAN weren’t interested in being in a classroom…They changed completely once you got them into the natural world.”
Seeing the difference in the kids was fundamental. So after my last batch went through, I went to university to study countryside management. I was 41. I started Conservation Management Services five years later. Through wildlife conservation and grounds maintenance, CMS helps people find employment, learn new skills, and improve their physical and mental well-being.
Before doing the programme, not a lot happened. I’d mostly been networking and trying to set myself up as a business. Being at SSE changed all that. It was an amazing experience. I was in a building with people who have this fantastic energy, who understood what I wanted to do. The training days really set me up for the next month. Through the programme I covered all the day-to-day stuff about running a business as well as how to make a social impact. It made me so much more confident.
The action learning was the best part for me. You’re in a secure setting where you answer questions about yourself and your business, and the answers you give end up being the answer to your problem – you knew it all along.
“Before doing the programme, not a lot happened…Being at SSE changed all that.”
So far, Conservation Management Services has averaged 12 volunteers over nine sessions. That’s 540 hours of work in the local community at a value of about £5,000. But it’s very much the beginning for us. From February 2018 we’ll be delivering our training courses to unemployed and NEETS: that’s young people who are no longer in the education system, working or being trained for work. We’ll also be providing volunteering events and building partnerships with local services. Our long-term aim is to acquire some forestry for the local community.
You just tick so many boxes with conservation. You’re improving the environment, the skills of the local community, and people’s well-being. And that’s what it’s all about.