Glimpses of the future: The power of enterprising communities

By Sian Lockwood, Community Catalysts & Susie Finlayson, Power to Change

Group photograph


Care in community hands

Across the country local people are deciding that social care provision should be different, and are developing and delivering local solutions that work better for their communities.

At #socialcarefuture we heard about the power of enterprising communities and the diversity of their solutions, from micro-providers delivering support to a handful of people to community businesses that deliver multiple activities for many local people.

Those in our space included groups delivering & receiving support (which in many cases overlapped) and local authority commissioners. We heard from a number of people including Rob Eyres who set up Telford After Care Team (TACT), Rob talked powerfully about his personal journey as well as that of his organisation. TACT supports people recovering from addiction and into employment. It started as a ‘micro-enterprise’ growing rapidly into an organisation that embodies the principles of a community business, being driven by and accountable to its users. In contrast Pip Cannon from Somerset Council spoke about the enterprising response of local people to the lack of home care provision in the most rural parts of the county. Each of the 400 enterprises is tiny, supporting a handful of people, but together they have significant impact, supporting 1500 people and delivering over 12000 hours of home care a week. Les Billingham from Thurrock Council set community enterprise within the context of a broader transformation journey that includes many other strengths-based initiatives and programmes.

The presentations were followed by activities which together generated a great deal of learning.

Key learning points were:

Community enterprises come in many forms, but operate under one set of principles

The business structure is not as important as the ethos of these organisations. They might be micro-enterprises, larger community enterprises, community businesses, social enterprises but they are part of a broader coalition of community based and led organisations delivering services that are genuinely responsive to the needs of the people who live where they are delivered. What they have in common is greater than that which divides them and they are part of a brighter future for social care.

Enterprising communities deliver services people want and need, where they want and need them

The key to their success is that they are based in and responsive to the needs of their communities. They generate income through a mix of personal budgets, self-funders, local authority contracts and other means. They can be very small, or have multiple staff delivering a variety of activities to many members of the community, but are part of a spectrum of community-led approaches to social care. By delivering what people want, where and when they want it, these organisations can help improve people’s lives and support local authorities to save money (or spend it more effectively).

Local authorities can commission and support enterprising communities if they are brave, committed and willing to shoulder some risk

The status quo is not inevitable. Some local authorities like Thurrock, Somerset and others are doing this differently. But this takes tenacity and bravery, and buy-in from across the organisation. Change will not happen overnight and there are bound to be some failures, but if local authorities are willing and able to persevere, invest and work with communities the outcomes for both people and local authority coffers can be positive. In the words of Les Billingham from Thurrock “…it turns out doing the right thing is also the most cost-effective thing very, very often.”.

The barriers to enterprising communities have to be tackled one by one in order for community solutions to thrive

We heard from community groups and commissioners about the barriers to community enterprise and business, which were to do with local authority systems and culture. These can be changed and many of the people sharing our space pledged actions they felt would make a difference. It was striking that pledges to work differently came from community enterprises and businesses keen to work differently with commissioners as well as local authority colleagues wanting to tackle systems and cultural barriers.

In conclusion

We know that enterprising communities are not the only solution to better social care but, through the gathering and the broader work of Community Catalysts and Power to Change, we see the power that enterprising communities have in delivering better care that is accountable to the people it serves and supports more efficient local authority spending.

Enterprising people keen to make a difference need help to tackle barriers and establish sound and sustainable services that are accountable to the people they serve. Local authorities are in the best place to offer that support but as we know from our speakers this needs courage, tenacity and imagination as well as willingness to accept a level of risk on the journey to better services. The rewards are immense and we hope that many more local authorities will want to take the same courageous and determined journey to thriving communities that care.





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