Tell us a bit about the work you do at Dorset Community Action
I am the Enterprise programme manager here at DCA with the main duty of managing our ‘Inspire Dorset’ (Ideas for change) programme. Inspire Dorset is funded by the Big Lottery and European Social fund as part of the supporting enterprise strand of the Building Better Opportunities programme.
We designed the programme to be flexible and accessible to anyone with an idea that could have a social, cultural or environmental impact and provide a safe environment to explore that idea. The programme also supports people into self-employment. The programme takes away all the terminology around Social Enterprise and breaks it down to ideas, projects, personal development, community and giving back.
What does social enterprise mean to you?
To me it means a creative business vehicle to support, help and encourage others that enables self-sustainability.
You have also setup your own social enterprises – tell us a bit about that
Well at the time I had no clue what a social enterprise was! But looking back I have been involved in setting up a few. I have supported the set-up of a community recording studio that provided free and reduced rate recording and rehearsal space for young people and vulnerable adults along with training and putting on live performances and festivals.
Another adventure was taking over a large Art Deco theatre that a council couldn’t afford to run. This theatre was an incubator for enterprise ideas and we tried many! We turned the theatre into primarily a training centre based around the arts industry for NEET young people, adults with mental health issues and adults and young people with disabilities and learning disabilities. The centre operated as a performance venue with a 400 capacity theatre and a 150 capacity theatre where among many things, we put on comedy clubs, drama, live music, Spanish flamenco dancers, the Buzzcocks and even Paul Daniels all in a working class mining town!
All performances are staffed by the people we trained and supported, from lighting and sound, stage manager, front of house to ticket ripper. We had some weird and wonderful performances, and also provided local acts a place to play and supported community groups to put on their own regular showcase events and festivals.
The building also housed a community recording studio and rehearsal space which offered free and reduced rates for the community. We had a bar which launched as a locally sourced, home cooked café which trained people in all things food.
This was a fantastic opportunity to try out ideas and create projects and programmes that combated a need in the community and culturally, not all of them worked but we learnt from those mistakes and also how to create business opportunities with little to no money.
Do you consider yourself a social entrepreneur?
I didn’t, because I didn’t really understand the terminology and thought I can’t be a social entrepreneur, it sounds too posh! I do more so now.
What do you think are the main benefits in becoming a social enterprise? And can anyone do it?
In this day and age it is so important to be self-sustaining; a social enterprise provides a platform to combat an issue or need by leading with your own ideas, ethos and principles to support and help give back socially, to a community, or the environment.
All you need is passion, ideas and the drive to make it happen, yes anyone can do it!
For more information about the Inspire Dorset programme email firstname.lastname@example.org