PWF has just reported the upcoming Social Traders/TREES Group social enterprise presentation on unemployment and community regeneration in Melbourne and we’ve checked out what some of the businesses in The TREES Group are doing in the UK.
Thorpete was the first TREES social enterprise. Operating in the UK’s east midlands they initially provided jobs for mature engineers made redundant by British Gas.
Thorpete provides a gas maintenance service and the company has grown steadily since 1995. It contributes to social inclusion and economic renewal by:
Newlife is also a social enterprise, providing quality services and helping communities. With fresh ideas and better ways of working, they have grown rapidly since 1999.
Newlife has been involved in some innovative renewal projects, including the ‘Six Streets’ regeneration project in Braunstone, Leicester, which was, at the time, Britain’s largest retrofit social housing residential solar panel installation.
Around 200 hundred houses in Braunstone were ‘on the demolition list’. Residents were offered new housing anywhere in Leicester but although most agreed to this it was decided to do a thorough community consultation to see what residents really wanted – many were elderly and stood to ‘lose their community’.
A strong partnership was formed with a local housing association and resident activists and after a thorough consultation process, together with resident involvement in developing the regeneration package, a sophisticated package of measures was agreed, through a ballot, leading to a ‘community led refurbishment, training and environmental solution’.
“After a high risk campaign, Braunstone Community Association (BCA) together with Leicester Housing Association (LHA) transformed an area due at one point for demolition.
The achievements go significantly beyond the change of approach to the streets concerned and the stabilisation of this community:
In the first year after completion, no resident left. In the second year residents have been leaving only to buy properties elsewhere.
Substantial savings in electricity bills for all tenants, particularly the 50 with photo-voltaic cells.
99.9% rent collection. 100% occupancy.
No significant Anti-social behaviour. There is a voluntary behavioural agreement which all tenants have agreed to, although this has no legal basis.
All the trees and play areas have survived and there has been virtually no breakage or theft of building materials from site.
Residents offered training and employment have gone onto get new work with some offered jobs with New Life.
A Social Enterprise has been formed which is winning new contracts in the wider Leicester area. This now employs 7, six from the locality.
Disused garages and back gardens opened up to build 5 new houses.
Environmentally the whole area feels & looks very different.
A Council accelerated maintenance programme which was influenced by the momentum gained in Six Streets
Check List Of Keys Points Considered
- Importance of challenging conventional wisdom that in an area of low demand, demolition is the answer – particularly where houses are in good structural condition.
- Importance of detailed resident consultation and listening, never forgetting that this is their community; that the elderly will always deeply desire to live out their lives in their own home.
- You should show people how they can achieve their aspirations.
- Usefulness of having show-house or room in order to demonstrate capability and promises of partners
- Never give up on a community and the possibility of changing things together.
- Make sure your architects go that extra mile to engage the community”.
“TREES group stands for Training, Regeneration, Employment, Education and Sustainability Trees is one of the most established social enterprises in Leicester and has grown from a turnover of £500k in 1998 with 14 employees to a complex group turning over £7.4million and employing 180 people in 2007.
Their unique selling proposition (USP) of the TREES group is that they provide more for the money to their clients, to grant bodies, to their staff and ultimately to the government. By delivering the contract as a social enterprise they do the job but also create a job, or a training opportunity and in this way help to strengthen individuals and their communities. Their businesses include Thorpete a gas servicing company with clients among Housing Associations and Registered Social Landlords, Newlife for construction services, Highpoint a conference centre and Ground Control providing landscaping services.”
Are there Australian equivalents to this I wonder?