Okay, this is a slightly misleading title, but I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some incredible community organisations yesterday at the Technology 4 Good awards organised by AbilityNet.
One of them was Taylors Fish and Chip shop in Woodley, Stockport, who won the prize for Community Impact. All the finalists were excellent and are having an enornmous impact on their community. It’s fair to say though that I am completely in awe of what Taylors have achieved. Anne Wallace took over running the family Fish and Chip shop when her father died, as the recession hit, more and more of the shops on the precinct closed down, Anne and her husband considered early retirement but instead they supported training for their small team. Then they opened a coffee shop called Starting Point (Anne says “and I don’t even like coffee”) which has became the heart of the community. When the young people wouldn’t come into the cafe they then put computers in, and it’s grown from there. Now young and old learn together and help eachother out on eBay or emails or whatever they need.
Anne Wallace says that it was a selfish act as “for the Fish and Chip Shop to survive then the precinct had to survive”, but I think Anne is a great example of a brilliant community leader – she saw the community needed help urgently and she stepped up to the challenge and made sure the community got their community spirit back.
Seed funding for these local partnerships is vital, and delivers an economic return which far outweighs the initial investment. In this case, the partnership began with some funding from Edge and the project’s now being supported to grow and develop through funding from the UK online centres’ £2m Community Capacity Builders Programme.
Nicola Dean from Starting Point wrote in her application: “If ever a project proved that a small amount of investment from a few organisations who understood our dream, this is it. There is now a waiting list of businesses wanting to invest here at the precint. This is becoming a great place to live and do business.”
Persuading businesses to invest time in their local communities can be challenging, as I know from my own experiences of trying to set up a skills exchange in a disused shop near to where I live in Sheffield. (I’m still trying by the way!)
Examples like Taylors Starting Point show that economic, as well as social returns, are possible.