Creating a stronger community and stronger local economy through community business.
Since 1995, Centre4 has supported the regeneration of North East Lincolnshire, as well as acting as a crucial and vibrant hub that offers services to the local community and an incubator space for small businesses and social enterprises.
“There are very high numbers of unemployment, so our first job is helping people struggling with poverty in a dignified way,” says Paul Gutherson, the Empowering Places programme co-ordinator at Centre4. “Raising aspiration across generations is really important. The health and wellbeing side of what we do is also really important. An increased sense of wellbeing has a positive impact on the community.”
Power to Change’s Empowering Places funding has allowed them to intensify their focus on empowering local people, community business and social enterprises. “Community businesses are a form of civic engagement,” says Paul. “If you want to talk about creating stronger communities and a stronger economy, then they can work hand in hand – they are not two ends of an opposite spectrum.”
A close-knit relationship with the local authority has been key in developing this engagement and Centre4 has proven to be a more vital resource than ever during the lockdown. “We try to use funds that we’ve received from central Government to support local organisations to provide direct support to people during the course of the pandemic,” says Helen Isaacs, assistant chief executive for North East Lincolnshire Council.
“And Centre4 has had a role in that. They operate and work closely with our wellbeing team and have acted as a place we’ve signposted people to. Subsequent to that, they’ve now started their activity back up again and are integral to our Covid response.”
“It’s led to an increasing number of volunteers getting experience and it has an impact on the local economy”
Centre4 – which is home to a variety of organisations from British Red Cross to Alzheimer’s Society – were also key in helping with the creation of Nunny’s Farm. This involved funding and converting unused playing fields into a 6-acre community farm, which often attracts hundreds of visitors a day, as well as providing a variety of volunteer roles.
A community gym has also been set up to tackle health and wellbeing issues. “The gym was set up to respond to the needs of young people,” says Paul. “But it’s also been an attraction for people over 50 because they go to meet people and socialise.”
One of the by-products of Power to Change’s Empowering Places funding has been the creation of the Ethical Recruitment Agency (ERA), an employment agency that has ethical treatment and social action woven into its core principles. It is another service that proved to be hugely relied upon during lockdown.
“Because we got money from public health funding, the local authority could cut through the red tape and just come straight to us,” says Rachel Button, programme officer at ERA. “So, we’ve been supplying staff to them for the last year that are all Covid-related roles. There’s been real success in recruitment, as many have gone into permanent work.”
“ERA is a milestone,” says Paul. “It’s led to an increasing number of volunteers getting experience and it has an impact on the local economy. To get a new organisation up and running and to get 60 people on a temporary payroll… that’s 60 people into work that wouldn’t have been working, all by taking a different kind of approach to building people’s skills and giving them the opportunity to get involved in social action work.”