For the past three years at The Circle, and for many years in her career before that, our Founder & CEO, Kirsty Thomson has been meeting people with a vision. Their exact motivations differ but their values are the same, they are not prepared to sit by and watch people around them struggle in their lives. They see a problem in their community, they have sought to understand it and they want to implement solutions. Crucially, they also want their work to be sustainable and make an impact.
Time and time again, we have seen such people struggle. We have seen organisations start with great intentions, but the reality is that they don’t make the impact they want. They struggle to maintain an income beyond start-up funding, they don’t have the right governance in place, the skills of their boards don’t have the right balance and they lack the capacity to meet their aims. They then become disheartened and can face personal hardship. There is currently no programme in place to intensely and robustly nurture and challenge people who have the passion and ideas to make changes that improve the prosperity of communities.
The Circle Academy has been designed to change that. We want to support the people who can make positive changes through starting and improving More Than Profit organisations, those that combine financial sustainability and social impact. People who have started and run their own businesses will manage the training and development of each cohort. But what does that cohort look like? Who are the people who will benefit and what do they want to do?
Meet Danielle and Eddie, two vibrant people at the heart of The Circle community, who are examples of the candidates who want this support and we are working with them to secure funding for their fees and establish time out of their organisations to immerse themselves in the process. We asked them what they thought they could get out of The Circle Academy.
Danielle du Plooy is the Manager of Uppertunity, an organisation that provides development opportunities for people to meet their full potential. She works with adults with additional needs to explore their skills and talents while immersing them a supportive community environment. Uppertunity run classes in cooking, gardening, sewing, art and DIY as well as their Daring for Development programme. They have recently opened ‘Serendipities’, a plant-based coffee shop in the heart of Dundee’s City Centre, further promoting inclusion to the general public.
Danielle says, “We take a More Than Profit approach because with funding, after two years your might be finished and the confidence you have been building in your members is gone. It’s important to have a business mind whether you are a social enterprise, charity or just helping the environment; you still have to think about your sustainability. I think the Academy would be good for me to think about that long-term sustainability. I have a lot of fun and we have creativity but you have to have strictness, thinking, ‘OK, how is this going to last’ and having a business perspective and even a mentor who is thinking about how things will work in the long-term. I think it would be really beneficial to anyone who is thinking long term, who has a good cause and wants it to last for decades, or even centuries.”
Eddie Baines is a co-founder of Kirkton Community Larder. Eddie says, “Our business is a More Than Profit because we are aiming to tackle the issues of child poverty and food poverty within our area. Due to extensive research done, we know that 28% child poverty and food poverty in Dundee occurs in the Strathmartine area, so as a community we set up to sort this out and try and challenge this.
By making it a More Than Profit business we are able to benefit the community without having to make money for it. So, using The Circle Academy would be beneficial because as a community group there is so much knowledge we don’t have. We have to learn about legal, governance, staffing – all sorts of things you don’t think about when you start up one of these schemes. The scheme we have started up is running absolutely fantastic but now we are going to have to look at so many different scenarios – what do we pay staff, how do we pay staff, what are the legal pitfalls. All of these types of things – the Academy will train us and through helping us, we can help people moving forward and enabling the community organisation to grow and grow and hopefully form other community organisations across Dundee.”
We are now accepting applications for The Circle Academy. If you want to support the Academy, please get in touch with The Circle Academy Manager, Kara Swankie at firstname.lastname@example.org