The Circle Academy secures funding for its 2020 cohorts

The Circle has received funding to support the delivery of The Circle Academy to a second cohort of aspiring ‘More Than Profit’ leaders. Funding has been contributed from The Rank Foundation as well as the George and Grace Thomson Fund. In addition to this, the candidates will also have the chance to pitch for up to £5,000 through national funders, UnLtd Scotland.

The Academy is a 12-week training programme for those interested in running an organisation with a ‘More than Profit’ approach. Individuals will benefit from 12 weeks of intensive training covering essential topics; mindset, business model, finance, legal, governance, people, social impact and sustainability through multiple income streams.  

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“The Circle saved my business” first cohort of social entrepreneurs complete The Circle Academy

The first cohort of social entrepreneurs who completed our ‘More Than Profit’ training programme, The Circle Academy, have taken part in a pitch competition. The Circle Academy – the first of its kind in Scotland – was launched by Dundee-based social enterprise The Circle. The training programme was created to provide people with knowledge and tools to build sustainable ‘More Than Profit’ businesses. The candidates attended expert speaker sessions which covered topics including mindset, governance, business planning and social impact, as well as taking part in tasks to generate income. Throughout the course the candidates were also supported to work on aspects of their business including a business plan and a marketing strategy.

The Circle Academy was run by Academy Manager, Kara Swankie, a former Commonwealth power-lifting gold medallist who at just 24 has already set up and sold two businesses. Coming from a commercial background, Kara already had instilled within her a drive to focus on profit and financial sustainability which is a quality that The Circle wanted to foster in the candidates who joined the Academy. The Circle launched the Academy with an aim to ensure that the organisations being set up and developed by the candidates on the programme would be sustainable in the long term.

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Case Study – Caledonia Housing Association

In March 2019 we were approached by Caledonia Housing Association to deliver consultancy services. Our consultancy team, Kirsty and Jenny, met with Maureen Menzies, Home Help Coordinator and Gill Donoghue, Head of Support Services who informed us that they were looking for someone to help inspire and motivate their Home Help staff to become more enterprising and autonomous within their roles. Caledonia were looking at changing the way they ran the Home Help Service to improve it for the benefit of their clients, staff and the organisation as a whole. Maureen and Gill asked us to run a course of training sessions for some of the staff and to support them to collate their ideas on how to change their service for the better.

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Kara shares her reflections on 3 weeks of The Circle Academy

Academy Manager, Kara Swankie, has written a blog with her reflections after the first 3 weeks of the first cohort of The Circle Academy.

We are coming to the end of Week 3 of The Academy and wow, it’s a little mind blowing that we are here. After only 6 short months in my post, it is incredible that we are now actually delivering this programme. The Circle Academy only really existed inside our CEO’s head until I started in post. To not only pull this idea out of Kirsty’s brain but to actually bring it to fruition within the time frame has been no mean feat.

Hearing the speakers’ stories has been very insightful however, for me, what is most inspirational is hearing the stories from the candidates.

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The Circle welcomes three new Board members

We are delighted to welcome three new non-executive Directors to our Board, Mary Sneddon, Natalie Lafferty and Ron Smith. Mary Sneddon is Manager for Dundee Independent Advocacy Support, one of our tenant organisations. Natalie Lafferty is Head of the Digital Education Team at the University of Dundee’s Centre for Technology and Innovation in Learning. Ron Smith is Managing Director of Glamis Investments, a Dundee-based investment business that provides capital, advice and management support to innovative entrepreneurs.

We have been diligent in our recruitment efforts to ensure that we have individuals on the Board who can offer insight from different viewpoints. The Board already includes people with knowledge and expertise in governance, service design, HR and workplace culture.

Our Founder and CEO Kirsty Thomson says,

“We are excited to welcome Mary, Natalie and Ron to our Board. At The Circle we value diversity in all its forms including diversity of thought which is why we have invited people with a varied of backgrounds and experiences to join the Board. We will now benefit from Board members who have expertise in areas such as education and finance, and having someone who can share insight as a tenant is very important to us.”

Why Dundee? Scotland’s only ‘More Than Profit’ training programme launches this month in the City of Discovery

Dundee as a centre for social reform

In its recent history, Dundee has seen a transformation of its waterfront, the opening of V&A Dundee, a renovation of its railway station, the attracting of major hotel chains and the award of UNESCO City of Design. The city is making big strides in building on its cultural reputation and bring visitors from across the world. The impact of that work is to be applauded.  

While it gives many in the city a boost and we consider how to make the most of the opportunities this shift brings, we cannot ignore the other story playing out in a tale of two cities. 

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What needs to change for social entrepreneurs and charity leaders to truly make a difference?

An opinion piece by our Founder & CEO, Kirsty Thomson.

How often do social entrepreneurs get asked how much money they are really earning? Do we ever ask if their take home pay is enough to cover their bills?

Who is looking out for their welfare?

More than most start-up support organisations fixate on “social” objectives yet sit back and watch founders take £500 per month in salary. This is something that needs to end for founders who are investing everything in tackling social objectives with no one looking out for them.

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Danielle du Plooy

Solving social issues: meet the people who inspired The Circle Academy

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.

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I don’t work for a start-up. Can I join The Circle Academy? – Enterprise training for staff

Leaders of organisations are increasingly looking for their staff team to be entrepreneurial. Public sector cuts are commonplace and demands on services are increasing. Having to offer more services with less resources in place is a common theme in the Public and Third Sectors and embedding entrepreneurial thinking is essential to get organisations on track.

A cut in grant funding or the loss of a key contract would be catastrophic to many organisations providing essential services to the most vulnerable in our communities. Older people, people living with disabilities, minority groups, those struggling with their mental or physical health, people living in poverty and children are most likely to be adversely affected by the failure of public and third sector organisations. We need to ensure that the vital organisations doing this work and the teams working within them are properly supported.

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Pros and Cons of The Circle Academy

We know that if you are starting a More Than Profit business you will be faced with several programmes that could support. We want to be clear about how The Circle Academy compares. We have put together a list of pros and cons, so you can choose the best programme for you.

Pros

The Circle Academy is delivered by people who have owned their own businesses. They understand the personal and professional challenges you will face and draw on their own experiences.

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