Our Community Enterprise (OCE) CIC is an employee owned social enterprise which provides fundraising and business development support to public, private and third sector organisations who want to make a positive difference. Their mission is to help people do great things whether that’s building stronger communities, improving wellbeing or contributing to environmental sustainability.
OCE is highly valued and trusted by its client base in Windsor and Maidenhead, and over the last seven years it has helped raise £22.7 million of funding for organisations in the area, with 60% of applications successful compared to the national average of 25%.
In 2018, OCE successfully applied for support from the Government’s flagship Mutuals Support Programme to plan for the growth of the organisation.
“We wanted to look at how we could support more third sector organisations, by building our capacity through the use of associates, and by reaching clients in other areas,” explains Michael Beaven, Director of Our Community Enterprise.
“Benefitting more causes and supporting communities to be stronger and improving wellbeing, is something that is highly rewarding and motivating for us, and we also felt that it would lead to greater staff commitment and more confidence in our clients.”
With a small team of five staff and growing demand, capacity was a key challenge for the organisation. OCE was contracted by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) Council to provide a fundraising service to community groups, after it ‘spun out’ of the Council in 2011. OCE’s remaining income came from small contracts and fee-paying work with charities, voluntary groups and sports providers in the local and wider area.
“We had too many eggs in one basket,” explains Nicola Davidson, co-Director.
“We were operating within year 7 of a 4-year extension to a 4-year contract with RBWM for a development and funding service. The contract provided 60% of our income. We wanted to develop contracts with other nearby local authorities, non-profits and community asset share offer schemes, and we also hoped to grow our talent pool and reach – in terms of geography and different types of non-profit organisation.”
Support was predominantly provided by strategy consultants MetaValue from the GoMutual Consortium. This consisted initially of a robust ‘baselining’ exercise carried out through facilitated workshops with the team. This helped OCE to better understand their impact in the community.
“We found there were gaps in our awareness of our own organisation,” Michael and Nicola reflected.
“For example, we had not analysed our value for money, the value our clients place on us, our level of success, and our potential to grow. This was a surprise to us, as we thought we understood our business well, and had expected that the greatest value would be in developing and implementing plans for the future. We know exactly where we are now.” Our Community Enterprise
Through ongoing support and facilitated sessions with the team, GoMutual helped OCE to develop their vision and prioritise opportunities for growth, equipping the team with business tools to test these areas out alongside core business and refine them, rather than through a business plan that sits on the shelf.
“This helped us prioritise” reflects Nicola.
“We knew we wanted to do these things, but we were hesitant about it, the business planning support has helped to us to get on with these. For example, developing new work in Slough has progressed faster than it might have otherwise.”
As well as progressing the business, OCE feel more confident about their future and their direction of travel.
“Working with MetaValue has given us the confidence to take the business forwards,” explains Michael.
“We are also clearer on our priorities for development. The process has helped embed collaboration within our team, and develop a shared vision and commercial focus, with business development becoming everyone’s responsibility.”
OCE has also benefited from the GoMutual’s wider network of support and professional connections, including the expertise of Eastside Primetimers and Social Enterprise Acumen.
“We have valued GoMutual bringing us into their professional community through business links, learning business models and methods from other organisations, and the opportunities to work with them,” said Michael.
A key challenge for the organisation was learning that the nature of their contractual relationship with the Council was changing. The support from the Mutuals Support Programme helped OCE develop options for the service that would see them become less reliant on Council income, and paved the way for a constructive dialogue with the Council on alternative options that better suited OCE’s terms and ways of working, albeit within a reduced financial envelope.
“We found ourselves in the situation where the contract with our largest client was uncertain, since all non-statutory services were being reviewed,” explains Nicola.
“This put at risk our staff and dependent clients. However, having had GoMutual’s support in understanding the outputs and outcomes we’ve brought about, our strengths, visioning and business planning, we’re in a much stronger position to go out and sell our services and sustain our social enterprise.”
Michael and Nicola are excited about what the future holds for Our Community Enterprise. Priorities include utilising the team’s expertise in new sector areas and markets, implementing efficiencies in operation and growing the organisation in line with the team’s core values.
“Having had it confirmed to us about how good we are, I’m really excited about taking the business into new sector areas because I can say hand on heart now ‘we are really good’,” says Nicola.
“We know now that we make a big difference to our clients and the wider community.”
“It’s been a pleasure working with Michael and Nicola and the team at Our Community Enterprise. They are incredibly professional and effective at what they do and much loved by their client base and the wider community. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the visits and facilitated sessions with them, and they are a valued partner to us as much as a customer. We are already working together on joint projects so our customers can benefit from their expertise. It’s been wonderful to watch them grow in confidence as an organisation with a clearer sense of purpose and direction and access to new sectors and markets.” MetaValue Director Suzie Campbell