Powering communities since 1982 and still going strong - Coventry and Warwickshire CDA
Social enterprises (community businesses) have become part of the lifeblood of communities in the UK. Set up by people who identify a problem or issue and decide to do something about it, social enterprises now play a huge role in supporting communities both on a national scale, like The Big Issue, Café Direct and The Co-operative Group, and through smaller projects created to addressing specific local needs.
Setting up a social enterprise can seem complex and daunting. But in our region help is at hand. Coventry and Warwickshire CDA is there to provide all the required business support via the Coventry and Warwickshire Business Support Programme, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council.
Coventry and Warwickshire CDA was launched in 1982 with a mission to provide people with the support they needed to lead economically active and fulfilling lives.
The organisation was created to help other groups become established and grow, yet its own growth and impact is a significant, if unsung, success story - and they are still successfully trading after almost 40 years.
A not-for-profit organisation, Coventry and Warwickshire CDA provides free support for people to start and sustainably grow all types of social enterprise and community businesses. It also delivers many other activities which promote financial and economic inclusion.
Every day in Coventry and Warwickshire around 500 social enterprises make immense contributions to neighbourhoods, the local economy and environment. Many of these have fledged with invaluable support from the Coventry and Warwickshire CDA.
Every year the CDA provides around 100 people with pre-start enterprise support and helps more than 450 people via its employability programme. Each year it works with around 80 social enterprises to improve their business skills and helps around 25 social enterprises to start trading. In Warwickshire alone, in 2019, the CDA supported 52 groups, including the creation of six new social enterprises.
Among the strands of that varied support is Accelerate, a £3m project which is part of the Building Better Opportunities programme, supported by the European Social Fund and National Lottery Community Fund. Accelerate offers people individualised employment advice and support to break through some of the common barriers holding them back.
Mandy Bygrave, Operations Director for Accelerate, said: "Accelerate is different to other employment support initiatives that have been tried before. Individuals can contact any Accelerate partner to sign up for support or be referred, and the first thing we do is introduce them to a Journey Guide who works with them to design a package of support that meets their requirements. It could be confidence-building, mentoring or specialist advice provided by one or more of our partners.
"The response we have had from people in Coventry and Warwickshire has been fantastic. We certainly didn’t expect to pass 1,000 participants since the project started.
"We are confident that we can deliver the bespoke advice and guidance that people need to overcome their barriers and find sustainable employment, even more so now that we have received a funding extension until March 2022”
Among those to have benefited from Accelerate is mother-of-one Chelsea Fraser who attended a number of events before gaining volunteer experience at the Coventry and Warwickshire CDA, which then led to a job offer.
“Having someone to just listen and provide possible solutions straight away was a massive relief and helped push away some of those dark clouds,” Chelsea said. “I was in a rut and needed to get out of it so they referred me to the Sky Blues in the Community’s Sports Leadership programme, which was fantastic. It gave me some confidence back and helped me get active again, which is great for helping you come to terms with anxiety."
* For more information about Accelerate please visit www.accelerate.org.uk or about Coventry & Warwickshire CDA as a whole please visit www.cwcda.co.uk.
Coventry & Warwickshire CDA can be contacted at 30A Binley Road, Coventry, CV3 1JA, by telephone on 024 7663 3911 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“This project forms part of the Coventry & Warwickshire Business Support Programme which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)