Shining Experts & Excerpts From My UK Sabbatical
By Ted Wysocki, President/CEO, CANDO

"The expertise is out there-we know that. At the moment, though, it's not being given the chance to shine. We want to make sure it is tapped into."

Matthew Pike, Executive Director, The Scarman Trust Yorkshire Evening Post, July 29, 1999

Can-Doers Spread Throughout UK

Since I visited with them two years ago, The Scarman Trust has now made 450 "Can Do" grants of £2,000 ($3,200 US at an exchange rate of $1.60/£1) each in nine locations, including London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Glasgow. Projects include derelict buildings being given a facelift to be used for community purposes such as drop-in centres or a vandalised patch of land being cleared to make way for a toddlers' playground. The recipients are as diverse as the projects they initiate, with ages ranging from 16 to 82 years.

The Scarman Trust was established in 1991 by Lord Leslie Scarman to encourage a "can do democracy," aimed at empowering local people to make a positive contribution to their communities. The Trust received over £1 million in funding from the Millennium Commission. What they are learning from the "Can Doers" is helping to shape strategies to influence the way central government, business, the voluntary sector, and the media operate nation-wide.

The campaign has been supported by extensive local media coverage of the application process and profiles of the Can Do award winners. Now there is discussion of how to expand to 30 areas by the end of 2002.

In 1998, when I last visited Chicago's "sister city" Birmingham, there was excitement in the air as community development colleagues in the UK speculated on the opportunities presented by the relatively new Blair Government. Two years later, enthusiasm is still growing as policy discussions are leading to new program initiatives. A National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal was published in April by the Social Exclusion Unit of the Blair Government (see Appendix). The report highlights the work of eighteen Policy Action Teams that involved hundreds of people from inside and outside government.

There are still significant challenges to be faced in program design, let alone issues related to delivery. Yet, there were many ideas blooming this spring in the UK. However, the air in Belfast was still filled with apprehension. The day after my arrival, the IRA had announced its latest proposal towards the decommissioning of arms. That weekend was the 19th anniversary of the death of hunger-striker Bobby Sands. A new mural of Sands was painted on the new Sinn Fein headquarters that was opened in conjunction with the anniversary. Within two days, the artists were back covering up paint that had been thrown on it overnight.

As of writing these reflections during the first week of June, 2000, the power- sharing cabinet of Northern Ireland has resumed its governance. Although a different set of implementation issues confront their cabinet, reconnecting people, land and money is a common theme for all of our community development efforts.

Reconnecting PEOPLE

One overall impression from the cities that I visited is that our colleagues in the UK are well advanced in training their community residents for information technology (IT) jobs. Almost every non-profit group visited had a major computer lab offering basic software training.

In Belfast, the Springvale Training Centre offers several certification programs from computer service technicians to internet support. They also offer customer service training in conjunction with attracting tenants for a Call Centre facility built in the Springvale Business Park, adjacent to their training facility. In collaboration with the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre they are negotiating a new government contract to manage a city-wide IT training project that could lead to a community enterprise managing customer e-mail for corporate clients.

Creating community enterprises to employ people is referred to as Intermediate Labour Markets (ILM). The Wise Group in Glasgow, founded in 1984, is credited by many as pioneering this approach of allocating funds which would have been used to pay for welfare benefits and instead using it to pay people to do useful and valuable work. Their mission is simple: help people to find and keep a job. Last year, 1500 of their trainees got jobs, half through ILM projects like their own call centre operation and their original landscaping services and home weatherisation. A new initiative is their service sector program focused on the growth of retail and hospitality jobs. They are re- structuring their separate enterprises into one holding company towards accomplishing their vision of placing 5000 people into work in the year 2003.

Glasgow Works, a program of the Glasgow Development Agency, was launched in 1994 to expand the ILM model further through additional community-based projects including sports coaching, childcare, and even City Centre Representatives to provide assistance to visitors. Over 70% of their participants find work. They are looking to expand from 300 places available at any one time to a scale of 1000 in its next phase.

The experience in Glasgow shows that ILMs have proven to be very effective for the very long-term unemployed because of the real work discipline which enables this target group to enter the labour market at a higher level in terms of the type of job and wage level.

In London, the Newham Training & Education Centre [Newtec] was established 15 years ago to provide high quality training to women in London's East End. Last year, Newtec had over 650 students in a variety of programs from business computer administration to desktop publishing. Their new state of the art building includes six computer labs with 160 computers. They have a higher education franchise with the University of East London, which offers credits toward the first year of a degree. They are currently bidding to become a CISCO Network Academy, which has 350 sites throughout Europe but only 40 so far in the UK.

Newtec already has a 42-place nursery unit at their new facility with plans to build another 120-place nursery as part of their goal to establish a new Centre for Early Years Training & Development. In September 1999, Newtec was selected as the location for the launch by Prime Minister Tony Blair of the new Working Families Tax Credit. The Prime Minister commented that he was "extremely impressed with the courses offered and the obvious enthusiasm of those who have completed their training." I too was equally impressed.

In North London, the Camden Training Centre [CTC]has been operating since 1982 in an older, multi-story industrial building. It currently runs over 25 courses with National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) available in 11 different skill areas including construction, childcare, business administration, catering and horticulture. Their Skills & Homes program for single homeless people received a National Training Award in 1998. One of CTC's most innovative and successful courses is the Specialist Techniques in painting and decorating, which they have developed into their own qualification curriculum that other European countries are expressing interest in franchising.

CTC has doubled in size over the last four years and now has 60 staff members training 800 participants per year. Every Friday morning is a drop-in opportunity which attracts an average of 40 interested folks, creating a waiting list of potential participants that can add up to another 300 candidates. Their new Skills Build 2000 project is focused on the needs of those who may be working but with low skill levels and establishing networks between small firms so that they can learn from each other. CTC has built up an extensive database of over 400 employers, of which more than half are actively utilising their trainees.

However, our UK colleagues on the cutting edge of workforce development face common challenges. Different government funding sources have different impact on individuals' benefits. CTC has two full-time benefit advisors but could use four more to handle assistance for their trainees. Newtec finds it easier to bid on some contracts as a private sector vendor because more government funding is awarded then than for voluntary sector organisations. The Wise Group remains concerned that, despite their pioneering work, private sector providers may potentially dominate government contracts for job training in the future.

While the Blair Government may continue to look to the US for policy ideas, I find these exchanges to be a two-way street. I can't help but again make the point that we are not investing enough of our own public treasury in job training and reconnecting people to jobs. Certainly, the models are here but we continue to spend more dollars on roads for automobiles than on roads to skills building. It's time for us to get IT right!

Reclaiming LAND

Is maith an capall a tharraingíos a charr féin…
It's a good horse that draws its own cart

The Upper Springfield Development Trust in West Belfast was established in 1993 to do just that: draw its own future. At present, it's the largest single employer in the area with over 70 employees supporting community development initiatives. Their Top of the Rock development will provide a good cart for the future with the £1.6 million construction of a two-story, 20,000 square foot real estate project that will house the Trust operations as well as provide retail and commercial office space. The project will transform a blighted area on one of Belfast's main arterial routes.

The Trust's Whiterock Industrial Estate project is creating nine acres of valuable land for industrial usage out of a demolished British Army Base, referred to locally as Fort Jericho. The army base had been built on the site of the previous major economic engine for the area, the Whiterock Industrial Cooperative. Trust staff found it interesting that in Chicago we were promoting community development around new police stations as they were trying to reclaim their land and restore it to economic and community purposes.

Development Trusts are the UK's equivalent of community development corporations here in the US. The Development Trust Association (DTA), with headquarters in London and regional staff in different parts of England, serves functions equivalent to the National Congress for Community Economic Development (NCCED) here in the States. In fact, my original UK contacts came through a delegation from the UK attending a NCCED conference in 1989. While usually involved with a range of community development activities, development trusts can be found at the heart of reclaiming vacant land or derelict buildings.

In Liverpool, the Eldonian Development Trust has built an entire village on land the City had left vacant for three years after demolishing homes under the rubric of urban renewal in the early '80s. Known locally as the "Eldonians" after the street of apartments that had been removed, their proud heritage was exhibited by Christine Norris, a community leader as she gave me a walking tour of the new assisted care centre for 30 seniors and the day care centre for 50 children. Over 290 new homes have been built in two phases. The village hall includes a social club/pub for the community. The state of the art sports complex is named after Christine's sister, Elaine in recognition of her years of community leadership.

A five-minute walk away, the Vauxhall Neighbourhood Council, established in 1974, has built its own new £3.4 million, 30,000 square-foot community centre on vacant land. Besides providing day care for over 70 children, they run the Merseyside Accredited Childcare Training & Assessment Centre, which had 250 trainees last year. They also operate a 24-hour Lifeline service which links over 2000 elderly residents to a control room at the centre just by pressing a pendant button. Besides a youth drop-in centre, they have begun a pilot Culture Club for teenage drop-outs. All of these community services are now under one roof, plus their social club/pub is even bigger with two stages for banquet and conference events.

In Bristol, the Southmead Development Trust was established in 1996 to take over and re-use an old school that had been vacant for ten years. Besides offering extensive leisure and sports facilities, the Greenway Training & Enterprise Centre now provides a wide range of training programs from computers to forklifts. A wing of the building has been so successful in leasing as a business centre, that new workspace is now being constructed. The former cafeteria is slated to become a catering school; and plans are underway for their own social club and family pub.
Kath Horseman and Dan O'Connell of Southmead Development Trust in Bristol
Kath Horseman, a founding trustee, noted that the Development Trust was successful in playing its vital role because "it appreciated the value of people. Respect is key to the partnership."

Reinvesting MONEY

"Ensuring that a range of financial and economic services are available to individuals, social entrepreneurs and small businesses at a neighbourhood level has become a key issue in taking forward the government's agenda of addressing social exclusion and achieving urban renewal. Urban communities have increasingly suffered financial exclusion when the traditional banking sector has refused personal and business customers access to mainstream services. The decline of local branch banking has added to the marginalisation of deprived communities, leaving many businesses and households with a lack of facilities through which to carry out even the simplest transactions."

"Finance for the Local Community" Conference, 15th June 2000

This text from a brochure for a forthcoming conference summarised fairly well my observations of the banking issues facing the UK. So I quoted it in my remarks at the launching of the London Rebuilding Society (LRS) at its new offices in a closed NatWest branch, which now at least was being restored to a community purpose. LRS is London's new mutual finance institution, which will be lending to viable, non-bankable social enterprises which are regenerating London's poorer communities. LRS has a capital target of £15 million, with current access to £1.5 million and plans to issue shares in early 2001.
Ted Wysocki offers remarks at launching of London Rebuilding Society

LRS is a founding member of the emerging Rebuilding Society Network, being initiated by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and likely to be housed by the UK Social Investment Forum (UKSIF)). I met with the Network's core committee as they chose their five founding directors for incorporation purposes. The network consists of local loan funds and credit unions that are the equivalent of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) here in the US. Both UKSIF and NEF are actively involved with the Social Investment Task Force, which is scheduled to deliver a report to the Blair Government in October on how to best foster Community Finance Initiatives (CFIs) in the United Kingdom. The Bank of England (equivalent to the US Federal Reserve Board) is also beginning to monitor small business lending in the UK.

Business in the Community (BITC) has had a Local Investment Fund for several years and has now seen a growing demand with 50% of their investments having been made in the first four months of this year. They have now made 23 loans for £2.14 million, leveraging £11.4 million into community regeneration projects. They are halfway to their goal of having ten regional loan funds established with local sponsors.

The Glasgow Regeneration Fund has made investments of £2.6 million in 296 small firms, since 1994, creating over 1500 new jobs. Half of these borrowers were start-ups with most of the existing businesses with less than ten employees. Presently, they are negotiating lines of credit for an additional £5 million in capital but are not yet clear at what terms.

The UK offices of Triodos Bank are located in Bristol, but it has restructured itself from being a Dutch bank with offices in Belgium and the UK to being an international bank with a focus on lending only to enterprises which create social or environmental value. One recent project was their sponsorship of the first share issue for The Ethical Property Company which develops action centres, providing shared office space for voluntary sector tenants with reasonable rent, flexible terms and facilities designed to meet their needs as charities. "Triodos Match" is a new venture to link social and environmental businesses seeking equity capital in the range of £20,000 to £500,000 with investors who share their objectives. They have registered 40 potential investors for a total of over £4 million in equity capital which they hope to access this year.

In 1988 David Irwin visited CANDO when he directed Project Northeast in Newcastle. He has been recently appointed as the Chief Executive of the UK's restructured Small Business Service to bring assistance to small firms. One of his top priorities is the need for more venture capital under £50,000 to foster small business growth.

The New Economics Foundation report, Small is Bankable, concluded its 1998 study of community reinvestment in the United Kingdom by noting:

"If we are to increase the amount of capital for community and economic regeneration, it is essential to tap the full resources of private markets because the demand far exceeds what can be supplied by philanthropy or by the public sector."

That is the challenge that remains in the months ahead for our community development colleagues in the UK. With the Blair Government unlikely to take a CRA track, the opportunity exists to establish CFIs and see how well the private markets respond to the investment opportunity.

But there is still a whole range of basic financial services from which the market is excluding communities. The lack of bank facilities was a hot topic of discussion at the seminar I keynoted in Birmingham and was also apparent during my community visits in Liverpool and Glasgow. However, I joked that I had found all the major UK banks within one block in the university Clifton area of Bristol. When and how the Blair Government's Social Exclusion Unit moves beyond reports to this financial reality will be the questions that our colleagues will be asking in the coming year.

Regenerating the Social Economy by Strengthening 3rd Sector Capacity

"The Social Economy is run by local people for local people. It fills the gaps in the market that bigger traders and suppliers can't be bothered with, or simply cannot see…. More and more people are finding that this is the way to regenerate not just their own lives, but their whole neighbourhood - working with friends and neighbours to bring work, income, status and meaning to their lives."

Bristol Area Community Enterprise Network [BACEN]

BACEN is a membership association that since 1992 has encouraged the growth of community enterprises in Bristol such as community-owned businesses, credit unions and development trusts. A 2000 Directory of Social Economy Businesses lists over 150 entities. A Bristol City Council audit of social economy businesses found over 10,000 people work within Bristol's social economy. BACEN provides start-up support as well as general business training. Last year, they provided advice to 183 different groups, individuals and businesses. They supported the set-up of 36 new community enterprises which created 57 jobs, thirty of which were filled by people previously unemployed.

Bristol East Side Traders [BEST]was established last year with support from BACEN and the Southwest Regional office of Business in the Community to assist small businesses in three inner-city areas to prosper and grow. Besides one-on-one business advice, BEST is marketing the area's colorful international and exotic merchants and exploring
Graham Russell from Business in the Community with Halina Pasecznik from Bristol East Side Traders (BEST)
the feasibility for a street market with stalls for local craft artists among the immigrant population. They also run a façade rebate program and are trying to acquire vacant lots for pocket parking. Their early success has the City's Regeneration Department considering an expansion of this pilot project to other communities.

Community Enterprise in Strathclyde provides the Glasgow social economy with development and support services, and develops and influences policy with other organisations at the local level and beyond. In the lowlands of Scotland, the Social Economy is estimated to include 3700 organisations employing 42,000 people, which is comparable to employment within the electronics industry. Its annual aggregate income is projected to approach £1 billion.

Castlemilk Economic Development Agency [CEDA] in Glasgow was formed in 1990 to lead the regeneration of this housing estate on the Southeast edge of the city, which was designed in the '60s with only a residential land use. With a declining population of which two-thirds are economically inactive, long-term unemployment for more than two years remains a significant problem (31% of the male and 19% of the female unemployed population). Youth unemployment is growing with 32% of those unemployed under the age of 24; 60% of children come from lone parent households.

With a staff of 48 and annual revenue of £1.5 million, CEDA is pursuing a number of strategies: expanding their business park with office and workspace units; improving training and transportation linkages to a suburban new town with 1100 companies only four miles away; establishing a childcare consortium; and providing business services and information technology training.

They are also looking to strengthen Castlemilk's 40 active community-based organisations with their new Third Sector Project to develop the organisational skills of the more than 350 paid staff as well as to encourage innovation and forward thinking on identifying new markets and projects. Although vocational guidance and work with employers will remain at the heart of CEDA's activities, they recognise that lasting regeneration will be "best delivered if an attempt is made to equip the community with a set of skills which mean that community ownership of the regeneration process is a reality."

Just outside of Liverpool, Sefton Neighbourhood Initiative Project (SNIP) is preparing an ambitious five-year £4.5 million bid to establish The Third Sector Technology Centre [3TC]. This will significantly expand their current project of securing donations of unwanted computers, refurbishing and upgrading them, and then passing them on at discounted prices with tech support to voluntary sector groups in the Merseyside region around Liverpool. A 1998 study by SNIP found 5835 third sector groups in the area, employing 19,722 people. But two-thirds of these groups do not have the staff skills to meet their computer technology needs and do not have an IT budget or strategy. Over half of the groups have received no formal IT training and fewer than one-tenth have internet access.

SNIP started and still runs a print shop with over 350 non-profit groups as satisfied customers for quick photocopies or larger-run directories. They are now providing web page design services for voluntary sector groups and linking them through the Sefton-Online web site. SNIP's current software training classes are already popular. If their 3TC bid for government funding is successful, they hope to train 22,000 staff and volunteers in the third sector over the next five years.

Birmingham Voluntary Service Council (BVSC) has continued its success, since my last visit, in assisting groups to improve their performance through use of the Practical Quality Assurance System for Small Organisations (PQASSO). Over 130 groups are using this self-assessment tool at their own pace to explore sixteen areas where they can identify what they are doing well and what needs to be done to improve. Another 20 groups without paid staff are using the Quality First tool to enhance their volunteer efforts. Besides workshops on how to use the assessment tool, BVSC has recruited a pool of 30 facilitators who have agreed to give two groups four hours of pro-bono time to perform the assessment and develop a quality action plan based on the results of their initial self- assessment. BVSC also administers a grant program to implement improvements that is not allocated on a competitive basis but is shared equally between all those groups who qualify by the deadline.

BVSC now has the status of "accountable body" for four government-funded programs. Their role is described as "custodian of the community interest" in their efforts to create and nurture partnerships at the local level, while ensuring that existing and new community-based organisations are able to play a full part. Jane Slowey, BVSC's Chief Executive, notes:

"It sounds a bit of a dry term, but taking the role of accountable body is an important step for BVSC and the voluntary sector. It's recognition that we have the capacity and expertise to lead in urban regeneration."

The most recent initiative is the New Deal for Communities, a program of community-led regeneration introduced by the Blair Government as one of its first programmes from its Social Exclusion Unit. One of the first ten areas in England, Birmingham is the only one not to have a local authority acting as the accountable body. Working with three housing estates in the Kings Norton area, BVSC has hosted "Planning for Real" events that have identified key issues such as activities for youth, potential demolition of some high-rise flats, and attracting a supermarket. BVSC is working with community leaders to develop their own legal entity and the capacity to manage the program and its financial arrangements.

At a conference that I attended in another part of Birmingham, the discussion by community leaders of the potential for this New Deal Communities initiative focused on the need for the job of "Neighbourhood Manager" to be not only a "fixer" but also an "enabler." It was stressed that such a position can not just be a career stop for a bureaucrat, but should be filled by someone who sees community regeneration as a vocation.

BVSC co-sponsored a half-day seminar with the Birmingham City Council Economic Development Department for me to offer "Lessons from Chicago on Voluntary & Private Sector Partnership in Regeneration." Joy Okwuadigbo, Principal Business Development Manager for the City Department, had visited Chicago in 1999 and attended CANDO's 20th Anniversary Dinner as our guest. Together with BVSC, Joy turned out over 120 community leaders to not just hear me speak but more importantly to talk and network among themselves. There was significant small group discussion about the absence and need for bank partners in their regeneration areas. There also was interest in CANDO's structure as a membership association.

I came away with an even greater appreciation of how many common community regeneration issues our "sister cities" share. Hopefully, when a delegation from Birmingham comes here in mid-October, it will include some representation from their voluntary sector.

Closing Reflections

This wealth of collegial sharing not only stimulates my own professional thinking but also offers affirmation of CANDO strategies and suggests innovations for our collective regeneration work here in Chicago.

Under the theme of Reconnecting Peoplewe must certainly ask ourselves what more could we be doing in terms of information technology training in our communities. As we assess where the US is today with "welfare-to-work," we should consider how Intermediate Labour Markets might be better deployed here.

Reclaiming Land is a timely topic as the Chicago Housing Authority proceeds in attempting to re-invent itself. Our "sister city" of Birmingham has one of the largest local authority-managed public housing systems in Europe. Glasgow is in the process of converting its local authority housing to a housing trust association. There are many old questions to which we all are trying to find new answers.

While Senator Phil Gramm threatens the future of the Community Reinvestment Act here in the US, our colleagues in the UK are beating the drums there for Reinvesting Money by the private sector in their version of CDFIs. Meanwhile, we both are striving to generate equity capital for small business growth in areas struggling to regenerate.

As the United Kingdom moves forward with "new deal communities," perhaps they will discover valuable lessons that we failed to learn regarding reinventing government and empowering people with our own Empowerment Zones. As they promote the Social Economy and 3rd Sector Capacity, perhaps CANDO can accelerate the scale of our efforts to strengthen members by looking at PQASSO- type tools for organisational assessments and technology enhancements.

We should certainly consider how our corporate funders and local media might help Chicago's local experts shine with "CanDo" monetary awards and press coverage for emerging community leaders. There is a lot more we can share with each other. Hopefully, the years ahead will provide opportunities for continued substantive exchanges.


I enjoyed meeting a number of UK colleagues who would be CANDO Board Directors if they were doing their work here. In Birmingham, there are two business groups that were formed five years ago and are still relatively unusual in the UK. Tim Straker (from the Cheapside Business Group) and Grant Williams (from Tyseley Business Action Group) would no doubt be active CANDO Industrial Committee members. Halina Pasiecznik with Bristol East Side Traders would be a leader with our Commercial Committee. Mary Conneely from Newtec and Ian Roe from Camden Training Centre in London would be key players in our State Agenda for Community Economic Development.

I wish to thank Naomi Kingsley for the opportunity to share my comments on community reinvestment at the launching of the London Rebuilding Society. I especially appreciated the efforts of Joy Okwuadigbo to further Chicago and Birmingham "sister city" relations for regeneration. I must also acknowledge Sheila Large and Graham Russell from Business in the Community for introducing me to two new cities - Liverpool and Bristol where they respectively work to foster partnerships for community regeneration.

I particularly wish to personally thank three of my most long-standing UK colleagues not only for their advice but also for opening their homes and taking the edge off a long road trip: Mary Lyons with Springvale Training Centre in Belfast, Pat Conaty in Birmingham (working with the New Economics Foundation), and Alan Sinclair with the Wise Group in Glasgow. Cheersguys; it was a great trip.

Finally, I must thank the CANDO Executive Committee and Board for this sabbatical opportunity in the first place and the CANDO staff for keeping all the pieces of the puzzle in place during my absence. I look forward to being a role model for more sabbaticals in Chicago's community development field.

For More Information by Internet:

Springvale Training Ltd.
Upper Springfield Development Trust
Birmingham Voluntary Service Council
Castlemilk Economic Development Agency [CEDA]
Community Enterprise in Strathclyde
Glasgow Regeneration Fund
Glasgow Works
Bristol Area Community Enterprise Network [BACEN]
Triodos Bank
Business in the Community
Camden Training Centre
Development Trusts Association
New Economics Foundation
Newham Training & Education Centre [NEWTEC]
UK Social Investment Forum (UKSIF)

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