Do Wellbeing Teams deliver the 4 features of Community Businesses?

I am learning about new models and ways to deliver support to people at home. Over the last few weeks I have been learning about co-operatives and employee ownership and what this could mean for Wellbeing Teams. Wellbeing Teams are a social enterprise, which is a “business that has primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners”.

This week I am looking at community ownership and community businesses, so naturally the first place I looked was Power to Change’s website. Power to Change is an independent charitable trust set up to support community businesses to create better places across England.

The website says that there are four features to a community business. They are locally rooted, trading for the benefit of the community, accountable to the community, and have broad community impact.  Here are some ways that I can see how these could apply to Wellbeing Teams.

1 – Locally rooted – they are rooted in a particular geographical place and respond to its needs. All Wellbeing Teams work in a defined neighbourhood, and are committed to serving and employing local people, so this one is a good fit.

2 – Trading for the benefit of the local community – community businesses are business trading as cafes, selling produce they grow or generating energy. Wellbeing Teams sell services – support to people living at home, funded either through personal budgets or self-funding. The website provides examples of different community organisations providng supoprt and one example is YES Brixham. YES Brixham supports young people to become independent, is therefore a support service like Wellbeing Teams, and is also a limited company and charity.

3 – Accountable to the local community: They are accountable to local people, and from the website it looks like the most common way for this to happen is through community shares. To be accountable to the community, local people have to have a voice in the businesses direction. In Wellbeing Teams we are using Working Together for Change as the way to ensure that people who use the service, the people who provide the service, and the local community directly contribute to the direction of the organisation and how money is used to do this.

Working Together for Change is a way to hear what is working and not working for people, and what is important in the future. This information is gathered individually with people who use the service, through their person-centred review, and with colleauges through team person-centred reviews. Through these processes we learn the top issues that people would say are working in their lives or in the team, the top ones that are not working, and what they would like to see in the future.

We could extend this to work with the local community through a range of ways to learn what, in relation to supporting people to live well at home as they get older, they think is working, not working and important in the future. Then, we would have an event – a bit like a Working Together for Change/Community Hack-a-thon, that brings all this information together, to agree what to do next.

We have used this process in schools, hospitals, providers and across a region. It is co-production in action, and people decide together what the priorities for change are, what the root causes could be, what success would look like, and then how to move towards success.

This process could help create dementia friendly communities and inclusive communities from the ground up, starting with the voices of older people, family friends and neighbours. We have been working with the Personal Choice Team at the Alzheimer’s Society about some of these ideas.

Co-producing great ideas is one thing, how does this get funded in reality? As a social enterprise, any surplus is reinvested. One way we are considering this, is that each team would have a proportion of this to reinvest in their community, and a Working Together for Change/Hackathon, would be the way to involve everyone – the team, people who use the service, families, friends and community, in the decision about how the money was invested.

4 – Broad community impact: The foruth feature is that community businsses benefit and impact their local community as a whole. I think that Working Together for Change/Hackathon would be the way for the community to decide on the community impact that it wanted to have in the lives of older people. Anything that makes a difference to older people will have a broad community impact. The example that the website gives is to become the hub of a neighbourhood, where all types of local groups gather. We have two Wellbeing Teams starting in GP surgeries. Perhaps they could be part of GP surgeries morphing into a different kind of community health hub? Each Wellbeing Team has a Community Circle Connector and their role should also have a broad community impact, positively impacting on isolation and building greater connections.

The relationship between Wellbeing Teams and their community is something that really excites me. I can see a strong relationship between the four features of a community business and what we are designing. Can I make it happen where I live?



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