Ten ideas for change: Greater Manchester
Greater Manchester is a people-powered city, a fact reflected in the number of organisations creating social and economic change across the region. Here’s ten of the best:
1. Seeding local entrepreneurship: Levenshulme Market
On one level an ordinary bustling weekly market, Levenshulme also the UK’s only social enterprise market with profits invested back into the local community. Each year traders and locals are invited to pitch for £15,000 worth of funds. Awards are given to high street project (£5,000) or market projects (£1,000) with local residents voting on the best idea. Funds have so far been awarded to a local brewer to allow him to buy equipment to expand, and to Levenshulme Contemporary Arts Centre, which will be a open social space hosting public talks and events during this year’s Manchester International Festival.
2. Becoming a social enterprise city: Salford, social enterprise city
Last month Salford became the first city in the north west of England to be certified as a social enterprise city. At its launch event the city showed off its social enterprise credentials with local organisations including the Big Life group, Social Adventures, the Lowry and Garden Needs. The University of Salford became the second in the country to be awarded the Social Enterprise Mark last year.
3. Transforming a heritage building as a social and civic space: Ancoats Dispensary
Local residents in Ancoats in Manchester are fighting to restore a Grade II listed former hospital from demolition. Ancoats Dispenary, a Venetian Gothic building that was the site of a number of medical breakthroughs, has recently been awarded heritage lottery funding following a four-year community campaign. The Ancoats Dispensary Trust plans to transform the former hospital into a community wellbeing centre with studios for artists and local start-ups.
4. Supporting ethnic minority groups: Wai Yin Society
The Wai Yin society began working with Chinese communities in Manchester in 1988 and oversees one of the largest Chinese community centres in the UK. It now has three bases across the city and runs a wide range of services for many ethnic minority groups. Its latest centre The Welcome Centre in Cheetham Hill provides classes from IT to gardening, provides benefit and welfare advice and free lunches to those in need.
5. Creating partnerships to boost local training and skills: The Works
With two sites in West Gorton and Moss Side, The Works is an employer-led scheme supporting local people to find jobs, develop skills and access training courses and financial advice. It is a partnership between The University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, City South Manchester Housing Trust and Work Solutions who have come together to help ensure that local people from all backgrounds are able to access the labour market. The Works is also home to Manchester Credit Union, with staff trained to provide benefits advice.
6. Turning a redundant factory into a state of the art workspace: The Sharp Project
In 2006 the electronic manufacturer Sharp left its east Manchester building. Manchester Council purchased the 200,000 square foot site and set about transforming it for a new generation of entrepreneurs. Sixty companies in the digital creative sector are now based there, from gaming businesses to filmmakers and tech start-ups. The Sharp Project acts as a hub for the city’s creative industry sector and a new spin-off, The Space Project, has recently launched to cater for the TV and film production businesses.
7. Linking food waste & food poverty: Fareshare North West
Emerge 3Rs operates FareShare Greater Manchester, redistributing unwanted surplus food (in-date edible products) from the food industry. Volunteers sort the food into smaller quantities and redistribute it to Community Food Members who provide meals and food to disadvantaged individuals, such as homeless and drug dependent people and schools in deprived areas. Since December 2011, in partnership with Manchester Markets and Food Futures, FareShare NW has been capturing fresh fruit and vegetables from New Smithfield Market wholesalers that would otherwise have been composted.
8. Changing the system for people with complex needs: Inspiring Change Manchester
Led by Shelter, Inspiring Change brings together local partners from the probation, substance dependency, housing and training sectors to create services that wrap around people with complex needs. Breaking down the silos that exist and that often perpetuate problems for people with a range of complex issues, this multi-agency approach is creating services designed with the service user at the forefront.
9. Building a circular economy: Transition Town Bolton
Following a Sustainable Vision for Bolton conference in 2012, Bolton’s Transition Town group formed a number of sub-groups to turn the vision into reality. A lively food growers network has been established and the group is focused on building a circular economy that has no waste or excess. It uses its website to inform local businesses and residents about re-thinking the systems on which their businesses rely.
10. Creating a focal point for sustainable action: MERCi
Merci runs a number of projects focused on a more sustainable future and began its work by converting a former silk mill in the run-down area of the city into a centre for sustainability. Bridge 5 Mill was refurbished with reclaimed and recycled materials and is now one of the city’s most sustainable buildings, with a straw bale reception area and a roof garden. It is home to a number of social enterprises as well as a base for conferences and eco training.
Clare Goff is Editor at New Start magazine