I know it’s not good for my carbon footprint but the prospect of working at Santander might have initially conjured up images of meetings in Rio, Buenos Aires or at least Madrid. But where have I been since I started in January ? Leicester, Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool and Birmingham. And here’s a confession: although I lived in Scotland for three years, I don’t think I’d ever been anywhere between London and The Borders before. Does Gloucester count?
So it’s been a steep learning curve. It had been several years since I lived in the UK when I moved to London in January to start the On Purpose programme but it wasn’t until I was reading entry forms for Santander’s pilot Social Enterprise Development Awards that I realised how little I knew about the place. I knew more about what life was like for a farmer in Kenya (due to extensive study rather than real life experience admittedly) than I did about what had happened to Newcastle post-mining, post-shipbuilding. And clearly without knowledge of the problems people are facing, how could I appreciate the true value of the social enterprises that were dedicated to addressing them?
As part of my placement at Santander I was asked to make some short videos of last year’s Social Enterprise Development Award winners (SEDA). It’s been an eye opener. And deeply gratifying.
In April I found myself in a surprisingly sunny Newcastle with a 2-man production team visiting the Rising Sun Farm in Wallsend, east of Newcastle. Darren, the farmer, had only been there for three weeks and his enthusiasm and drive to maximise the value the farm gave to the community was evident. I spent most of 2009 living on some friends’ organic farm and immediately sympathised with some of the difficulties Darren and the Trust were facing. The farm teaches local school kids about where food really comes from and what a balanced diet consists of. It also provides working activities and social skills training for people with severe learning difficulties. The schools programme has been funded by a Big Lottery grant which is coming to an end. In addition local authority cutbacks and the reorganisation of the NHS mean these activities have an uncertain future.
In order to keep the farm’s good work going they need to increase their trading income, most of which comes from their livery. The livery is popular as the farm is situated on a national park with some beautiful paths and only 8 miles from Newcastle city centre. The facilities include stables, tack room, grazing and a training ring. It has been full for some time now and the Trust is sure that they could easily fill more capacity thus enabling them to generate more funds to continue their other work. So Margaret, the Trust chairperson and her team, partially funded by their Santander award have undertaken to build more stables and a new tack room. They are also hoping to increase income from their Market Garden, selling more of the farm’s produce and possibly starting a veggie box delivery service. All things which will help to generate more employment and income while also tackling larger issues of sustainability and poor nutrition
Stay tuned for more about some of the Santander SEDA winners in later blogs. For more information about the Santander Social Enterprise Development Awards please see www.santanderseda.co.uk