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UnLtd Returns to Brighton & Hove Six Months After Their Resilient Communities Programme

UnLtd’s Resilient Communities programme, funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, focuses on allowing uplifting change to be led by people with lived experience in the community. One of areas the programme was delivered was Brighton & Hove, where six months later social entrepreneurs are working together on issues such as homelessness, sustainability, addiction, health and social care, social isolation, and closing the employment gap. UnLtd went back to find out more…

We head to the warmth of The Bevy – the UK’s only community-owned pub on an Estate - and enjoy a warming pub lunch that uses ‘rescued food’.  The Bevy’s commitment to being for and by local residents has created sustainable needs-driven impact – 70% of the people on The Bevy’s committee must live on the estate to ensure the most-affected voices are heard. As we ate, Lynda McFarlane, Founder of Vegan Vybes, Birmingham, set the tone for the next two days, commenting that “it’s about doing that small little thing, to make a big difference”.

One of the key discussion points of the afternoon was collaboration , and how key it has been to making Brighton & Hove a thriving hub for social entrepreneurs to flourish in.

Annie Murray of Horizon, Chris De Banks of We Are Not Saints and Kate McCoy of Small Performance Adventures have been working to support each other’s ventures in Brighton, but also supporting each other through their social entrepreneurship journeys. The trio regularly work together on projects, and know that they can call each other any time they need. Regardless of where the entrepreneurs were from, they all agreed on the importance of a support network, agreeing on how useful it was for both their mental health and businesses to be able to lean on somebody who understood their situation and challenges.

The following day we boarded The Big Lemon bus to The Crew Club, learning about how The Big Lemon was started in response to serious community need for a reliable, sustainable, affordable bus service. Now, they operate six local bus services offering passengers a pleasant public transport experience, and alternative routes to the local commercial operators.

The buses have an environmental ethos at their core, with the original fleet running on recycled waste cooking oil, and are now converting to solar-powered electric. The familiar yellow buses brighten up the locals’ days, but Tom knows that ‘transport’ means more than getting from A to B, especially when bus journeys are the only chance some passengers get to break their social isolation.

Once at The Crew Club, Founder Darren Snow shared why he started the project 20 years ago, and the help it offers. “We wanted to provide a space for local kids to come to and get off the streets", he said. Ricky Perrin, of Rolling Sports Pathway, then told how “playing sport and being part of a team changed my life”. His project engages health professionals in the area to play wheelchair basketball so they can advocate the benefits, like improved mental health, social support and physical activity, to patients from their personal experiences.

Brighton Cauldron CIC’s Sayanti Banerjee, joined the conversation, discussing the catering project that empowers women in Brighton from minority ethnic backgrounds, alongside their vision to “unlock the potential in these women through food”. Alongside increasing employment, they work to support women with training to start their own businesses.

Keith Turner of Touchwise Massage and Denise Millar of Sage Holistic talk next, and while they’re from opposite sides of Brighton, they connected through UnLtd with the common goal of making holistic therapies accessible by offering a “low-cost clinic that everybody in the community can afford to come to, regularly”, said Denise.

Closing the discussion is Fledglings Outdoor Play Founder Maddy Alexander, who is dedicated to “encouraging kids to connect with nature, take risks and take charge of their play”, while building a community of families who like to spend time together in the great outdoors. Regular sessions involve allowing the kids to build fires to cook on, play with mud, or using acorns and feathers to make inks and writing quills.

Every social entrepreneur we’d been fortunate to hear from were at different points in their journeys, but all emphasised how diverse and full of opportunity Brighton & Hove is.

With more entrepreneurs to learn from, we boarded The Big Lemon Bus again, heading from East Brighton to Portslade to visit Emmaus Brighton & Hove’s chapel turned clothing store refurbished by Making It Out - another example of the collaboration that ties Brighton’s social entrepreneurs together.

"I could've found a traditional shopfitter, but why would I do that when it doesn't align with our values and vision?" said Emmaus Brighton & Hove Business Manager Joel Lewis. "It's that network of connecting ideas to keep this circular economy working for good with our shared values"

Making It Out support ex-prisoners and people at risk of going to prison by offering them a chance to find their creativity and produce something beautiful. After their first shopfitting job with Emmaus, they became the go-to Brighton & Hove retail fitters.

We continued the conversations at the Manifesto for the Social Economy Showcase, an evening organised by Kate McCoy and Chris De Banks with support from Enterprise with Meaning, to bring together a range of the social entrepreneurs in Brighton and showcase their services and offering. Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council Nancy Platts opened the night, sharing her vision for Brighton & Hove to become a place where social entrepreneurship can thrive:

“We want an economy that works for all of us, that puts the people and the community value ahead of soaring profits and shareholder wealth. An economy that is sustainable and helps us become carbon neutral, that is aligned with the values of our tolerant and diverse city, and that is community-facing and fit for purpose. An economy that is fit for Brighton & Hove…I view social entrepreneurs as key actors that will help us change the way our economy works locally, and benefit the most vulnerable people”

Small Performance Adventures then put on a thought-provoking performance about social entrepreneurs, their experiences and obstacles.  

That sentiment aptly closed the two days of learning – we know that there are social entrepreneurs in Brighton & Hove, full of determination and passion, driving them all along each stage of their journey. While some have been operating for 20 years and others only a few months, they all share challenges. It’s this sharing of the hardships, the learning, and the celebratory moments that keeps them going.

It is of critical urgency to support social entrepreneurship in the UK right now, and Brighton & Hove exemplifies how ambitious, driven, and passionate individuals can uplift society to ensure everybody can both survive and thrive.