By Harry Douglas-Gratton
A new community project aimed at developing community micro-enterprises to help support others has started up in Leeds.
The project, set up by social enterprise company Community Catalysts, develops small-scale businesses to support the elderly, people with mental and physical illnesses and the disabled.
Though new to Leeds, they have run similar projects throughout the country.
Elaine Davin-Jones, who is leading the company’s project in the city, said:
“The project will cover the whole of the Leeds area, but we’re concentrating on Wetherby, Otley, North Leeds and Leeds city centre initially.
“We’ll be working with community micro-enterprises in setting up, advising and supporting established ones to diversify or extend what they offer, and looking after older people in their homes and providing those with dementia with a wide range of help and support.”
A micro-enterprise is a small enterprise or individual which offers people-focused support or services, and Community Catalysts is an organisation aimed at helping people.
“It’s about making care accessible in people’s homes, it’s reaching the ones that are not actually receiving it, and it’s giving the carer a break during the day.
“It’s local people helping local people.”
Elaine has lived in Leeds her whole life, and although new to Community Catalysts, she’s passionate about helping her community.
“Within my role I’ll be supporting people in setting up their own community micro-enterprises and those people I’ll be supporting will be from a variety of backgrounds. They could be ex-carers, they could be retired, they could be long-term unemployed, someone who is looking for a career change, a student.
“I’ll be supporting them set up their own community micro-enterprise and as an effect of that they’ll be able to recruit or take on volunteers or recruit their own employees and then do well for the community and support the community of Leeds.
“One of the other things we offer is a peer network, so for example if they’re unable to see a customer or take a new customer on then they can support each other, and also if there are any challenges in the role there’s someone to share their experiences both good and bad.”
The project ran previously in Somerset from 2014 to 2017 with positive results, supporting 800 people through their work.
“My colleague Rhys, he’s run the project in Somerset for over 4 years and he’s supported around 500 community micro-enterprises whether they were brand new, start-ups or older start-ups.
“At the moment we have a two year contract so looking at the statistics of what Rhys has done we’ll also be looking at connecting with existing micro-enterprises in Leeds.”
The project will run from March 2019 for two years, and was commissioned by Leeds City Council.
Even though it’s still early days for Community Catalysts’ work in Leeds, the potential looks promising.