Military-based social enterprise joining forces to create ecovillage offering rural rehabilitation to veterans
Co-operation is key for the South Wales social enterprise looking to connect with military organisations for a comprehensive programme to give veterans an arsenal of skills and employment opportunities.
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Where did the Garrison Farm idea originate?
Garrison Farm CIC’s two directors individually concluded that an ecovillage would be a good setting to support charity work with veterans before we’d even met. We were introduced by a mutual friend and joined forces in January, registering as a CIC in March. The concept is a recognition of the rehabilitative benefit of rural work and a route to develop veterans’ skills in growth areas like sustainable development and renewable energy. Doing this as part of a residential model allows us to offer a structured route to housing and employment for beneficiaries on site.
Can you give us a summary of what has been achieved?
Garrison Farm has pulled together a sizeable support team with experience of the military charity sector and various other fields. Our social media presence has grown from around 300 followers to over 1300 since January allowing us to reach more people online. We’ve refocused on smaller-scale projects to generate more immediate cashflow and establish our reputation.
Did you have to overcome any major obstacles / challenges?
We’ve had a lot of disruption from COVID-19. Our free office space for a town centre headquarters in Swansea was cancelled due to the closure of the company offering the property to us. Another site on which we had plans for our headquarters got sold. Our launch and fundraising events were also cancelled. Being unable to explore opportunities for growing projects in 2020 due to lockdown restrictions has resulted in us missing important seasonal deadlines and rolling plans over to the year. Hopefully, the rest of the year will be less challenging!
"We all need to make a conscious effort to use consumer power to benefit the local and social business sector. Be smart – buy local – buy social."
We are currently reaching out to landowners to set up non-residential projects that will provide more immediate cashflow for Garrison Farm and growing projects for 2021. We are exploring opportunities in Wales and England, including potentially running a small café/drop-in centre in Chester. We have recently been using the military experience in disaster management on our support team to help communities in South Wales with flood defences.
Any there any members of staff / community you would like to give special mention to?
Our military director, Ross Edwards, has been astounding at establishing links with other military charities and finding landowners who are supportive of our areas of focus of sustainable development and rural rehabilitation for veterans. He is a real driving force behind Garrison Farm now and he needs recognition for all his hard work over recent months.
How has Social Business Wales New Start been supporting you?
Social Business Wales has been supporting us by facilitating networking with other social enterprises. Consequently, we have had various offers of help from other social enterprises. Wales Co-operative Centre has helped us to adopt the best legal structure and policies and get ourselves registered as a CIC.
Can you describe the importance of local community and social businesses collaborating?
Working collaboratively with local communities and social enterprise helps us magnify our positive social/environmental impact as an organisation. Garrison Farm hope to collaborate with other social enterprises, charities, and community groups in as many ways as possible and welcome any offers to work together.
If you had one message for the social business sector right now, what would it be?
Enough money has been poured into the pockets of multi-national corporations. We all need to make a conscious effort to use consumer power to benefit the local and social business sector. Be smart – buy local – buy social.
Garrison Farm CIC has received business consultancy support and advice from Social Business Wales New Start, funded by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre.
If you have a social business idea and want to learn more about the support available from Social Business Wales New Start, book on to one of our ‘Start Something Good’ regional webinars or get in touch with the New Start team to see how they can help.
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