#GoodNewsCymru | Social enterprise

Pilot scheme helps connect local businesses with public organisations and builds strength through collaboration

Dafydd Thomas from Practice Solutions tells us about their Connect4SuccessRCT pilot project and its mission to boost local economies in Rhondda Cynon Taff, increase living and working standards as well as improve community well-being by providing opportunities for local businesses to collaborate – together ensuring procurement cash stays local.

By Ben Bostock · 2 October 2020

See this page in: Cymraeg

From its inception, the goal of Connect4SuccessRCT has been to increase the amount of procurement money public organisations spend on local businesses in Rhondda Cynon Taff in order to build resilient local economies, increase living and working standards, and improve community well-being.

The pilot scheme connects local businesses with public organisations, in addition offering expert consultancy, training, networking events and administrative support.

Where did the Connect4SuccessRCT idea originate?

From lots of things – a whole career of working in the voluntary, public and private sector.

We need to stop money, resources and talent leaving our communities due to big public contracts being won by large organisations outside the local ecosystem. Local people are left with the crumbs – low-paid opportunities – while others extract profits from the area.

There are lots of individuals with great ideas and energy in our communities. Connect4SuccessRCT is a way to organise that potential, so that local businesses are working together and not needlessly in competition.

We want to help people, organisations and businesses to do more of what they are good at. We can fit the jigsaw pieces together, drawing strengths from different teams and filling in the gaps, unleashing collective potential and new opportunities.

We also believe that by working together, it will increase the financial resources and social cohesion of the community, and thus improve well-being.

At the heart of this is the need to reduce inequalities and ensure greater fairness. We want to provide opportunities for people in a way that is fair; giving people opportunities to get into meaningful occupations with opportunities to learn and grow.

Did you have to overcome any major obstacles / challenges, particularly during lockdown?

Lockdown has been a challenge – for everyone. Some businesses were able to adapt, some have closed down. Public services have had to re-focus.

This project has been about the future, which has made talking to people really difficult when many of our stakeholders have been struggling with very immediate concerns, such as businesses losing contracts and everyone losing income.

Lockdown has been an especially real challenge for many on the fringes of society who have lost work, seen reduced income, struggled for food and getting prescriptions with some suffering from abusive relationships, time poverty and losing loved ones.

With this in mind, we’ve adapted. We had to. We’ve been using a lot more online approaches but we also recognise not everyone is online and the virtual can’t totally replace face-to-face discussion.

It has also been a challenge trying to balance the different stakeholder priorities. Nothing is nailed down, so further discussion and exploration will be required, which will be hard work, too.

It’s not about telling people this is what they should do, but giving people the opportunity to walk alongside the project, share their energy and opinions in a place where they can invest their personal and community resources and get something back.

This is something that needs to be embraced by the local community and in one sense it’s a safe-to-fail experiment. If people don’t respond then nobody is hurt, but it would be really sad if it’s not embraced and opportunities are missed. We’ll still learn from the process and be as agile as possible going forward to adapt to the level of response we get.

Has Covid-19 influenced your choices in the long-term regarding how you operate?

I think it’s made an even stronger case for the project going forward.

As a business, it’s about relationships. We are trying to work with people we know and foster new relationships around something we feel passionate about, too. That’s very difficult for people in the current situation for all the reasons mentioned previously.

What’s next?

The project has now launched publicly, so we’re encouraging local businesses, entrepreneurs and anyone else interested to register on our website www.connect4success.wales

If you had one message for the social business sector right now, what would it be?

Our project’s emphasis is about being collaborative rather than ruthlessly competitive. We’re looking at how to build on your strengths in a way that should become a USP going forward. The rule books are being rewritten at the moment, and everyone wants a new future to come out of the last few months’ pain – in so many ways. It’s making sure the public sector is visibly participating in that change, because it’s not just going to happen through goodwill alone.