This blog has been written by Graham Organ. 

Graham Organ is a driver for Bristol Community Transport, part of HCT Group. In May, he took part in the HCT Champions Programme, which involved a group of front-line employees visiting social enterprises in Bristol and London to learn about the world of social enterprise and the social impact their own organisation has.

My name is Graham and I work for BCT in Bristol as a driver/escort in the North Bristol area. My role in work has many different roles and values to help people, which is just great and I love doing. Back in March I was asked by my manager if I would like to go on a champions programme, I asked what it was about, and I was told what it might entail.

The day came around of Tuesday the 29th May and we all met at Bristol Temple Meads. One of the first things we were asked to do was fill in a form which had a few questions on it and a place to sign our name. One of the questions was from 0-10, ring a number of how much you thought you knew about social enterprise. I ringed 8 but in the next 24 hours I was thinking it should of been a lot lower.

I won’t go through all the social enterprises we saw in Bristol on Tuesday and Wednesday before heading up to London but the first social enterprise we saw on Tuesday was the Bristol Wood Recycling Project. Well, after spending some time there and listening to the man who is running the social enterprise I was thinking that the next four days are really going to open my eyes. To be honest, after hearing him talk I still think of him and what he is doing for people and the community on a very low budget and income, truly moving how and who he is.

During the afternoon on Tuesday & Wednesday we moved on to several more social enterprise businesses in Bristol to see what they do for the community and for people. Just a few words to say about how incredible it was to see Help Bristol’s Homeless, where they have a little village for the homeless where their homes are shipping containers. The passion and confidence the people had was electric to see and it started from a man called Casper who wanted to make a difference to people lives, well he’s certainly done that.

We visited the Bristol Ferry and a small theatre called Acta in a part of Bristol called Bedminster where we saw children perform a play about basically being nice to others and not bullying. This little theatre survives on doing many different things to create the survival of the theatre.

We had lunch on the Wednesday at a community hub called The Park Centre in a part of Bristol called Knowle. We had lunch there and a talk by a lady who has been there supporting the park for 18 years spending HOURS of her life supporting her community. There are 18 different things going on at the park from baby play care a cafe yoga and even a tattoo studio. This creates an incredible place where all walks of life come together under one roof.

We saw other social enterprises which were much bigger on the water front in the centre of Bristol and how and what they do to help Bristol and the people in the community. By this time, I was getting to understand a lot more about social enterprise so my number from day one was at last starting move up to the higher numbers.

I haven’t mentioned yet about the other champions on the programme who are all incredibly lovely people and I now have many new great friends who I keep in touch with. The three people leading the programme, Tracey (HCT Group), Hannah (Social Enterprise UK) and Karl (Social Enterprise UK), were amazing with all the leadership, organisation and preparation they put into week. They lead the programme so well and involved everybody.

We went to London on the Wednesday evening and arrived at the Good Hotel which is just a lovely social enterprise. We also had a talk from the manager to find out what they did and how they employ staff and help them get full time employment with other social enterprises. Also, they talked about where they get the catering from and other essentials for the hotel.

We visited many places in London from our own headquarters (HCT Group) including St Joseph’s Hospice, the Copper Box & the Aquatics centre in the Olympic Park which are on a huge scale, but again, do incredible work for children, adults and groups to use these facilities to give them a chance in life and make a difference. We went to Hackney City Farm where we had an amazing lunch and it was again amazing to see young families and lots of different walks of life all together in the eating area and walking around the farm. All the food that gets served in the farm comes from other social enterprises.

We visited a couple more social enterprises towards the end of our week. We visited a social enterprise that helps migrants, refugees and people who struggle in England for various reasons to get work and help start a working life in England. The work these people do in helping is truly amazing, we walked around the offices and talked to people looking for work and also the people helping them get work, again amazing to see. All of the social enterprises explain how they keep going with funding, some on a very small scale and budget to the opposite. Very interesting and eye opening to see.

The moment that I will remember and sticks with me the most is Clarity, who employ blind and disabled individuals. Wow this factory was so moving. We were greeted by a lovely gentleman on reception with his golden Labrador who did his job with so much pride and passion. We went upstairs to have a talk by some of the management and they explained how the company runs and how they fund it and the work and marketing they do. After the talk we went on to the factory floor, as I walked down the steps on to the floor I could feel a sense of pride and love for this place. The ladies and gentlemen were all working, and the atmosphere was incredible. I was watching as they were putting screw tops on to the bottles and then at the end of the line they were putting them in to a box getting ready to be sealed. The company cares for the staff so much and values their employees so that every bar of soap they make they stamp their name on the side of whoever makes it, just wonderful.

Well the four days were up and after the for days I was handed my first sheet of paper back. I looked at the number of understanding of social enterprise, I didn’t move it from 8 as there’s still more to learn but I moved my original number back down to two.

I now am buying social enterprise products and I’m talking to work colleagues, family and friends and asking them to please learn more about it.

I was very privileged to have this week away to learn more about the morals of the organisation I work for.

Thank you so much for an incredible week of learning and understanding about the world of social enterprise.