In celebration of the first ever UK Social Saturday this weekend, each day this week we are running a series of case studies to showcase different social enterprises operating in Leicester.
Social Saturday is a new campaign to drive awareness of social enterprise and the impact that they have on the community around them.
Today’s study is of local co-operative, Sunflower Neighbourhood Nursery.
In 2003 six people from the Braunstone area of Leicester, all with recognised childcare qualifications, were approached by Braunstone Sure Start and asked if they would like to tender for the nursery provision in a new leisure centre which was under construction.
Braunstone Childcarers’ Forum and Braunstone Sure Start had identified a desperate need for additional childcare places in the community. The lack of affordable childcare was a major barrier to many people living in Braunstone and meant that they were effectively excluded from the opportunities that regeneration initiatives were creating.
The group were keen to grasp this opportunity but had no experience of setting-up or running a business. What they did unanimously agree on was that if they were successful with their tender bid they wanted to work co-operatively. The group contacted CASE to ask for help, support and guidance in forming and running a community co-operative. Over the next 18 months the team worked with CASE to develop business skills. They learnt about their role as employers and built up an understanding of business and financial management.
After a considerable amount of hard work by the group and support from CASE and Sure Start, Sunflowers nursery opened in January 2005, providing high quality affordable childcare in a purpose built setting within the new Braunstone Leisure Centre.
Parents are encouraged to become active members of Sunflowers by attending monthly meetings to help make decisions about the day-to-day running of the nursery. Many parents (some of them single mums and dads) have been able to take up jobs and training opportunities through the support offered by Sunflowers and some have gained employment with Sunflowers.
The nursery was awarded ‘Outstanding’ in every category in its January 2010 OFSTED inspection. The inspector said this was only the second organisation that she had scored so highly in her 20 years of experience.
Today the co-operative employs 28 staff and looks after 128 children per day. The nursery allows easy interaction between children of all ages through an open plan set up. It has also taken over running a creche in the adjoining leisure centre, and has plans for further expansion.
Social Saturday takes place on Saturday 13th September 2014. Choose Social Saturday as your day to buy from a local business that puts people and planet first. Visit www.socialsaturday.org.uk for more information.