On Monday (8 January 2018) our Head of Public Affairs, Matt Kelcher, and I made our way to Lea Village and Shard End in Birmingham where we were privileged to meet the great folks from Welcome Change, a Community Interest Company (CIC) that supports the trading activities of Welcome. Welcome is a registered charity that offers a wide range of support services to individuals whose drug and alcohol use has become problematic, as well as to their families, friends and professionals who need to be drug and alcohol aware. The CIC runs a community centre, a lovely café (fantastic vegetable soup) and two gorgeous charity shops.
As well as being given a really warm welcome [no pun intended] we were told about the brilliantly integrated activities of both sides of the Welcome coin. Joanne McKinnon, Chief Executive of the whole operation, is a great example of a boss who understands both her charitable activities and the trading efforts needed to make them happen. Not for her the “let retail get on with it” attitude, but instead a really holistic approach to the organisation.
So, recovering addicts often volunteer in the shops, gaining boosts in confidence, skills and knowledge. This can (and has) also lead to paid employment within the group. Partnerships with local businesses, including Land Rover, have resulted in huge benefits to both CIC and parent charity, and the community links fostered by the shops and the café establish fantastic trust amongst the service users as well as the local population.
It was a really inspiring visit, and a real object lesson in how the retail operations of a charity can at their best do so much more than simply raise money. Many thanks to all the staff and volunteers who were so hospitable and gave so much of their valuable time.