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It’s been another hectic year for us at Climate17. It’s definitely been a challenge, like it has for everyone else, however, there are many positives that I can look to and say that we really did make a difference to our clients and candidates in delivering their growth strategies and progressing their careers.
Alongside all of this, this year I invested in a project in the local community –- a theatre themed café, which also has a 90-seat studio theatre called The Black Cherry.
Our purpose is threefold. Firstly, to support the arts and to give performers a place they can create, produce and perform their talents, whether it is theatre, comedy, music, dance or art. Secondly, to create a much-needed space that is unique, where people can come and enjoy themselves, and thirdly, to ensure that we are fully diverse and inclusive in the café staff we bring in. Through this venture, we have given opportunities to people from all backgrounds, good people who deserve a second chance and who have often overcome addiction and hard times. We want to ensure that we treat these people fairly and offer pay far above the living wage.
Initially, I saw this project as a small part of a larger movement to regenerate an area of Bournemouth which has huge potential, but has been become run down over the past 10+ years and is in great need of a refresh.
I expected it to be a venue that people would travel to from all parts of Dorset to come and see a show. The reality is that it has become more than just a newly refurbished building amidst a declining high street, it has been supported by the local people in ways I never expected.
Since launching 7 weeks ago, and reflecting on the past 12 months of planning, building, and promoting this project, I have been blown away by the support that the local community has given to this venue. We are a small local business, but one that is unique, and has got people engaged and really behind us.
Local builders and tradespeople have offered their services at little or no charge, local artists have offered their time, just looking for a place to display their talents. Local people have come in, had coffee and lunch, and shared the space with friends and family.
I have really seen a power in the local community when there is a business that clearly has a social purpose, and I think that this purpose has been embraced. The generosity of local people has amazed me. A deprived, low-income area compared to other parts of Bournemouth; however, they have done so much more than I would have expected to help get our theatre open. We have had donations of equipment, time and money and it has made all the difference. We have started to measure where our customers are coming from, and I was so wrong about our target audience. Over 80% of our customers live within a 3-mile radius of the venue.
It’s fair to say, this project has had a small (but I’d like to think growing) impact in the grand scheme of what is needed to truly improve the economic and social condition of this area. However, the fact that we took the risk and it was welcomed and supported so readily has opened my eyes to the power of community.
I have learnt so much from this whole experience. It has been a contrast in activity from my role at Climate17, however, so much of what this has taught me applies to both companies; understanding demand, the concept of giving people trust and a chance (or second chance) to work, and most importantly, the power that genuine purpose (and not profit) has and how willingly and gratefully it is received by the customer.
To make an organisation truly sustainable, it must have a social purpose that can bring a measured value, so if you haven’t already, take this into consideration as I think the impact it will have will surprise you.
- David Blake, Director