Dragons’ Den – Shropshire Style with Shropshire Providers Consortium
Shropshire businesses and community organisations got a real buzz when they got together at a Dragons’ Den style charity event organised by Shropshire Providers Consortium (SPC) with funding through the Big Lottery Fund and kindly hosted in Bridgnorth at the Marches Centre of Manufacturing and Technology (MCMT) on Stanmore Industrial Estate.
The very friendly and welcoming dragons were Matt Snelson from Grainger and Worrall Ltd., Johnny Themans from Good2Great Ltd., Graeme Christie from Brightcore Ltd., Louise Welsby from Buy-From Shropshire and John Rainford from Strawberry Fields.
The community organisations pitching for some advice and support from the dragons were:
Dickon Pitt from Crowsmill Craft Centre CIC, Wendy Condlyffe from IMPACT AAS, Nicola McPherson from Mayfair Community Centre, Clive Ireland from Shropshire MIND and Jean Robinson and Debbie Wilcox from Headway Shropshire.
Each organisation had time to explain to the panel what community support they provided and why they devoted so much of their time to helping people. Crowsmill teaches practical skills to people with mental health issues and disabilities and also youngsters excluded from mainstream education. Dickon Pitt said: “We treat everyone with respect and we never have a problem with engagement.” Crowsmill would like to expand the services they offer.
Jean and Debbie from Headway Shropshire offer support to people with acquired brain injury providing domiciliary care and rehabilitation – helping people have a better quality of life and increased independence. Headway needs to relocate to a new building.
IMPACT was originally set up as a psycho-therapeutic counselling service for adults with addiction problems. It is a very distressing fact that more children than adults now seek help from IMPACT – including self-harm with under sixteens. Wendy Condlyffe explained that, to be sustainable, IMPACT needs to deliver funded services.
Mayfair Community Centre based in Church Stretton provides a comprehensive community service for the local area including support for adults with learning difficulties. Nicola McPherson said that the café and the meeting rooms all have additional capacity that could attract more income.
Shropshire MIND provides a drop-in service 7 days a week, any time, with no appointment for anyone with mental health issues. Shropshire has the highest section 136 incidences in the country where the Police are involved. Clive Ireland said: “When the Police bring them to us they need sanctuary – not a cell – and that is what we provide – along with a taxi home.” Shropshire MIND has difficulty promoting their service in a sensitive way. Shropshire needs a strong mental health third sector voice.
The dragons deliberated on the problems they had been presented with – stunned by some of the statistics and the reliance on the third sector in Shropshire. They were all moved to offer support in some way. Graeme Christie from Brightcore thanked everyone for attending and then the ‘dragons’ pledged their support:
Matt Snelson from Grainger and Worrall offered support to Crowsmill, promotion to everyone visiting the MCMT – students, apprentices, corporate clients, the possibility of holding team building days at Crowsmill and providing scrap metal and wood for reuse instead of recycling. In return, Crowsmill might provide some future apprentices for the centre? Matt had taken everyone on a tour of the facility when they arrived and he said: “Dickon was positively beaming at some of the equipment we have here.” Louise Welsby from Buy-From Shropshire offered help with online promotion through social media and improving their website and Johnny Themans from Good2Great suggested Dickon would be eligible for free courses on their strategic management programme.
The dragons were all agreed that Headway really needed a fundraising specialist to help with raising the money for their new building and Graeme offered to investigate some possibilities. Johnny also suggested they might look at offering a research organisation space in return for sponsorship.
John Rainford of Strawberry Fields offered to help IMPACT with developing a strategy – looking at the holistic picture and finding a critical path forward. There was a lot of synergy with Shropshire MIND. Matt Snelson said he would like to see a more proactive role for mental health in Shropshire and he was happy to offer the MCMT facility for an open event focusing on social media for children where mental health issues could be introduced.
Everyone agreed that Mayfair Community Centre was a model of excellence that could be transposed across the county. Adult social care is the biggest cost to the county. Matt Snelson said: “The Mayfair model is an example of what could be done in every village and town to make Shropshire a better place for employees, families and communities – it’s all our futures.”
The whole evening was a very amazing and uplifting experience – although there were some very alarming statistics – such as Shropshire having the highest incidence for self harm for young people in the country – and some very difficult issues were discussed. Everyone felt they could help in some way and, dragons and presenters alike, agreed that it was well worth the effort and they were really glad they had been involved.
Lindsay Barton of SPC said: “SPC wants to connect businesses for social good, providing a link between industry and voluntary and community enterprises in Shropshire. These events will enable local businesses to support community organisations which will benefit Shropshire communities and people.” There are 4 more dragons’ den events scheduled for Telford, Oswestry, Shrewsbury and Whitchurch.