Today’s blog is from Claire Dove, the very worthy recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award in Enterprise Promotion in 2013.
I am deeply honoured to be personally recognised for this Lifetime Achievement Award. The promotion of enterprise, social enterprise, is at the core of everything I have worked on and continue to strive towards.
When I was first alerted to the fact that I had been nominated I thought of how the Claire Dove of 30 years ago would have reacted. It was 1983 when we set out with a handful of passionate women in the tiny offices of Liverpool’s trade union centre – such things as lifetime achievement awards were never considered, we didn’t even know if we’d still be in business 12 months down the line!
At its conception, the purpose of the Women’s Technology and Training Scheme was to address the inequalities we were faced with – the racial and sexual discrimination we faced on a daily basis. We envisioned a future when women were entitled to, and had access to, the same level of education as their male counterparts – where women could be successful and independent and work in whichever industry or head their own business.
We taught IT and electronics to women who wouldn’t otherwise have had any access to education, giving them the tools to transform their lives, to develop careers and support their families. In 2011 we had the delight of seeing the third generation of one family graduate from our courses. Grandmother, Mother and Daughter all employed in skilled careers and inspired by each other and the work we started 30 years ago.
These days thousands of women pass through our doors every year embarking on courses which will help them to advance in their careers or to begin new journeys and the vast majority of courses addressing the issue of an industry where women are dramatically underrepresented.
We recently launched our own social enterprise construction company, BH Maintenance, a business employing female only operatives, to serve vulnerable members of the community. BH Maintenance is staffed by graduates and student volunteers from the Blackburne House Construction Training Academy – what better example of our vision of providing education through enterprise?
Receiving the Queens Award is a fantastic recognition of the work we have accomplished over the past 30 years, and I am deeply proud to lead such an inspirational team. At Blackburne House we support the education we provide with a group of social enterprises, businesses set up to benefit the local community whose profits are channelled back into providing courses and opportunities.
Over the years I have worked with and continue to work with some of the most influential political figures, social enterprise groups and boards to promote the vision and values of social enterprise. I have championed the social enterprise sector in my role as chair of Social Enterprise UK – the national body for social enterprise. My political and campaigns work includes support for the Social Value Act, which became law in January 2013 and has contributed to the rise of the sector, which is now more than 68,000 businesses strong in the UK. Social enterprises are now outstripping mainstream small and medium sized businesses for growth. I believe social enterprise to be the future of a successful economy – business for the good of the community, making a profit and putting that profit to good use, recognising the diversity of our communities and ensuring they are reflected within our movement.
So, as we celebrate our 30th year we should be proud that as a small organisation we punch well above our weight, creating a lasting legacy for the Women of Merseyside and influencing policy locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. If not for our services many women would not have the lifeline that they do.