Public Service Mutual Spotlight #3: Our Community Enterprise (OCE)

This month, we shine the spotlight on some of the great work partners in our GoMutual consortium have been busy doing – and what the process of supporting a Mutual in its growth and diversification ambitions might entail…

Our Community Enterprise
(OCE), having been through the process of spinning out in 2011, got support from MetaValue to address their challenges, and are now looking forward to what the future as a Mutual holds with a more focussed outlook and strategy.

The Challenge

With a small team of five staff and growing demand, capacity was a key challenge for the organisation. OCE had been contracted by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) Council to provide a fundraising service to community groups after it ‘spun out’ of the Council in 2011. OCE’s remaining income came from small contracts and fee-paying work with charities, voluntary groups and sports providers in the local and wider area. They were struggling to cope and grow.

“We had too many eggs in one basket,” explains Nicola Davidson, co-Director. “We were operating within year 7 of a 4-year extension to a 4-year contract with RBWM for a development and funding service. The contract provided 60% of our income. We wanted to develop contracts with other nearby local authorities, non-profits and community asset share offer schemes, and we also hoped to grow our talent pool and reach – in terms of geography and different types of non-profit organisation.”

So, they had a vision. But how would they make it happen?

Overcoming roadblocks

MetaValue took them through a robust baselining exercise of facilitated workshops and information sharing. This helped OCE to better understand their impact in the community as well as areas that needed more structured focus.

“We found there were gaps in our awareness of our own organisation. For example, we hadn’t analysed our value for money, the value our clients place on us, our level of success, and our potential to grow. This was a surprise to us, as we thought we understood our business well and had expected the greatest value would be in developing and implementing plans for the future.”

Through ongoing support and facilitated sessions with the team, MetaValue helped OCE to develop their vision and prioritise opportunities for growth, equipping the team with business tools to test these areas out alongside core business and refine them, rather than through a business plan that sits on the shelf. “This helped us prioritise” reflects Nicola. “We knew we wanted to do these things, but were hesitant. The business planning support has helped to us to get on with these. For example, developing new work in Slough has progressed faster than it might have otherwise.”

Council matters

A key challenge for the organisation was learning that the nature of their contractual relationship with the Council was changing. The support from the Mutuals Support Programme helped OCE develop options for the service that would see them become less reliant on Council income, and paved the way for a constructive dialogue with the Council on alternative options that better suited OCE’s terms and ways of working, albeit within a reduced financial envelope.

“We found ourselves in the situation where the contract with our largest client was uncertain, since all non-statutory services were being reviewed,” explains Nicola. “This put at risk our staff and dependent clients. However, having had MetaValue’s support in understanding the outputs and outcomes we’ve brought about, our strengths, visioning and business planning, we’re in a much stronger position to go out and sell our services and sustain our social enterprise.

Confidence to grow

“Having had it confirmed to us about how good we are, I’m really excited about taking the business into new sector areas because I can say hand on heart now ‘we are really good’,” says Nicola. “We know now that we make a big difference to our clients and the wider community. We know exactly where we are now.”

And what do MetaValue have to say about working with OCE?

“It’s been wonderful to watch them grow in confidence as an organisation with a clearer sense of purpose and direction and access to new sectors and markets,” – MetaValue Director Suzie Campbell.

Read the latest from our blog