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The value of social enterprises in local communities

Ken Campbell, Project Manager at Pilotlight

My first job after I left college back in the early eighties was as a Sports Leader in a project called ‘Action Sport’ which was all about creating opportunities for people within some of the most socially disadvantaged communities in Glasgow.

30 years later and I’m involved in Pilotlight’s ‘Our Moment’ Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Legacy Project, which is supporting 12 sports social enterprises to develop their plans for growth.

So what role is there for the emerging social enterprise sector? And how are these organisations making a difference?

The Drumchapel Sports Centre and Active Communities Ltd., were the first social enterprises to start the Pilotlight Legacy 2014 programme and are now almost half way through it.

Whilst these organisations are ‘enterprises’, at their heart they place people and community first and foremost. They are all run by, for and with local people and they create a safe and welcoming environment where everyone is treated like one of the family. Their success lies in the quality of the relationships they are able to create and their understanding of the local community.

Not long ago, during a visit to Drumchapel, I took the opportunity to visit a couple of the other sports centres in the area which are run by Glasgow  Life, an arms-length trust established by Glasgow Council to operate its sports and leisure services. Both are well presented and professionally run, providing the usual range of activities such as swimming, fitness classes and a gym. 

By contrast, the Drumchapel Sports Centre has relatively basic facilities and is run on a shoe string mainly by volunteers. However, the Centre had its own unique atmosphere, there was a real buzz of excitement from the large numbers of young people enjoying gymnastics, table tennis, boxing and martial arts.

When I went to see a session of ‘buggy buddies’, a course offered by Active Communities, in action in Paisley, I was struck by the simplicity but uniqueness of the scheme. By getting mums jogging around the local park with their children in pushchairs they got everyone enjoying exercise but in a very different way. 

It’s those very relationships that these organisations have built, and indeed rely upon, which  have enabled them to engage with local people who would not normally be attracted to the more traditional sports centres. Those valuable relationships need to be nurtured, recognised and celebrated by the community now and long after 2014.

Ken Campbell, Project Manager at Pilotlight