Most of this week and much of this year I’ve been working with a bus company. No ordinary bus company, though. Rather one that can state confidently and clearly that “We are the world’s leading transport social enterprise.” More importantly, they say this:
“Outside of our explicitly commercial contracts, our competitors are not other bus companies. Our competitors are social exclusion, loneliness and social isolation.”
And I’m here at Ash Grove in Hackney having a look round with bus drivers and other HCT Group people from London, Bristol, Leeds, Wakefield and the Channel Islands. Though as you’ll hear later we come from many more places than that in reality.
But though we could discuss the finer points of repairing a bus engine all day, HCT are, as you’ll remember from the headline, about much more than running buses. They’re about competing with loneliness, social exclusion and social isolation. In Bristol we’d seen them doing this work with groups of children and the elderly. And in Leeds we’d taken part in their Travel Training, which gets excluded young adults out onto public transport and opens up the city and their lives. Here we’re not only hearing about their Scootability Programme…
Hackney City Farm has spent 30 years being all about education, sustainability and “Showing children that chickens are more than just nuggets.”
Later on Dai Powell, HCT Group’s Chief Executive, will reminisce about his early days as a volunteer when one of his jobs was to muck out the HCT mini bus after Hackney City Farm’s pigs had been transported in it.
After which we all go out for dinner with Dai and Deputy Chief Executive Jude Winter. Jude hasn’t met the whole group before and so asks where everyone is from – “No, really from?”
This is the collective answer she gets:
“From Bulgaria via Guernsey, from Manchester and Yorkshire to Jersey, from India to London, Barbados to Hackney, Leeds and always Leeds, Nigeria to Hackney and Wolverhampton, from Leeds via the Norman Conquest, East Africa from Asia to Bristol, Greenock to Jersey, Reading to Oxford to Bristol, India to Uganda then Hackney via Gillingham, to Dewsbury from a small village outside of Islamabad in Pakistan, from Mongolia to here”
We are, in short, from nearly everywhere.
To see the parts of the former site now run, for the people of London, by another social enterprise.
All the profits made by both social enterprises reinvested in what they do and, yes, in competing with loneliness, exclusion and isolation.
Thank you, all of you. It’s been an adventure and a pleasure. Particular thanks to Tracey Vickers of HCT, my co-creator in the HCT Group Social Enterprise Champions programme.
And of course to all this group of Social Enterprise Champions: Jonathan Cawthray, Peter Herridge, Khizar Iqbal, Ferhin Master, Martin McKinney, Georgi Monev, Sam O’Neill, Victor Onokah, Cheryl Paul, Mo Saddique, Enkh Sergelen, Rakshaben Thakore and Tony Trimby.
You can read the full HCT Group 2015 Impact Report here.