When I started the Cert HE Charity and Social Enterprise Management, I was technically an employee of Suffolk County Council.
However the Council was working with us to divest our service and we had the challenge of setting up an independent and viable business, while continuing to provide high quality provision.
Being a manager in a local authority doesn’t equip you to run a business. Fortunately Suffolk County Council recognised that upskilling us would be crucial to the success of the new organisation and so they supported nine of us to do the Cert HE in Charity and Social Enterprise Management at Anglia Ruskin University.
In a large organisation there are centralised services that look after key tasks such as cashflow, business planning, branding and marketing. However, that support isn’t available to us as an independent organisation, and so we have to take responsibility for these tasks ourselves.
This has been a huge learning curve for us, but through the course we are learning the business skills we need, linked to the ethical considerations that are so important to us.
There are also other benefits to studying on a university course. For example, the academic skills are useful too; you learn to express yourself clearly, provide evidence for what you’re saying and apply your learning to your work.
The timing of the course has been perfect. We have really benefitted from the specialist support that Anglia Ruskin has provided, as well as the chance to meet people from other organisations who are facing similar challenges.
We have now left local authority control and established Leading Lives as a co-operative employing 450 people. We have a very clear Vision and Mission, branding, a business plan and we know how to manage our finances, so we are confident about the future. The Cert HE Charity and Social Enterprise Management has been crucial in helping us achieve that.