In this year’s annual NatWest SE100 Index, Groundwork North Wales have for the second time been named as one of the Top 100 Social Enterprises in the UK for its various development programmes and projects, and most notably for its innovative practical skills development programme for young people through environmental and climate education.
Business News Wales spoke to Karen Balmer CPFA, the Chief Executive of Groundwork North Wales, to learn about what this accolade means for their social enterprise and how it feels for the team’s hard work over the past year to be recognised once again. We also hear from Karen about some of the other development programmes at Groundwork North Wales and how they are having a positive impact on the communities of North Wales.
Groundwork North Wales was established in 1991 and is one of the independent Trusts that make up the Groundwork Federation across the UK. Having undergone a progressive business model transformation over the last decade, the social enterprise provides a pan Wales business to business training offer and works closely with other partners and its sister organisation in South Wales to provide an environmental programme for the entirety of Wales.
Groundwork North Wales say that they are committed to improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of local communities, and embrace the aspirations of the Well-being of Future Generations Act; also adding that they always ensure their work is aligned to the well-being goals.
“Obviously we are absolutely thrilled to have received this accolade for two years running and it does mean a lot, particularly to the team and to the board, because it is a visible demonstration of what we are doing is being done well and [benefitting] others – so it’s a tribute to the team really.”
“To be awarded as one of the NatWest Top 100 UK Social Enterprises is [very much] the end result of all that hard work that the team have done over the last 8 to 10 years to change and ensure that the organisation is sustainable, so it’s absolutely fantastic that we have accomplished that – and particularly this year, as it is our 30th Anniversary year.”
As well as working with adults and the elderly, Groundwork North Wales also run unique programmes for children and teenagers that raise awareness of climate change whilst developing their own practical knowledge and skills. Karen explains why it is important to proactively educate the future generations early:
“There is nothing more important than saving the planet, and obviously the young people of today have to play a crucial role in that, because at the end of the day it will be down to them.”
“All of [these programmes] are meant to engage people at a very early age to raise their awareness, to engage them with the environment, for them to be able to take action themselves and to start right at the beginning when they are taking it in and learning so much, so that it becomes a way of life for them and that [they gain perspective on how] the environment is important.”
“We also work with the older school groups, particularly with those who are at risk of being excluded from school or those not in education, employment or training, doing other environmental projects with them. […] For example, our ‘Green Team’ Programmes have helped people have a sense of recognition and ownership about their local environment and how important it is, and this helps reduce antisocial behaviour, fly tipping down the line. It’s a slightly different angle about how to improve local environmental quality within communities – but also has that effect of tackling some of the things that are reticent with the climate change agenda.”