For our series “A day in the life of...” for CAN Mezzanine, we interviewed Greg Woolley, Senior Social Business Analyst, about his experience in CAN.
1) What is your key role at CAN?
I work in the CAN Invest unit of the organization. Our core remit is to provide charities and social enterprises with advisory support and consultancy to increase their sustainability and social impact.
I also lead our social enterprise accelerator programs that we deliver to some of our Mezzanine customers and to external clients across Greater London.
2) What was it that made you want to join the team?
I’ve always been attracted to the third sector in general, but particularly in this role, I was really excited by the opportunity to move from working in one large organization to supporting a diverse set of organizations on a regular basis.
3) What are the things you enjoyed the most working at CAN?
I enjoy most meeting with organizations, working through their current challenges or goals and together coming up with ways to help support those.
Particularly, I’ve met some incredible founders of organizations who have come through adversity themselves and on the other side have decided to use their experience to support others. They are extremely inspiring.
4) Can you tell us about one of your favourite clients or projects?
Two spring straight to mind.
They are a longstanding arts-based organization, supporting vulnerable individuals through the power of songwriting. They came on to the programme, recognizing that a shift in the sector meant that grant income opportunities were reducing and consequently, that they needed to consider alternatives to ensure their sustainability.
I've really enjoyed working with ITT over 3 years and witnessing their increased comfort with the principles and language of social enterprise.
And more recently, working together to develop a new product to be launched internationally. (everyone should check out what they've produced with their beneficiaries!)
The Archway Project, an organization who benefited from our Early Intervention Social Investment Fund. They received a £30,000 loan plus ongoing advisory support to build the competency and sustainability of the organization.
They provide educational and personal development support to young people who have struggled to engage elsewhere. The needs of their young people are often severe, but I've witnessed first-hand the positive impact Archway's services have upon them, from developing a love for learning and generally showing respect for other people.
It's been great to see Archway benefit from our flexible approach and our fresh perspective on some of their day-to-day operational issues.
5) What is your greatest challenge?
The greatest challenge on a day to day basis is the time availability of our clients, especially those within smaller organizations. Such a big proportion of the sector is firefighting on a regular basis, which in turn, means work not associated with direct delivery (understandably) falls down the priority list. Therefore, we have to be flexible and make the most of the time is available.
6) What have you learnt so far?
So much stuff. But top 2 things:
- Don’t assume something you create (and you think is great!) will be understood by your client. I remember a couple of documents/spreadsheets I created in the past which I thought were incredible but were only met by confused expressions. Getting into the mindset of the person you’re supporting is quite an art form but is essential to providing effective support.
- Ask why. To get a full understanding of what a client will benefit from, you need to ask why they want something and why they need in that particular way. This will result in a more effective result for everybody.
8) How do you think Brexit (if it occurs) will impact the sector?
There are many organisations in the sector which have relied on funding from EU institutions. So, there would be potentially an immediate funding issue for those organisations. But secondly, that is likely to result in increased competition for UK based grant funding.
Therefore, there could be implications for organisations who have not even been involved with EU based funding also.
However, I would say this also presents an opportunity for such organisations to begin to consider what other (non-grant) income streams are available to them, similarly to the focus of our work with Irene Taylor Trust I mentioned before. If organisations can start to diversify their income by developing some new trading income streams, they will be in a more secure position during this turbulent Brexit process.
You could find interesting reading these:
- A day in the life of... Kirstin Ross, Director of Operations and Development
- Reflecting on 20 years in the sector