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June 1, 2016

Inspiration from San Francisco

Many years ago, I was fortunate to be part of a study tour to America to learn about their approach to community and social enterprise. Most notable was the complete absence of Government support, although private philanthropy is much more developed. The project that made the deepest impression was a housing/therapeutic community - Delancey Street -for folk with addiction and a wide variety of mental health issues.  A remarkable place which is impossible to describe in just a few words. An emerging social care project in Angus has drawn its inspiration from Delancey Street.

Gary Malone

An American Social Entrepreneur referred to social enterprises by saying, ‘we don’t employ people to make brownies, we make brownies to employ local people”  (Greystone Bakery New York:2014)

The above ambition is consistent with that of Care About Angus: we’re not only employing people to provide care for others; but creating stakeholder driven services around care which creates local employment opportunities. By doing so we can help empower communities to care, build local education and change cultures, favourable to the very desire for ‘an Angus that actively cares’.  

In essence, our ethos of local care; builds not from assumptions of what service delivery perceives, but building on a  more holistic understanding; a truly people centred approach in its complete sense, local people providing local services based on real need.  Care is a multi-faceted activity that is complex, dynamic in the face of changing macro and micro contexts but which is often articulated through qualification position or strategy. What we seek is to develop is a new form of cultural competency where the starting point of care builds from our humanitarian DNA; by people’s propensity to experience life and care for each other and through social relationships based on our physiological and biological affinity for one another.

Several years ago I was introduced to the concepts of social entrepreneurship and social enterprise whilst studying for a Masters in Business Administration (MBA at Abertay University in Dundee).  I learned about the fantastic human achievement of Mimi Silbert, the CEO of Delancey Street in San Francisco, of how she with others, built without state funding, a complex for 500 people who were offenders, drug addicts, and women who were sexually exploited.   This woke me up to the value of social enterprise and I was fortunate to secure funding to take colleagues from Angus College, Third Sector and Angus Council to visit the Delancey Street Complex. (2)…. We left with an experience, which will never leave us;

•             The potential of humanity

•             Local education and empowered self-management works

•             Social enterprise works

•             Ordinary people make impossible dreams come true


The thing that’s most inspired me most on this journey towards helping create Care About Angus is much similar and reflected in the Logo of care about Angus; The phoenix rising from the ashes of despair. Lower paid workers being made redundant,  seizing the opportunity to utilise their skils to deliver, both an innovative, stakeholder driven model of service delivery and for personal financial security .  The new social enterprise employees are mostly women who have dedicated much of their working lives to the care of service users, professionally, compassionately and vocationally.   They remind us of who is being cared for, people: a generation (the single largest single population of service users are the elderly) that built one of the greatest institutions in the world – the NHS.  They remind us also of the need to redefine care at local level and neighbourhoods and beyond, in a manner that delivers service for the people by the people reflecting the needs and aspirations of communities. 

Upholding and developing care as not only our challenge, it’s our privilege.  It’s a process of learning and renewal; an opportunity to build competencies within the service and across the communities we serve; we see it as a dynamic engagement process that will ensure sustainable service delivery that truly reflects the aspirations of communities.  It would have been easy for the staff who compose the majority of Care About Angus, made redundant by their previous employer, to give up, but, they were determined to continue to deliver care as a human endeavour and become leaders of new movement of care.


This journey of change, fundamentally resonates with concepts of growing civic health where potentially new integrated, comprehensive and positive perspectives of working with communities can lead to new concepts of local authority, where local people are directly involved in decision making and in constructing sustainable service delivery (4). Staff and people seeking to use Care About Angus services were involved in the dialogues, which helped construct an employee-controlled concept creating a more, local, augmented person, centred service. This meant that in addition to home help services people could access the help of local volunteering effort including befriending, access to transport and volunteer led support.

As a Community Interest Company (CIC), ‘Care About Angus’ has a strong democratic foundation, which ensures that directors are accountable to the employees and are appointed by influence of workers.  This is essential in continuous improvement, the growth of the aforementioned concepts of cultural competency, and is fundamental to the very essence of creating social impact based on learning from practice.

‘Care About Angus’ (CAA) offers a unique combination of home support and community based services to individuals in Angus.  Market research asserts there is significant need for a service that delivers high quality care that reflects the needs of service users, and is built through dialogue and engagement with key stakeholder groups. We believe further, that by augmenting models and approaches of home help provision with wider/local community/volunteering a more community orientated, person centred service can be delivered.  This is consistent with the strategic ambitions supported by stakeholder groups and Scottish Government around transformational and cultural change (Christie). Care about Angus value base is rooted in shifting the balance of care, aligned with pursuits of localism and prevention; ultimately to preserve peoples choice and their dignity to stay at home, with better opportunities to engage in the local community neighbourhood and associational life.

To read the full report click here