Radiating support in the community

What does it take to be a successful community entrepreneur raising social capital instead of cash? Transition volunteer Lilian caught up with Radian's Barbara Cooke to find out.

An interview with a community entrepreneur. 

Barbara Cooke is a Community Development Officer working for Radian Housing Association. She is equipped with numerous qualities and skills that she uses to enhance developments in the Mansbridge area.  I must say, I had spoken to Barbara before but I never really knew what her official role was.

Firstly, Barbara organizes training events such as heath projects (fitness and training and exercise classes), cookery and food safety classes, retail training, NHS job training opportunities, Barista training, sports activities and funding for the Young Stars programme. Additionally, she raises awareness of community projects such as the Transition history project (run by Now Heritage) and many more.  As I understand from interviewing her, she makes it clear that these opportunities are open to all the Mansbridge community including local volunteers not just Radian residents.  

Lilian interviews Barbara in the Round About cafe, Mansbridge
Barbara co-ordinates and acts as a link between Radian and its local community to receive messages relating to any issues raised by the locals. Barbara uses her writing skills to run a social media website where the local community can get in touch to view training opportunities, even raise issues that may require improvement from Radian. This can be accessed via Twitter, FaceBook and other media platforms.    

Barbara uses her ‘people skills’ to communicate vital information effectively to the community, thus she is a driver to delivering Radian's core objectives such as helping people flourish through employment and training. Barbara uses the community's Round About Cafe - managed by Nigel and a team of volunteers - as a means of inter-mediation to reach local people. She supports Nigel in organizing cafe requirements! Additionally, she finds volunteers looking for skills to return to employment.

During the interview I was able to draw an understanding that Round About Café was ‘more than just a café’, it's a social connecting place for meetings, children craft and parties. We all know how important social skills and interpersonal communication skills are for entrepreneurs to succeed in the work place. Barbara has used these abilities to effectively raise awareness of support and training available for the community.

Above: cafe manager Nigel behind the counter where hot food and fresh cakes are served daily.
Below: Lilian and Nigel in front of the History wall. Every picture is special to someone.
Barbara is always looking for opportunities to work with other partners. As she stated “We have a close relationship with Mansbridge Primary School, Cantell Secondary School and Now Heritage She further expressed appreciation of Now Heritage’s work in  involving the community to create a Pop Up Museum. 

Additionally, as an Entrepreneur Barbara raises ideas based on local residents’ interests or concerns either to develop skills for work or improvements within their own lifestyles.

Barbara has included her personal skills in order to succeed with her work duties. These skills are listening skills and an intuition which is important to yielding new opportunities that could have been missed within the community in general.

The Pop-Up Museum Ford Transition event could be an open opportunity for Barbara and Nigel the Round About café manager to advertise future prospects to the community! Barbara loves history and looks for opportunities to involve the community in exploring the past. Talking about the café, she said “The pictures on the wall mean a lot to people. If we care about the history we care about the people, they are a big part of what we are about”. But she is also open for change. As an entrepreneur she has portrayed a level of skill and quality of care and commitment to her duties maintaining both the community history and looking to the future.

In conclusion, it was really inspiring to talk to Barbara and interesting to know the beneficial results of her community work. “Each year we create an impact assessment ... the figures speak for themselves,” she said. Barbara clearly loves her work as a social entrepreneur within the community.

If anyone has got a suggestion for improvements in the community, Barbara can be contacted via the Round About café.  I look forward to sharing my own ideas about training courses to boost motivation for mums returning to work like myself.

By Lilian Namaata
Transition volunteer and Enterprise course student


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