THE CRANFIELD TRUST INSPIRES CONFIDENCE AND STRATEGIC VISION TO PROTECT VITAL FAMILY SERVICES IN BATH.
First Steps (Bath) is a registered local charity and social enterprise that provides two Sure Start Children’s Centres and runs three nurseries in and around Bath. Initially formed in 1992 to provide excellent childcare and family services for the local community, First Steps have since established themselves as a leading provider of high quality childcare and family support services.
Following a referral from Business in the Community (BiTC), Roz Lambert, incoming CEO of the organisation, first approached The Cranfield Trust for support in putting together a three year business plan. The charity was facing considerable change, with funding streams no longer guaranteed, new premises required for one of the Children’s Centres, and an indication from the local authority that the services provided by First Steps Bath would be put out to general tender. While this may have prompted uncertainty on the part of the charity, it also represented a great opportunity for a re-evaluation of its services and future direction.
Cranfield Trust Project Manager, Campbell McKee, worked with Roz to develop a brief which would set out all her requirements, before matching her with local Trust volunteer Sarah Wilson. Campbell recognised that Sarah’s management expertise and knowledge of the local community would be of great benefit to the charity.
Sarah ran a series of sessions with the Management team, helping them to examine the choices open to First Steps Bath, and helping them in their decision-making processes. By setting out the options for going forward, Sarah was able to work with the staff, involving them in the business planning and helping them in their decision-making processes.
Roz was very happy with this approach, explaining:
"We feel honoured to have had such expert support and advice, free of charge. My confidence has grown as a leader, as I am clear of the direction that the whole organisation is taking and that staff are completely on board with this, having been part of the development process.
I am still using the theories and tools as we forge ahead. With a clear plan, when things perhaps unfold in a slightly different way we now have the tools to consider how to address this. This means that children will still have a high quality nursery with additional family support in spite of drastic cuts to funding.”
So successful was this initial project that Roz turned to The Cranfield Trust again when she decided to hold an ‘away day’ for the senior management team and trustees. She had put together a fundraising strategy to address future issues, and to ensure that the charity’s nursery provision was self-funding. Roz now wanted to ensure that the Trustees and Senior Management Team were fully aware of the issues they faced, some of which could involve making difficult decisions.
Campbell was happy to contact Sarah again, as she’d already developed a strong working relationship with First Steps Bath. Sarah set up a series of initial meetings prior to the away day:
“I had initial conversations to scope the session with Roz and agree some pre-work which Roz managed with the attendees. We then met face to face to review the pre-work and pull together the final workshop plan. This worked extremely well.”
Roz was delighted with the result, commenting:
“We have emerged with a clear picture of steps we need to take into the future and most importantly an understanding of the barriers in our way. This includes the trustee board as well as the senior management team. Sarah set up the workshop so that we were able to consider some very tricky issues in a safe and productive way, something that we had been unable to do in Trustee meetings."
“The Trustees have agreed to make some clear changes in order that the charity is able to become financially viable. We are looking at making our income generating operations more efficient and effective, which was not possible before our workshop as there was a feeling that these changes were out of line with our charitable mission.
“This means that children and their families will have flexible, affordable and high quality childcare and family support in an area of deprivation where commercial nurseries and child care operators would not be financially viable. We currently support over 270 children under 5 through our nurseries and now hope to expand in the next five years to extend one nursery to include another 20 children and to open a new nursery with 140 children, an increase of just under 60%.”
Sarah also appreciated the opportunity to volunteer with such a worthwhile organisation, working in her local area:
"Roz has so much energy and belief that people make the difference. The Chair is also extremely good and they are a great combination. The parents and children seem to really benefit from this service - I not sure they realise how lucky they are! It is so easy to fit in an assignment, even when you are really busy, and it's worth it you meet some truly inspiring people, dealing with some hugely challenging issues.”
Summing up the help she has received from The Cranfield Trust, Roz stated:
“The expert support from the Cranfield Trust has enabled First Steps Bath to plan for a sustainable future with a strong board of Trustees. We can now be confident that where we deliver services, children and families from challenging communities are enabled to be resilient, confident and aspirational.”