John Hitchin, Renaisi’s CEO writes week notes to capture and reflect on the realities of running a social enterprise.

Back from holiday

Holkham Beach.

After a week away in North Norfolk with my family I feel (not rested – I have two under 5s) removed from work enough to come back with a bit of perspective and renewed focus. Being on holiday in a cottage, near enormous, endless beaches and pubs with gardens big enough for plenty of people meant that it was possible to barely notice physical distancing. Life almost felt normal. I was also staying in a village with endless amounts of Hollyhocks. It was enough to cheer any tired spirit.

My focus in coming back was on recruiting to a new post – Southwark Social Economy Coordinator – and planning the next steps for our Anchor Collaborative work in Hackney.

We are employing the Southwark Social Economy Coordinator to bring together the partnership that has been set up to support Southwark Local Access. Local Access is a joint funding programme, established by Access and Big Society Capital. I’m very excited about the candidates, and the opportunity to drive place-wide thinking, rather than programmatic or institutional thinking, to support the social economy in a borough that we do a lot of work in.

Board papers

The final big part of my week was finishing off board reports.

When the seriousness of the virus became apparent, we shifted to monthly board meetings and also flagged that this meeting in early August was going to be a significant one. Like every organisation, we looked at cash, we looked at risks to income, we looked at how work was changing, and we considered the worst scenarios. I distinctly remember sitting up at nights in March and early April thinking about just how bad things could get – and what that would mean for Renaisi, our team and our work.

I am very proud of how the team has responded in the weeks between then and now. We’re in a position to take some positive risks to our board, rather than having to focus on defensive measures. I have ended up writing what is getting towards a new business plan for the coming year. We’re also doing some amazing work across the organisation, such as helping refugees to get food during lockdown, analysing community responses from across multiple place-programmes, trialling a furlough support package and expanding our ESOL offer online.

Food deliveries.

I’m looking forward to working with the board on where we should take those positive risks. There’s still a lot of work to do, and who knows where the coming weeks and months will take us as a country, but if you’d told me three months ago Renaisi would be in this position now, I would have taken it without a second thought.

Reading, listening and watching

I watched the first episode of A Suitable Boy, and am not sure what I think yet. It’s beautifully shot, but my main feeling was that it was going so fast. I read the book on holiday in Italy over ten years ago, and I can still vividly remember certain passages. But it’s 1400 pages gave it a different pace to a TV adaptation.

I’ve been listening to Donald Glover/ Childish Gambino’s new album 3.15.20. A nice change to my usual musical diet.