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Big Society guru inspired by Aspire

21 January 2011
Wei at Aspire

Inspired by the Aspire team, from l to r Simon Lanning, Maurice Gilbert, Nat Wei, Habibur Rahman

A social enterprise that hopes to expand London-wide launched last week with the help of Tower Hamlets Community Housing.

Aspiring Community Works (ACW) will provide maintenance services to Tower Hamlets housing estates. Aspire Foundation director Owen Jarvis said the organisation was already in talks with 40 other housing associations.

Jarvis said ACW was adopting a two-pronged approach that was different from other providers. It has caught the attention of the government’s Big Society guru Lord Nat Wei.

In particular, ACW is linking its maintenance social enterprise to the Aspire Foundation’s programme of providing business skills to people at risk of homelessness. The work on the estates will not only be carried out by the employees of ACW but also by sub-contractors from the estate in the process of setting up their own small business.

Jarvis said: ‘We want to run the two programmes together. Some people will want to get experience and then move into a job which is great while others will want to take their passions further and start up their own business.’

Aspire Foundation also plans to explore how ownership of the social enterprise can be transferred to Tower Hamlets housing association residents after three years.

Speaking at the launch last week Wei said he would be watching the social enterprise ‘closely’.

Wei said: ‘The entrepreneurs here today are deeply impressive and offer a source of inspiration to everyone in the housing sector. I wish this social enterprise every success and will be watching its development closely.’

Tower Hamlets Community Housing’s (THCH) director of housing David Eatwell said: ‘We are excited by the opportunity that working with the Aspire Foundation offers to ensure that we can both maintain our high standards and also help train and employ local residents to provide that service to their homes.’

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