Meet the UK Coordinators: Transmit Enterprise

Mar 2, 2018

Article by Poverty Stoplight

Robert Webb and Andy Cox are team members of Transmit Enterprise, a UK-based organization dedicated to a range of business support services. Webb and Cox, both Executive Directors at Transmit Enterprise, were kind enough to answer a few questions about the work they do--and how the Poverty Stoplight helps them to innovate and achieve with their clients.

Q: What does Transmit Enterprise do?

Transmit Enterprise CIC was established in 2010, to support vulnerable young people and adults become independent through creativity and entrepreneurial behaviour. Its growing reputation saw it widening its offer of support to other social enterprises providing personalised services, as well as offering business support to community, voluntary and charitable organisations at all stages of their development.

We at Transmit Enterprise, which is managed by directors Robert Webb and myself, Andy Cox, also like to think of ourselves as a bit of a ‘think and do’ agency. We work with associates, champions and trusted partners and we have the freedom to tackle thorny issues in new and exciting ways and to share our findings with others.

Not least in our current thinking is tackling the growing problems associated with poverty. We have recognised for some time now that many people benefiting from our and our business partners’ services are exposed to poverty or moments of poverty in their lives. This is particularly so during periods of transition such as moving off state benefits to start up a business or, more seriously, where individuals are languishing within our communities without hope and without agency to improve their lives. Transmit decided a couple of years ago that it would tackle these issues by seeking ways to help confront them and, develop local solutions by working alongside households, communities and trusted business partners.

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Q: What is your role in Transmit Enterprise?

Both Robert and myself are Executive Directors of the company, which means we share the activities of working ‘in the business’ (i.e. finances, operations and administration) and ‘on the business’ (i.e. development, growth, customer relations and sales). We are able to draw on our combined experience of over 60 years of working in the social economy (which includes 20 years in public administration and education). Our range of skills and experience is augmented at board level by the private sector expertise of Damian Baetons. Damian is an independent non-executive director to ensure good governance and collective agreement on the direction of travel for the business. Individually, Robert and I have our own portfolio of clients to whom we provide consultancy support.

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Q: What does poverty mean in the U.K. and with the people to whom you administer the Poverty Stoplight?

Following Transmit Enterprise’s identification and assessment of a number of UK, EU and international tools and methodologies, we chose Poverty Stoplight. We have not seen anything else that appears to work as effectively as Poverty Stoplight: a methodology able to eliminate poverty from a bottom-up approach. The fact that it is able to break poverty down into easy-to-identify, actionable components and at the same time aggregate data makes it a stand-out product.

The back-up team headed by Martin Burt and Eduardo Gustale Gill has been excellent. As a HUB we have received fabulous partnership support delivered with enthusiasm and patience. We have really appreciated this, and in particular the patience: when we first introduced Poverty Stoplight it was not always easy to convince potential UK business partners and the voluntary and community sector that a methodology ‘imported from the Southern Hemisphere’ could work. We are very proud of our partnership with the Fundacion Paraguaya and regard such ‘post-colonial’ attitudes as symptomatic of a deep seated risk-aversion and an unwillingness to adopt an open-minded approach to finding creative solutions.

Interestingly, many in the UK see poverty as primarily a ‘developing nations’, economic issue which bears little relevance to UK society. But the UK not only has a major issue with poverty itself but also with attitudes to poverty. I have worked for many years in Mental Health, most recently as a Business Director for a national Mental Health Care Company. Had someone at that time asked me what I knew about poverty I would have been confident I had the answer. However, after only twelve months implementing Poverty Stoplight I can safely say that all my assumptions have proven to be wrong. Using Poverty Stoplight has enabled us to recognise that poverty means something different in every community and in every household. A recent example of this here in our North East of England homeland was a recognition that young girls were missing school exams because their households could not afford sanitary towels, and many were too proud to make their schools aware. This is just one of many graphic examples of how poverty is hitting our communities ever harder.

Transmit Enterprise is not a political organisation. However we have had comments from a number of policy makers suggesting that we are wasting our time, and indeed potentially undermining the work of certain well-established organisations, because, in their opinion, we are diverting attention from the need to achieve wholesale and permanent structural change. Our quiet response is to press on because if we wait for this to happen we will be waiting a long time.

The worsening poverty in the UK needs a novel methodology which can ultimately turn the welfare system on its head, whereby families gain agency and self-efficacy – and this we believe is key. Poverty Stoplight helps households determine their own priorities and their own plan to overcome poverty, and this we believe appeals to the dignity of every person.

After piloting Poverty Stoplight for several months with individuals, households and business partners we rebranded the methodology as SIGNAL. We recognised that it was essential to acknowledge the stigma attached to the word ‘poverty’ and by adopting the SIGNAL badge the methodology would have greater appeal to individuals and households. In addition our business partners told us that they see the value of the product in helping them to deliver their programmes many of which may not at first sight appear to be linked to poverty because the emphasis is on, for example, complexity.

Q: In which areas--or indicators--do you see the Stoplight being the most useful?

Poverty Stoplight enables us to appreciate that poverty is multi-dimensional rather than purely economic and that we should not jump to any conclusions about how people define it or experience it. The methodology puts the definitions and the responses in the hands of individuals and households who will determine their priorities. We acknowledge that there needs to be key core indicators where we can make comparisons or share good practise around the globe and in time we will be in a better position to add to this debate.

Looking back on my time as Business Director of a leading Mental Health care company I can see that had I had access to Poverty Stoplight I might have done things differently. My expertise was writing and winning significant tenders in Psychological Talking Therapy Services and implementing sufficient services against community prevalence whilst addressing local social issues. Notwithstanding Poverty Stoplight’s ability to work at a household level its accumulated data would have helped me better design services where I would, for example, have resourced more front-end Debt management services rather than, say, more Cognitive Behavioural Therapists. The data now tells me that two-thirds of people exhibiting primary mental health issues (i.e. depression and anxiety) do so because their symptoms are caused by debt, and simply working on people’s mental health rather than on dealing with the root cause of the problem means the system is not as well designed as it should be. Martin Burt’s prophesy that the data will ‘start talking to you’ is making more and more sense every day!

Our Business partners are using the methodology to help them have a better conversation with their clients. This is particularly the case with people who have complex and/or chaotic lives because the methodology breaks complexity down into more manageable priorities. The feedback we are getting from partners like Citizens Advice Bureau Newcastle and Newcastle YMCA is suggesting to us that we are starting to crack the code of poverty. Working alongside our Business partners we are able to demonstrate that poverty is about more than money, and that finding more money to tackle poverty is rarely an adequate solution. Our Business partners are indicating to us that Poverty has to do with other life issues such as self-esteem, a capability to plan and to budget, to have a life plan, and to resolve conflict, all of which is integral to this methodology.

We are looking forward to posting some case studies from our Business partners over coming months on our soon-to-be launched new website dedicated to SIGNAL. Www to come soon.

Q: How does the Stoplight complement your organization’s existing services?

We have identified that individuals and households are particularly vulnerable to the effects of poverty during periods of transition, e.g. Skill Mill clients transitioning from youth correctional facilities to paid sustainable employment. Hitherto there has been no effective methodology to help create a framework to support an individual’s journey in which they can self-determine their strengths and assets alongside the areas of priority.

Wherever there are common issues and values we can deploy Poverty Stoplight.

We have recently determined our ambitions for SIGNAL:

eliminate poverty within households in UK

working with Business Partners to implement the methodology

enable households to influence policy and co-design local services

…and we want to work with Business partners

experiencing complex social issues within their community

looking for an evidence-base to inform & measure transformation

seeking a co-production approach

We most certainly see SIGNAL complimenting services and programmes being delivered by business partners and until now we have been delivering the methodology through their delivery structures. A recent new business partner, a charity called Springboard Sunderland, which is a training organisation for people from hard pressed communities, has decided to use the product to better highlight the softer areas in life which impact on an individual’s progress with employment, training and life skills. They are using SIGNAL to support individuals through their programmes and to map and measure progress on these so-called soft outcomes. They see this as the key to their commercial business model.

Gateshead Housing Company, an arms-length Local Authority Housing Provider, has recently given us the go-ahead to work with a specific community in Gateshead to survey and develop the methodology for potential wider use. Transmit Enterprise is working directly with households and also via third parties to carry out the surveys. We will be learning lots from this experience and again will share these with readers over coming months.

We continue to work in the social economy but also see the value in working with Housing Companies, the Community Sector, Educational and Learning businesses, Local Authorities and policy makers, and again sectors and Business partners who align with the ambitions and values of Poverty stoplight.

Q: Where do you see the Stoplight taking Transmit Enterprise in the future?

I think we will try to keep this as simple as possible, because the truth is we don’t know but will enjoy the journey.

We are implementing SIGNAL in the North East of England testing out its Unique Selling Proposition within a variety of settings and consequently are learning all the time. If we crack the North East then we will tackle other regions as well as work with National companies. We will have a growth or scale- up plan to follow our local experiences. We are having a number of great conversations with key people who happen to be drivers within their field of work and who may find SIGNAL of mutual benefit.

Gaining traction with the surveys and achieving a critical mass including re-taken surveys to determine an evidence base of poverty elimination is key to the product being able to ‘sell itself’

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