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Social ventures and charities across Cheshire have a vital role to play both in response to the challenges presented by the pandemic and in working together with business and local communities to help drive improvements in economic growth, health, sustainability and inclusivity in a post-COVID world.

In partnership with Cheshire Community Foundation and facilitated by the Universities Economic Development Unit (UEDU), the University and Manchester Metropolitan University are working together to meet the growing demand for support within the sector.

The collaboration has led to the launch of a new third sector bootcamp, delivered by Ruby Star Associates through the ERDF-funded Cheshire and Warrington Business Growth Programme. The bootcamps are designed to help organisations measure their impact, deliver their services more effectively and become more sustainable.

Angela Richardson, Grants Director at Cheshire Community Foundation said: “When we made our Cheshire Minds Matter grants, we wanted to provide more than just funding. We wanted to give charities the tools to thrive in the new landscape.

“Through our partnership with University of Chester and Manchester Metropolitan University we were able to offer these third sector bootcamps, giving practical support and the chance to share best practice. The feedback has been excellent, and we're certain charities are empowered and inspired by the experience.”

Isla Wilson, Founder and CEO of Ruby Star Associates, said: “We’ve always loved supporting social entrepreneurs to build powerful businesses – collaborating on developing and delivering this course has been fantastic.

“Social entrepreneurs have excelled through this pandemic, creating viable businesses which respond to real-world need and seeing them come together to learn, collaborate and grow together has been an absolute privilege.”

Sixteen organisations completed the very first bootcamps across four weeks with the University of Chester’s team. All participants left with key strategic actions to implement immediately within their organisation, more than two thirds have already started to develop new processes or services following the bootcamp.

Bryony Salter, Business Development Manager at the University of Chester, said: “The group was one of the most engaged and inspiring we have ever had the pleasure to work with, which is testament to their passion to support not only their own communities and causes, but also their peers and social impact across the wider Cheshire region.”

Jamie Patterson, from Warrington Youth Club, added “I found the course extremely beneficial in providing a space to reflect on the social impact our charity is having on the community around us. 

“From this work, we have developed a ‘theory of change model’ which will help us demonstrate to funders and stakeholders the impact of our work, linking what we do to the difference it makes. 

“Having a group of peers on the course meant I was immediately able to bounce ideas, share concerns, and benefit from the collective wisdom and experience of other charitable groups from the sector. It has all been an incredibly valuable experience!”

The University of Chester is now developing an ongoing provision to meet the needs of social enterprise and charitable organisations.

Supporting this initiative, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Eunice Simmons, added: “Social entrepreneurship is a value we hold highly at the University, and as more businesses are considering their social impact we want to be there to support them.”

The next bootcamps will be delivered by Manchester Metropolitan University and will run from the week commencing September 20.

For more information on these sessions, which will run across four weeks, contact James Crawley at or call 0161 247 6670.

The Cheshire and Warrington Business Growth Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. Entrepreneurs, SMEs and pre-start businesses registered or trading in Cheshire and Warrington, meeting the eligibility criteria, can apply for support.

The project is receiving up to £4,660,087 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

The programme is delivered by consortium partners the University of Chester, Manchester Metropolitan University, Reaseheath College and the Universities Economic Development Unit.

If you are a business seeking access to expert growth support, contact the team

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