Social Entrepreneur Index nominee: The Listening Post CIC
Spotting a gap in available provision, Alison Cunningham set up The Listening Post CIC to serve her community in Essex with affordable counselling, training and youth clubs. She tells us more about her business and why she started a social enterprise.
What does your social enterprise do?
We are a one-to-one counselling service, youth clubs K.I.T.E (kids in together empower) and training provider.
What made you start your business up?
When Alison Cunningham, the founder of the listening post was training to become a counsellor, she realised that there was a lack of affordable one-to-one counselling providers in her local community but there was a need for it so she set out to make this happen.
How do you measure your impact?
We use feedback forms from our clients and each client is assessed every six weeks to make sure they are getting the right help and are in fact moving forward with their mental health or the issues that brought them to the Listening Post.
What help did you have to start your social enterprise?
We had help from Swan Housing for the first year, giving us an office space for the first year. Basildon council, Heart of Pitsa, and the National Lottery have all funded us in various ways to enable us to keep giving low fees or free one-to-one counselling.
How did you decide on what legal form would work best for your business?
We always knew we wanted to give affordable counselling to these in the local community that would not be able to pay the high fees that can be associated with counselling.
What’s the best thing about being a social entrepreneur?
We love being able to change with the community’s needs and trying to offer whatever they feel is needed alongside the counselling, for example training, workshops and youth clubs.
What have been the three biggest challenges that you have overcome (or that you’re still working on)?
Setting up our new premises and building new counselling rooms, making sure to get them right.
Hiring new volunteers to help cover the extra opening hours.
Continuing to find and obtain new funding in order to be able to give more back to the community.
What advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs?
Just to do it. You will have hard times, but you will get there if you truly believe in what you want to accomplish.
What’s been your most rewarding experience as a social entrepreneur?
For us, it’s been giving back to a community, seeing our clients go on to a state of better mental wellness and thriving with the confidence we have helped them to achieve.
What are your plans for the next two to five years?
Opening a new property to grow our training side as well as taking on more volunteers and paid employees.
What is the biggest change you would like to see in the world?
A better understanding of mental health.
What have been your three proudest moments as a social entrepreneur?
Seeing the Listening Post grow and gain a great name for counselling.