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Sheffield Rebuild

Friday, October 31, 2003

Sheffield Rebuild is one of very few not-for-profit organisations in construction. In addition to their ownership structure they differ from other construction companies in their emphasis on training and use of local labour. Rebuild aims to construct excellent buildings and carry out quality work whilst providing properly rewarded, training and work for local people. Construction and re-building in areas that are undergoing regeneration is one of their areas of expertise. Actively recruiting labour in the area in which they work not only re-enforces the regeneration process but gives other benefits such as greater community pride and less vandalism.

Rebuild was formed in 1997 and is overseen by a Board of 8 directors most of whom are unpaid. Directors live locally or have a local interest with a number of them working in other social enterprises in the area. The running of the company is a mix of social enterprise combined with a clear business culture. There is an annual business and development plan as well as an Employee Representatives Council to give employees a voice. When they were first set up Rebuild concentrated on new build housing construction but have now moved into a number of other areas. Initially the majority of work came from the local authority but they have worked to reduce this dependence.

Current work includes business centres and the refurbishment of houses both internally and externally. Some of this work takes place while properties are still occupied. Rebuild doesn’t just train workers to work for them but also seeks to ensure that local people have marketable skills. They regard as a success the number of employees who leave to work for other companies along with those who gain promotion within. For those trainees who do not stay with the company help is given through Jobsearch to find other employment. Rebuild’s excellent work with staff has been externally validated with them gaining Investors in People status.

Benefiting from Regeneration

When I visited Rebuild I met Gordon Wordsworth, a founding member, former Managing Director and current director and Neil Fieldhouse, Managing Director. Gordon embodies Rebuild’s values with a fundamental belief in the value of social enterprise. Neil, initially seconded from Sheffield Council’s housing department, was so impressed by Rebuild’s work and approach that he was delighted to be appointed as Managing Director. He is enjoying the greater freedom that managing Rebuild provides and clearly takes a pride in its growing success and its numerous achievements.

Gordon and Neil took me to view a couple of current projects within a short distance of their offices. Both are on the Manor estate, one of Sheffield’s most deprived communities but also one which is visibly benefiting from regeneration. The first project was refurbishment of a former derelict pub where workers were putting the final touches to the internal fittings days before its re-opening as a community resource centre. The second project was a much larger new build - a fully accessible health and advice centre for disabled people, built with money from the resources that the health service now have for new buildings.

Rising Star

In November 2002 Rebuild were named “Rising star for fastest growing employer” and given the “Social Enterprise Award for fastest growing Social Enterprise” as part of the Inner City 100 - a yearly business index of the fastest growing inner city enterprises in the UK.  Rebuild has also been selected as an Inside UK Enterprise host to provide one day visits to other social enterprises and managers from the corporate world. Inside UK Enterprise Social Enterprise aims to promote better business through shared learning and the exchange of ideas and experience. Rebuild had to fulfil the criteria of being a successful social enterprise striving for continuous improvement and willing to share its experience with others.

Rebuild is not only different in its ownership but joins a growing number of social enterprises who want to move away from dependency on grants toward a business culture. With an annual turnover of £4.5m and with 150 employees, 75% of the labour is local and 96% of income is generated from contracts. Rebuild estimates that they generate £6.50 back into the community in wages for each £1 of funding. Many public organisations who provide money for regeneration or new build projects would welcome the opportunity to contract with organisations who add value not just to the physical environment but the well being and future of the people of those communities.

Rebuild sees many opportunities for the future. The Government’s Decent Home Standards mean that there will be significant investment in local housing stock over the next few years. Regeneration of communities through European Union funds is seeing a variety of new and refurbished community buildings. The NHS is investing money in many new facilities. These initiatives are not unique to Sheffield. At a time when social enterprise is growing and Government are providing encouragement, surely there are opportunities for others to take this model forward in others parts of the country.

Meg Munn MP


Photo: Meg with Gordon Wordsworth and the Foreman

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