18817The businessman chairman of Groundwork NE & Cumbria has unveiled half-year data demonstrating how the social enterprise is succeeding in its mission to change places and lives.

Since Ian Brown took over the role six months ago, Groundwork has delivered 260 projects across the region working with some of the most disadvantaged communities and individuals.

Groundwork NE & Cumbria is a social enterprise and charity dedicated to improving people’s lives.  It achieves this through a wide range of life-enhancing projects including community space improvement programmes, training and work placement schemes, and initiatives to help improve residents’ wellbeing, health, confidence and self-esteem. Last year it celebrated 30 years of making a difference across the region.

Among Groundwork’s other achievements since September are:

  • Helping119 people into work
  • Involving 16,431 participants, comprising 4,769 adults and 11,662 young people,  in life and community-enhancing schemes
  • Supporting 324 community groups
  • Organising health-focused sessions that engaged with 803 people
  • Helping 181 people gain formal qualifications
  • Improving and maintaining 221 hectares of land

Mr Brown’s background is in senior management and director positions in the private and public sectors. He has been involved in helping drive large scale projects focusing on regeneration and construction, and managing property assets and technical services.

Kate Culverhouse, Groundwork’s Chief Executive, said: “Ian’s enthusiasm and passion for wanting to help people make the most of their lives fits perfectly with Groundwork’s ethos.

“His professional experience and understanding of the public and private sectors are helping Groundwork drive its development plans to change places and change lives, as shown by what has been achieved during the last six months.”

Mr Brown’s interest in wanting to help long-term and unemployed people is due to his initial career ambitions being thwarted by colour blindness.

Mr Brown was all set to be a pharmacist and had started a university course, but he discovered he had the visual deficiency, which put paid to that ambition.

He left university and found himself directionless for a few months while he decided what other avenue to pursue.

Mr Brown eventually decided to train as a chartered surveyor, which formed the foundations of his successful career. Today he is an experienced management consultant and latterly has been heading up his own consultancy, Focus on Improvement Ltd.

But he has never forgotten having to leave university and when his professional path crossed with Groundwork, its work with long-term unemployed and socially isolated people struck a chord with him.

Mr Brown said: “When I had to leave university, while it was far easier to find work in the 70s, having a feeling of isolation and uncertainty at having the rug suddenly pulled out from under my feet is something I have never forgotten.

“So while not on the same scale as the long-term unemployed and socially excluded people that Groundwork helps, I can empathise with and do have some understanding of their situation.”

Mr Brown became familiar with Groundwork’s ethos when he provided professional advice as a volunteer on a couple of its projects.

He added: “I saw the first-class work that Groundwork does and the difference that it makes to people’s lives, I wanted to become involved on a regular basis.”

He became a member of its board that oversees its community interest companies and then took on the role of Chairman. These include a horticultural nursery, a shop upcycling and selling second hand furniture, an eco-friendly business centre and a venture recycling wood into household and garden furniture.

When role of chairman on the main board became vacant, Mr Brown put himself forward as he wanted to continue helping make a difference to the North East’s social fabric and wellbeing.

Mr Brown’s career has taken him across the world to Australia and across the UK working in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England.

His management roles have included Corporate Director Technical Services and Environment, Head of Technical Services, Change Director, Programme Director, and Director of Strategy.  The public and private sectors Mr Brown has worked in include Local and Central Government, housing, health, civil engineering, construction, transport infrastructure, property development and management.