Action for Business Ltd (ABL), a leading social business based in Bradford, has just celebrated its twentieth birthday. It marked the occasion with a special anniversary lunch held at the Carlisle Business Centre’s (CBC) recently refurbished Conference Suite attended by over 100 guests.
Current ABL Chairman, Shaukat Ahmed MBE, was one of the men behind the original concept. He shared some reminiscences of the early challenges they faced: “ABL was founded to encourage economic development and the regeneration of Manningham. Nobody else seemed to be doing anything to address this, so we decided to do it ourselves. It continues to be a shining example of what can be achieved when members of a community get together. Our plan was that economic activity and social cohesion would change things. They have, but there is still plenty for us to do.”
Founded in 1992, ABL is based in the Carlisle Business Centre (CBC) which it both owns and manages. CBC provides affordable workspace and excellent facilities for conferences, meetings and a whole host of other activities and events. The Centre is currently occupied by over 50 small businesses, community organisations, statutory bodies and charities.
ABL recently established Action for Communities Ltd (ACL) as a charity to run its community projects including Bradford Doulas and Manningham Healthy Living Initiative as well as regular training courses.
As ABL Chief Executive, Jenny Pupius pointed out, the organisation is about more than improving places, it’s also about giving people opportunities to improve their lives. At the event Mary Dowson of Bradford Community Broadcasting encouraged some of the women who have benefited to share their experiences. Her interview style is more Parkinson than Paxman so the audience were delighted with stories from volunteers, staff members and a local small business,
One interviewee was Rukmini Gohain, now a receptionist at CBC. After trying to find work unsuccessfully she enrolled on a ‘Finding employment’ course with ABL which involved a work placement with another community organisation in West Bowling. At the end of her course, to gain further work experience, she was invited to work as a volunteer at ABL and now has a permanent job there. “They gave me confidence and a platform to develop myself. I’m proud to work here,” says Rukmini.
Guest speakers included Steve Wyler, Chief Executive of ‘Locality’, the national organisation that represents development trusts, local organisations like ABL run by local people to benefit their neighbourhoods and communities. He described ABL as “A great organisation. It’s a manufacturer of hope at the heart of a growing movement of local action that’s laying the foundations for a more prosperous future.”
Keynote speaker was Julia Unwin Chief Executive of the social change research and campaign group, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Congratulating ABL on 20 years’of achievement and success Julia said: “ABL pioneered a different method of community engagement and economic development. It is a beacon for all: building skills, wealth and a community. We are in extremely difficult and challenging times but, because of organisations like ABL, we can face the future with confidence and hope.”
To mark the occasion, Bradford’s Lord Mayor, Councillor Dale Smith, cut ABL’s birthday cake, which was then shared out amongst the guests.