Despite an ever-changing political climate, an increasingly challenging funding landscape, and in the midst of a cost of living crisis, The Circle has had another busy year full of exciting changes and continued to serve our community!
I was recently appointed as the new chair of The Circle’s board to see it through its next stages of development. We wish my predecessor Donald McPherson all the best and thank him for the years of commitment and support, taking The Circle from infancy to the renowned business it is now.
Looking to the future, rather than bemoaning the challenges, we continue to build on a solid base and develop a resilient team, delivering key support across our sites in Dundee and Glasgow and beyond.
This report outlines The Circle’s impact and achievements over the past year. We are proud of the difference The Circle has made and we will work to develop and grow in the future.
Myself and the board thank the many contributors, small and large, and look forward to continuing to support Kirsty and the team as an involved and supportive board.
Thank you for your time; I hope you enjoy learning about the many positive impacts the team have made, and that you continue to support us as we go forward.
Campbell Archibald, Chair of The Circle Board
What we do
Providing workspaces for socially minded organisations
Through our work with charities, social enterprises and socially conscious private businesses, The Circle has continued to support the people of Dundee and Glasgow. So many challenges society faced in 2022 have only increased in 2023. The cost-of-living crisis has impacted our community greatly, particularly the cost of energy. Amidst ongoing business closures and increasingly difficult economic circumstances, our community of tenants have shown great resilience. Many of our tenants have had to reevaluate their business models. The Circle has also undergone restructuring to meet the challenges of the past year.
We remain committed to supporting our tenants while they, in turn, support some of the most vulnerable people in society. One way The Circle does this is by offering reduced rental rates compared to typical commercial rates. The Circle’s tenants pay an average of 50% less than they would with a typical commercial landlord. Over the past year, the value of this has equated to £175,847.67. This means our tenants can redirect money towards their vital frontline services instead of the cost of rent, increasing their impact on society.
2 New tenants in Dundee
11 New tenants in Glasgow
£53,000 Funding towards enviornmental sustainability
42% Reduction of kWh used in Glasgow
87% Of 35,275 sqft space occupied across two hubs
14 Events hosted
How our tenants have made an impact in their community
Stories from our Community
Partners in Advocacy
Partners in Advocacy are here to help people speak up and be heard, and to make sure that their thoughts and feelings are respected.
The independent advocacy service is completely free and private, and anyone can ask for their help. They’re an independent charity, not part of any other organisations like social work or the NHS.
Partners in Advocacy have been a tenant of The Circle since 2018 and are based at our Dudhope Castle HQ. From this site they have helped the local community by:
- Supporting 104 young people in Dundee to know and exercise their rights which is their highest number of young people supported in a single year to date.
- Running sessions at Dudhope in-patient unit to support young people who are detained to raise awareness of their rights and foster better advocacy partner relationships.
- The advocacy partners supported had 129 additional support needs among the local community, the most common being mental health issues, ADHD and autism.
- Held a young carers action day with a stall run by Service Co-ordinator, James, which resulted in direct referrals for support.
“This is a new beginning. I am relieved the school has done something now.” – Local user working with PiA
“You’ve been a huge support to a number of younger adults who I work with.” – Local Mental Health Officer
“Thank you, I appreciate it loads.” – a young person whose partnership was ending but were told they could have future support
Supporting social enterprises to grow and thrive
Over the past year The Circle Consultancy has supported 34 clients on areas such as strategic planning, market research and financial sustainability. Our team has also helped our clients to review and enhance organisational structures and governance. The Circle had one pro bono client: Hanna and Vitalii from Ukrainians Together. We were also delighted to continue our place on the Just Enterprise consortium and to be able to expand our reach for this into Angus.
Stories from our Community
Community Wealth Building programme in Aberdeenshire
In November 2022, The Circle was approached by Elevator about an opportunity work together on a programme focused on Community Wealth Building for Aberdeenshire Council. The aim of this programme was to provide people with knowledge on Community Wealth Building and help them clarify their plans to better prepare them for setting up and managing impactful projects for their communities across Aberdeenshire. Over the course of six weeks, The Circle delivered interactive workshops covering key topics including legal structures, funding, property and social impact.
“We were delighted to partner with The Circle to deliver a pilot Community Wealth Building programme in Aberdeenshire. The high uptake demonstrated a clearly defined need to provide more support to communities to create and support new social impact businesses. The Circle’s delivery team expertise is exceptional and highly relevant.” Rachel Ross, Elevator
Training social entrepreneurs, charities, and community organisations
The Circle Academy is a practical and educational training programme for those interested in running a More Than Profit® business and offers the opportunity to attain a SCQF Level 7 ‘Award in Social Entrepreneurship’. It was piloted by The Circle between 2019-2022, with support from the Scottish Government, The Rank Foundation, Foundation Scotland, Mathew Trust, Brightsolid and Wells Gibson. We have tested a variety of formats, orders, timings and speakers for the programme over six cohorts of social entrepreneurs. More than 70 people have now completed The Circle Academy programme. These candidates came from a wide range of backgrounds, experience levels and industries. 8% of our alumni are in the fashion industry, 16% work with young people, 13% have a mental health focus and 19% have an environmental sustainability focus. Around 19% of our alumni had been employees of an existing organisation. 16% of our alumni had not yet set up an organisation. 44% were running or working for organisations that had been running for 3 years or less when they joined the programme.
This year, we decided to put the programme on hiatus to take it through some exciting developments and we will be announcing more soon…
Developing skills & confidence for the workplace
The Circle Volunteering is an inclusive and empowering volunteer experience with roles across the business to suit a range of interests and personal development goals.
The Circle Volunteering plays an essential role in our ability to create a wide impact on our community. Our volunteers help our team and tenants in all areas of our hubs. In return, they gain a community, skills for life, and support to build upon their wellbeing.
The programme is centred around our core values: fairness, teamwork, professionalism, pioneering, empowerment, and inclusion.
The Circle Volunteering aims to create a safe space for volunteers to gain confidence and experience by being accessible and inclusive. We help our volunteers find experiences that suit them and have created a community they can feel comfortable in.
In the past year we have increased our volunteer pool and widened our offering including roles in reception, administration, marketing, and historical research. We have also been able to work with more educational institutions to offer their students work experience placements to introduce them to the third sector as a career path and increase their skills.
Stories from our Community
Volunteer to Employee
Michael Aitkenhead, General Operative, The Circle Glasgow
Michael had worked at a fast-food restaurant for many years when he decided he would prefer to work in an office-based career. Without any previous experience, he wasn’t sure how to achieve this.
Michael decided to volunteer to gain work experience, develop his administration skills, and add something new to his CV which fit with his career goals. He started volunteering in a reception and admin role at The Circle Glasgow, in Easterhouse, in March 2023.
Because Michael continued to work full-time, he needed some time to adjust and manage his timekeeping with the support of The Circle’s team in Glasgow.
In September 2023, Michael was offered a part-time job as a receptionist and now looks forward to less stress and more time to develop his admin and computer skills.
“I’ve gained useful work experience in a sector I have had little experience or training in.”
The Circle Volunteering also works with schools, colleges and universities to offer work experience placements and internships to their students to provide them with an insight into the third sector as a potential career path. We’ve been delighted to work with some great young people over the past year to provide meaningful placements with experience across all areas of the business.
11 High school students
6 High schools
14 University students
Stories from our Community
James Clarke, Finance intern from the University of St Andrews through The Robertson Trust Internship Scheme
James comes from a Group +1 School (defined by LEAPS as a school with lower progression rates to higher education than the national average). Because of this, James was able to join a gateway programme into his Maths and Physics course at the University of St Andrews.
James then joined The Robertson Trust Internship Scheme, which enables students from lower income households to work paid internships in participating organisations to make work experience opportunities more accessible. The Circle participated in this and offered 250 hours in a finance-focused role. While James had no experience in finance, he wanted to learn more to expand his post-university options. He impressed the team in his interview and offered that his education in maths and physics would help him in the role.
“I see the opportunities I was given reflected in the purpose of The Circle. That is, to invest in the local community and strive for growth, progress and prosperity. My time at The Circle gave me great insight into the world of work, finance and community, and it is something that I will carry with me as I take my next steps into the future.”
James is now in his final year of university and will use his experience at The Circle to inform his career path.
Our Voluntary Board
Our board of directors is also comprised of volunteers as non-executive directors alongside our CEO, Kirsty Thomson. Each of them brings a deep wealth of knowledge, experience, and skills to help us develop The Circle. They are responsible for our governance, ensuring we always spend money appropriately in line with our constitution and that we are working towards our vision and mission. We are thankful to our volunteer board for their support during another challenging year.
With the cost of living crisis, soaring energy prices and competition for funding at an all-time high, we are seeing more organisations having to make some very tough decisions and The Circle has been no different.
However, after a particularly challenging year The Circle team have continued to pull together and work to keep delivering our services and support our community. I believe it is important to recognise that our work is only made possible by our talented staff team. I am immensely proud of what we have been able to achieve in the past year despite everything that has been thrown at us.
The impact being delivered by the third sector is more needed than ever but it is exceptionally difficult in the current climate. A focus on financial sustainability and adopting multiple income streams is vital to the survival of our sector.
I would like to thank our staff, board of directors, supporters, tenants, clients, partners and funders for their support in helping us achieve this impact across Scotland and beyond. I also want to acknowledge the contributions of our outgoing Chair, Donald McPherson and say a massive thank you for his six years of service on the board and for steering us through a difficult first six months of the year.
Kirsty Thomson, Founder and CEO of The Circle
Staff and Wellbeing
The wellbeing of our team remains a steadfast priority for The Circle. The past 12 months have presented some of the most challenging circumstances The Circle has ever faced in its seven years of trading. The rising cost of business, especially energy, led The Circle on a perilous journey to remain financially sustainable. The resultant outcome was one of last resort – staff redundancy.
The decision to enter a period of redundancy was incredibly difficult for The Circle’s leadership team. Our staff team’s grace, professionalism and humanity displayed during this difficult period was exemplary. Exemplary of what a strong culture has been built and fostered during our years in business. Our team has bounced back and shown great resilience to help The Circle persevere through the ongoing economic crisis.
The Circle is proud to continue to recognise our team as our most valuable asset and we must keep staff wellbeing at the centre of that.
25% Under 25
1 New start
Strategic Partners and Funding
Building strategic partnerships across sectors and with local and national government are key for us to help achieve our goals and influence important changes for the third sector and for society.