Spotlight on Albyn Housing and Ayrshire Community Media CIC

Posted: 17 September 2014, in Member Spotlight

In the spotlight for two weeks (25 Aug – 7 Sep) is Calum Macaulay and Albyn Housing, a housing association social enterprise based in Invergordon and operating across the Highlands. Get in touch with Calum on 01349 855950 / and check out:

How do you do it? The building of our properties is primarily achieved through a wide range of partnerships. These include community organisations, the Scottish Government, Highland Council, our funders (principally RBS and Santander), other housing providers, plus all of the contractors, consultants and suppliers we use. We have over 3,000 rented homes in more than 60 Highland communities. Plus we deliver a variety of low cost home ownership options, such as new supply and open market shared equity, as well as Help to Buy. This year we have begun to use AEL to develop the commercial possibilities of our factoring services. AEL has been the lead body (alongside several other housing associations and advice providers) in the delivery of Making Advice Work, funded by the Scottish Legal Aid Board, for people affected by the introduction of welfare reforms.

What’s your personal motivation for being a social entrepreneur? To contribute to the pursuit of social justice, to make the world a fairer place in to live in.
What are your current projects? Affordable housing is our core business, so current projects include new builds in a number of locations from Nairn, in the East, to Kishorn, in the West, and Alness, further North.   

What exciting things do you have coming up? We are working with the Calman Trust to develop a 120+ bedroom, 4 Star hotel on Inverness Campus, with the primary social purpose of training and employability opportunities for young people. Also, we have a private sector digital health partner D-Health helping us develop a product that will enable older and vulnerable people to remain in their homes for longer, while creating training and employment for people on the fringes of the labour market. In addition, we’re the lead partner for a much larger scale welfare reform and fuel poverty related service, seeking support from the Big Lottery Scotland. Plus, we are in the early days of exploring possible involvement in windfarm investments, along with a few Highland communities.

Who do you want to work with more? I want to see us work more with a wide range of partners across different business sectors. We have a particular desire to develop co-working with the NHS on delivering health and welfare services to vulnerable Highland communities. It would be great to build green energy businesses alongside community organisations. And it would be lovely to see us work with private sector partners to build marked corporate social responsibility outcomes for them and new business opportunities for Albyn and the communities we serve.

What’s your biggest challenge? Growing the right culture for business success. We have undergone major organisational restructuring over the past two years, and this has been driven by the desire to become more customer focused and be a more effective business. Making the switch from ‘traditional’ voluntary housing movement culture to those ambitions takes time and persistence. And we are getting there, with some absolutely excellent employees and Board members achieving great results.  

What top tip would you give to other social enterprises? Give attention and resources to achieving good governance in your business – you are screwed without it.

In the spotlight for two weeks (8 – 21 Sep) is Robert Jacobs, Anna Marie Campbell and Ayrshire Community Media CIC, a social enterprise based in Irvine – video production, for private, public and third sectors and working with young people. Get in touch with Robert on 07515445797 or / and check out:

How do you do it? ‘Synergy House’ represents a Creative Industries Hub, that will help individuals develop during periods of transition: From school to further and higher education, during further education and higher education, into the world of business e.g. It represents a collaboration between, the private sector, public sector, third sector and the local community working together to improve quality of life, life chances and to retain our Creative Industries graduates within Ayrshire. For now, we are making people aware of our existence and making them aware of our ambitions.

What’s your personal motivation for being a social entrepreneur? To work with others in creating something better, never accepting this is good enough and to help others achieve greatness. Making money, for the sake of making money, has never motivated me. I want to create community ventures that create opportunities for people. These are opportunities to learn, to explore, to experiment, and to be creative and innovative. The ‘Synergy Centre’ represents a collaborative approach to enabling access to these opportunities, within a sustainable framework.

What are your current projects? We are currently working towards securing ‘Synergy House’ premises and are providing content for the ‘Big Screen’ in Irvine. Establishing ACM TV – which will output programmes for both of these projects – is another current venture. We’re currently networking with a range of strategic partners to explore how we can deliver services, in partnership, with other agencies in the short-term and on the creation of the new premises.

What exciting things do you have coming up?
Our main focus will be to find out if there is a demand for our proposals for Synergy House and the need for a Creative Industries hub, in Ayrshire. Furthermore, five programmes are in the making for ACM TV and the “Big Screen”. We are currently devising a pilot initiative that will enable ACM to work with Remploy and provide access to eight work placements. People participating in this pilot, will help us create content that promotes third and fourth sector organisations in North, South, and East Ayrshire.

Who do you want to work with more? People interested in the Creative Industries, Creative Industries Businesses, Business and Employment Support agencies, the educational sector. Community organisations in Ayrshire who see the potential in what we do and offering and want to work with us to benefit our Ayrshire Counties. We also wish to extend our Board of Directors to represent the communities that we serve, so please feel free to get in touch if you are interested.

What’s your biggest challenge? We recognise that the creation of ‘Synergy House’ is a very ambitious project. Taking this project from concept to delivery will be our biggest challenge yet. Our vision for ‘Synergy House’ will be backed up by our Business Development Strategy to strengthen our ability to attract investment and resources to deliver this venture. Not only in monitory terms but through in-kind contribution and partnership working of key agencies. We anticipate that this ambitious project will attract the initial investment required to secure the long-term sustainability of the centre, but before we reach this stage, we have to prove that there is demand and support for the project.

What top tip would you give to other social enterprises? Join organisations like Social Enterprise Scotland, FSB and your local Third Sector Interface, go to meetings, events or networkers and talk to others. Knowledge, experience and contacts are crucial to success.