Wales Co-operative Centre

Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru

Kelly’s brilliant leadership recognised at awards ceremony

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Today, the winners of this year’s Leading Wales Awards have been announced at a prestigious ceremony at Cardiff’s Hilton hotel.

As sponsor of the Social Enterprise Category, in partnership with Social Firms Wales, the Wales Co-operative Centre recognises that strong, visionary leadership is a key driver in the growth and sustainability of social enterprises and has a major impact on their contribution to the Welsh economy.

Celebrating their 10th year, the Awards are well established, high profile and truly pan-Wales. In the current challenging economic climate, it is even more important to seek out and identify all those people whose leadership is making a real difference.

A few weeks ago I was privileged to be on the judging panel for the Social Enterprise category, alongside Ben Cottam, Head of ACCA Cymru Wales, Vina Patel, Social and Corporate Governance Advisor at Social Firms Wales, and Robert Chapman, Director of Robert Chapman & Company.

We were looking for a winner whose leadership is making a real difference to social enterprise in Wales, impacting positively on driving forward their community or business. We wanted to choose someone who not only provided inspiration to their team, but who could also be a role model for the sector.

The panel chose Kelly Davies as winner of the Social Enterprise category, the driving force behind Vi-Ability. Kelly’s vision when she founded Vi-Ability five years ago was for every community to have a thriving and financially stable football club at its heart, providing opportunities for young people to develop skills and broaden their horizons. In essence, Kelly saw an opportunity to use football as a way to engage with young people and offer them training, work placements, volunteering opportunities and apprenticeships. At the same time, by utilising the skills and enthusiasm of these young people, the clubs themselves became stronger and more sustainable.

Kelly Davies with her award at today's ceremony.

Kelly Davies with her award at today’s ceremony.

Vi-Ability has had an impressive impact. 879 young people have benefitted from the core ten-week educational programme, 88% of whom have gone on to secure full-time employment. However, what gave Kelly the edge in the Leading Wales Awards was that even though she has clearly found a winning formula, she is not content with the status quo and is looking for ways to expand the organisation. Having begun in North Wales, Vi-Ability has already expanded into south Wales, England, Italy, Sweden, Germany, Holland and Spain. She has recently developed the model to include other sports – hockey, cricket, swimming and tennis – and has just returned from a trip to India to explore the possibility of replicating the model there as a social franchise. More excitingly, Vi-Ability has secured investment to develop a ‘Football CEO’ game to launch online and is also developing a sports recycling unit – both of which will create new and unrestricted income streams which will be reinvested in the business to create even greater social impact in the future.

As judges, we were impressed with Kelly’s determination to continuously expand and develop the organisation, not simply as an end in itself, but as a means of reaching out to more and more young people and widening the impact of Vi-Ability’s social mission.

Social Enterprise leaders like Kelly are vitally important to the sector. They galvanise organisations, stimulating them to grow and bringing about positive, high impact social change. This was backed up, when people from social enterprises won in two other categories at the ceremony. Alan Gray of Monwel Ltd took the Team Leader prize, while Adrian Morgan of Cornelly and District Development Trust won the ‘Leadership for the future’ category.

Written by Catherine Evans

June 5, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Posted in social enterprise

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