The Reader makes the shortlist for social enterprise

Wonderful news to share from our HQ as we can announce that The Reader has made the shortlist for two prestigious awards highlighting the impacts that social enterprises are making both on a regional and national level.

SENFor the third year running, we’ve been shortlisted in the Social Enterprise Network Powerful Together Awards. For the 2015 Awards, The Reader has been listed in the Growth Award category, recognising businesses and social enterprises that have a track record of consistent growth in the Liverpool City region against the backdrop of a difficult economy, clearly demonstrating entrepreneuralism and resilience. A total of 20 organisations made the shortlist from 90 nominations, and we’re delighted to be included in the category – especially at a time when our social enterprises are expanding at our base at Calderstones, with the imminent launch of both The Reader Ice Cream Parlour and Storybarn, the North West’s first interactive story centre for children and families.

Natwest SE100We’re proud to have our impact recognised on a nationwide scale, as we have also made the shortlist for the 2015 NatWest SE100 Awards. 21 organisations from across the UK have been selected from 1,200 organisations signed up to the SE100 Index, highlighting the strength of the social enterprise sector and its ability to create both social change and economic growth nationwide. We’re on the list for the Resilience Award, alongside three other organisations from around the country, highlighting social ventures which ‘continually deliver positive social or environmental change and repeatedly achieve impact goals, keeping focused on delivering their mission whatever the weather’. The Reader is one of only two social enterprises representing the North West on the shortlist so we’re thrilled to be flying the flag for our home region.

The winners of both the Powerful Together Awards and NatWest SE100 Awards will be announced later this month, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed and wishing the very best of luck to our fellow nominees.


Award Season is Here!

se100 awardsFrom Natalie Longworth, Communications Intern

Last month we made the shortlist for Culture Champion at the recent Powerful Together Awards for Social Enterprises in Merseyside. This month we’re eagerly awaiting the results of our nominations at RBS SE100 and the UK Social Enterprise Awards, both national ceremonies that recognise the efforts of nominees from all over the UK.

Our very own Founder and Director, Dr Jane Davis has been shortlisted for the Women’s Champion Award at the 16th annual Social Enterprise Awards, nominated for the accolade alongside 10 other inspirational women. Not only does the award acknowledge the achievements of women working within their field, but those that empower and inspire other women to achieve.

We’re also delighted to announce that we’re in the running for the RBS SE100 Resilience Award alongside three other fantastic Social Enterprises: BELU Water, FRC Group and John Taylor Hospice. With 27 organisations in total being shortlisted in 5 categories, the awards highlight the strength of the Social Enterprise sector and its ability to create both social change and economic growth nationwide.

As both awards have been newly introduced this year, it’s an honour to be considered at such prestigious awards, but also very humbling. By gaining recognition in this way, it highlights and celebrates the work we do at The Reader Organisation. We’re immensely proud to be nominated for awards of this calibre, and hope it allows more people to find out about the work we do and inspires them to join the reading revolution!

The winner of the SEUK Women’s Champion will be announced at the Social Enterprise Awards ceremony on 26th November in London, with the winner of the RBS SE100 Resilience Award being notified on 24th November.

Fingers crossed!

Social Business Trust’s Social Impact Report 2014

PrintThe Social Business Trust (SBT) has published their latest Social Impact Report, outlining and quantifying the professional support it has offered to social enterprises across the country in the last financial year – of which The Reader Organisation was one beneficiary.

Utilising the commercial and industrial talents of a number of partners which include British Gas, Credit Suisse, EY and Thomson Reuters, SBT’s clear goal is to help transform the impact of social enterprises, meaning that more lives of the UK’s most disadvantaged people can be improved. It does this by pairing social enterprises which face challenges in scaling up their operations with specialist business expertise from its partners. Investment, whether it be in the transfer of knowledge, funding new resource or buying in new expertise to the organisation, takes a long-term view in order to help social enterprises grow.

For every £1 SBT receives as a cash donation, they invest £3 worth of grants and support in social enterprise projects, meaning that for every £100,000 donated, SBT on average grants £300,000 to social enterprises, and on average SBT’s portfolio enterprises have doubled their number of beneficiaries over the past two years. The Social Impact Report includes some impressive statistics: £3m worth of financial and professional support was invested by SBT in projects in 2013/14, with 144 volunteers engaged.

The Reader Organisation began working with SBT in mid-2013, with SBT investing £280,000 to help us reach and connect more people with great literature through the shared reading model. The support received from SBT has enabled us to grow in the areas of sales strategy, proposition development, impact measurement and strategic planning, and has allowed us to take two new members of staff on board – as well as reach over 13,000 beneficiaries.

You can read more about our work with SBT, including the perspective of the volunteers from British Gas who worked with to give us specialist support we have previously not had access to, in the Social Impact Report 2014:


Reading and Volunteering

Four women talk about The Unforgotten Coat outdoorsOur shared reading projects across the UK are showing that reading is not only good for enriching the mind, but has a profound social benefit. Shared reading in Wirral is bringing an average of £6.47 worth of social value to group members for every £1 invested, improving their wellbeing, and huge impacts of regular shared reading sessions include increased personal confidence and self esteem, social engagement and participation in the community. Evaluations of our work have shown:

  • 75% of group members feel more confident about socialising
  • 96% see the group as an opportunity to meet people they wouldn’t usually meet in their day-to-day life

Also, over two thirds of group members reported that they are more likely to consider volunteering or have become a volunteer since being part of a shared reading group. It’s not surprising that reading relates to greater social activity – a 2004 study by the National Endowment for the Arts in America found that literary readers are much more likely to participate socially than those who do not read, attending arts events at a higher rate and being over two and a half times more likely to do volunteer or charity work within their communities [NEA Research Division, Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America (2004)].

The Reader Organisation has a volunteering programme that is fast expanding, and we currently run a range of schemes across the UK which give our readers a chance to become more involved as volunteers, spreading the joy and social benefits of shared reading even further, often to some of the most vulnerable people in society. In our volunteering programmes in Merseyside and Barnet, North London, volunteers can go on to read with older people in care homes and those living with dementia, making a real and measurable difference to lives that are otherwise isolated. As part of our North Wales project, we’re building a bank of volunteers who will help us to embed a culture of shared reading across the region over the next three years.

All of our volunteers receive support and training from The Reader Organisation staff and as well as benefitting the lives of others can further their own development.

“I feel very privileged to volunteer with this group. The members are truly inspiring. It keeps me learning too.”

“It’s a responsibility and it’s a joy. It’s a commitment and it’s a privilege.”

Find out more about volunteering with The Reader Organisation in Merseyside, London and North Wales by visiting our website:

You can also read more about some of our volunteers and their experiences in their own words in our Reader Stories:

We’ll be sharing more about our volunteering opportunities in Barnet, as they expand to include two new projects, in the coming weeks here on The Reader Online.

Making a Social Impact: The Reader Organisation and the Smarta100 Awards

SmartaThe Reader Organisation has been shortlisted as one of the 10 finalists in the Biggest Social Impact category at the upcoming Smarta100 Awards, celebrating the achievements of small businesses across the UK that have the most original ideas and make a true difference to society. Click here to cast your vote for TRO – you could help us to win £1,000 as the category winner and the £10,000 grand prize.

The Smarta100 Awards aim is to find ‘the beacons of enterprising Britain’ – the small firms and organisations that are pushing the recovery forward. Having grown considerably in a short space of time, The Reader Organisation is making a difference to local communities, helping to improve people’s lives through the practice of shared reading and contributing to society’s happiness and wellbeing. The social impact we’re making connecting people through great literature is being felt week on week by our group members, who comes from all walks of life and backgrounds, ranging in age from six months to 103 years old.

VolunteersOur weekly shared reading groups are for everyone, running in settings around the community – so everyone can feel the benefit of sharing a good read in good company. But through this we also regularly reach the people who need it the most, who may not otherwise get regular social contact: people living in or at risk of isolation, people suffering from conditions including depression, anxiety and dementia, prisoners and people in secure forensic psychiatric settings, children in care and excluded from school, residents in care homes and hospitals. Through the sharing of stories and poems, thoughts and experiences emerge as well as personal connections, and a holistic approach to health and wellbeing is observed. The benefits of attending a shared reading group are far-reaching, ranging from gaining the confidence to do everyday things that bit easier to providing a greater sense of belonging, or even in some cases giving a ‘lifeline’.

It’s from our community of readers that the biggest sense of personal and social impact that comes from shared reading can be felt. Here is some of what they say:

“Coming to the group for the first time was not easy but when I did my immediate thought was ‘this is for me’.  I felt a sense of happy relief that I had done it.  The stories affected me emotionally and they gave me pleasure.” – reader in Brompton Library, London

“Since coming to the group I have found that my tastes have expanded and my confidence in reading aloud has changed for the better.” – reader in Wirral

“I […] was blown away with how the group and staff welcomed me like I’d always been there. This group has been a lifeline for me. I escape everyday pressures for a few hours every week and I’d be lost without it.” – reader in Toxteth Library, Liverpool

“I’m really happy to quietly enjoy – you can get involved or you can sit and quietly enjoy yourself […] it’s important, I feel, there’s so much enjoyment there – you learn so much from other people.” – reader in Cornwall

Read more of our Reader Stories on our website to see the many different impacts shared reading is making on individuals and communities:

The Smarta100 Awards are open to public vote, with the winners of each category and the overall grand prize being announced on 12th November. The Reader Organisation is creeping up the leaderboard but we need your help to stay there. Click here to vote: – it takes less than a minute! Voting closes on Friday 1st November.