In 2009, our predecessor – Aspire Foundation – an organisation dedicated to finding training and employment opportunities for homeless and disadvantaged people – discovered that its national government funding was to disappear. And its Board embarked upon a new journey.
Aspire’s objective was to build upon the strong links it had with housing associations and build a trading business where people could stay, develop and grow with the business. It would train local people up to provide the essential estate services that associations provided within their communities. Central to its ethos was building a business for good, one that provided quality conditions and quality pay, including the London Living Wage. Out of this experience, Aspire Community Works was born.
Aspire won its first public procurement, a second, and a third and more, competing not only with housing associations but with the private sector to obtain horticulture and grounds maintenance, window cleaning and other cleaning contracts. Yet, we lost as many as we had won as the age of austerity set in and employers paying well below Real Living Wages were successful in winning contracts. All too often the feedback was “you lost on price.” What we noticed – all too often afterwards – was that it was residents who lost out on service quality.
Our #BetterForUs campaign 2020-4 is designed to add our voice, the voice of lived experience of the procurement process, to help shape the procurement markets rather than respond to them and to work with all organisations that seek to maximise their potential to reduce inequality and poverty within local communities.
We believe strongly that public bodies can use their purchasing power as a force for community public good, helping to shape local markets and connecting them to the needs of local people in ways which, in turn help to strengthen public services, and not weaken them.