As each shortlisted group began literally to set out their stall, two things became apparent: Firstly, there was an air of mutual respect and shared pride between seven hardworking groups, different branches of the same tree, one of support and community in Liverpool. Secondly, it was clear that the competition was very, very strong.
As the atmosphere grew, representatives from Power to Change and M&S, along with members of the public, quizzed each group on their goals and progress. There was a growing buzz inside the amazing space of the Florrie hall as the Lister Steps representatives engaged with all comers, explaining the plans to leave the portacabins behind and expand into the old library site to continue to provide excellent childcare services but also to reach out to the whole community of all ages.
The pause for lunch, courtesy of M&S, was a last chance for best wishes to be shared around the room, and to try to hide the nerves however possible. Our work was done, and the almost impossible decision now lay in the hands of the judges. Out of the shortlisted 7, only 5 would were to be chosen. Just 2 of the finalists would be leaving empty-handed.
It was a great day, and an honour to share the room with so many inspiring people. All the branches of that community tree grew a little more today, some inter-twining, but all rising from the same roots, from the earth in Liverpool, and our common spirit to support others. As we set off back to base and towards the setting late afternoon sun, it was impossible not to feel proud of Lister Steps, The Old Library Project, Gaynor, Olivia, and all those involved, safe in the knowledge that what we are doing is great, and we are doing it well.
The Community Business programme has been piloted in the Liverpool City Region in 2018, as part of M&S’s Community Transformation Programme, in collaboration with Power to Change. The retailer is currently trialling a range of actions in Liverpool to help tackle the issues that matter most to communities – such as unemployment, skill shortages, loneliness, mental health and wellbeing.