Claire, tell us a bit about yourself…

A few weeks ago I turned 41; how quickly the past year has gone!  Turning 40 last year made me reflect on what I had achieved and in turn the kind of person I am.  It was a watershed moment for me, and most people, I suspect, enjoy a period of reflection at key times in their lives.

What’s special for you about CGT?

Community Group Training reflects a lot of me and what I want to represent.   I stumbled in to the voluntary and community sector some years ago and quickly realised that with hard work and determination I could do something that really made a difference to others’ lives.

What is it about the voluntary sector that drives you?

Working in Stoke on Trent for five years supporting groups was a privilege.  The people were so welcoming!  I’d spent more than five years living abroad, so settling back down was a bit of a struggle. The people I met and the time they gave was astounding and so my love affair with the voluntary sector began.

Who are the ‘stand-out’ people who’ve influenced you?

Frank at Tai Chi for Health – what  a star; I couldn’t help but love the way he wanted to help others.  It was infectious.

Jane at Schools Out Club – the way she grew a thriving social enterprise. Her magical skills in motivating others was inspiring, and a beacon example of tireless selflessness.

John at Holden Lane Residents Association – together we got that playground up in the end! His  absolute dedication to supporting everyone in the community is amazing.

I could go on listing group after group which inspired me.   I wish I could give a shout out to all the groups I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years.  I’m doing my best to find them on Twitter.

So, you’ve found your vocation?

Why would anyone not want to work in this field, when you get to work with the nicest people you could ever wish to meet?  So yes, I would second that.  After some 5 years I took the plunge and went on to work for a national charity ContinYou, driven by the great experience here gleaned here in Stoke.

What was different about the national charity experience?

A lot! This time I worked across a huge area covering the West and East Midlands and the South West. One day I could be in Lincoln working with Inam from Arabic School for All and Klaudia from Boston Polish Saturday School to name but two.  The next day I’d be in Birmingham with Karen from Ishango or Sendadin from Bosnian Supplementary School in Coventry. Then I could be in Bristol with Kweku or Irem in Milton Keynes.

What were your key learning takeaways from this experience?

There were so many – too many to state here.  But I suppose the standout ones were what I learned about perseverance, hardships and many new cultures whilst working with supplementary schools.

What happened next?

When the funding for the role ended and ContinYou ceased to be, the project went on to become an independent charity.  The National Resource Centre for Supplementary Education (NRCSE) then approached me to become a trustee and I was only too glad to continue to help.

So, back to CGT, how did it come about?

I’m the first to admit that my attention span isn’t amazing and I’m constantly thinking of ways to improve what I can offer to help more people.  During my time working with the supplementary schools I started to develop e-learning materials with the help of e-learning studios in Coventry.  Slowly the concept of Community Group Training was formed.

What difference did you feel CGT could make?

Through CGT I realised I could continue to support groups with development needs, while weaning off the reliance from funding schemes that I’d experienced in previous roles.  I also wanted to be my own boss and relished the challenge.

And what’s the biggest challenge for you?

The day-to-day!  Any business owner who says otherwise is at best gilding the lily (or extremely lucky!).

How do you square the potential conflict between business and charity?

Just to clear this one up, I’m not here to make money from the sector, just enough to cover the running costs and ensure we continue to support learners.  In fact, we’ve just agreed to give away £500,000 worth of training to small groups over the next three years.

You’re giving away £500,000 worth of training?  That’s ambitious!

At TNTA, the umbrella company, we have other areas of business including Biz Training Solutions and Online Housing Training which cover the majority of costs.  Eventually we want to have enough to develop a small grants fund for training which we can offer. So when you buy a course, you are making a social investment.

Our mission is to ensure staff and volunteers from voluntary and community groups can access training and be supported in their learning.  We want help them to help others.  That’s what gets me out of bed in the mornings!

Can you sum up your vision in one sentence?

I’m Claire Arthur and CGT – and I want to make a difference now, to create a better tomorrow.

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