Innovation Exchange

Enterprising Minds


Key activities

Benefits and impacts


Enterprising Minds emerged in Spring 2014 with a clear vision of harnessing the assets and skills of people with learning disabilities, and those on the autistic spectrum. From visions and plans, real work emerged and that has been helping people with learning disabilities or those on the autistic spectrum to:


  • Identify their talents, skills and interests;
  • Get the active support they need to start their own enterprise or to make a contribution to their community


Developed by co-production and launched in partnership by Hansel, Ayrshire’s leading social care provider, North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership and Community Catalysts, Enterprising Minds has had a positive impact on the quality of people’s lives and developed enterprise opportunities in local communities. It also has the potential to be a platform for shared learning with others in North Ayrshire communities, and to make a contribution to the development of the local North Ayrshire culture and economy.

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Themes: Employability, Health and Social Care, Partnership and Collaboration

Proposed outcomes included:


  • People with learning disabilities or autism and those around them to be more aware of their talents, passions and assets
  • People  with  learning  disabilities or  autism  to be more  in control of their lives
  • People  with  learning  disabilities  or  autism  to  have  more options including the option to generate personal income
  • Increased awareness of disabled people as a result of local people and businesses working alongside disabled
  • entrepreneurs
  • Increased community activity driven by people with learning disabilities or autism


From the start it was anticipated that three different groups might emerge from the project:


Small Enterprise Leaders

People who wanted to start their own small business and make money.


Entrepreneurial Volunteers

People who want to start their own enterprise but not make money from it.


Community Innovator

People  who  want  to  do  something  creative  in  and  for  their community.


As the project developed another group of people were identified as potentially connecting to Enterprising Minds:



People who needed support from the project to contribute to their community or develop their connections.


A Steering Group called the Enterprise Connectors was established with the aim of engaging key stakeholders and harnessing the skills, connections and energies of a wide group of people. The group was chaired by Alyson Miller, Project Co-ordinator, with representatives from The Ayrshire Community Trust, NHS Ayrshire and Arran, The National Autistic Society, Job Centre Plus, North Ayrshire Council, Partners in Personalisation, Hansel and Community Catalysts.

Enterprising Minds has supported 26 people with disabilities to achieve their goals and ideas. Already 11 new ventures have been supported, with many more  underway.  3 enterprises have been started up and are trading, with a potential of another 2 in the pipeline.


Over 30 local businesses and community groups have provided excellent support, from mentoring to resources.


Enterprising Minds represents the principal of everyone having the right to consider enterprising activity as part  of  their  lifestyle.  A meaningful job, being self-employed or creating a community activity offers a network of support, connections and community relationships, it brings personal rewards and income with it which increase lifestyle choices, confidence and quality of life.

Less people engaging in the project than anticipated

Discussed with Enterprising Connectors Group who suggested ways to engage new and different people. Suggestions included several new contacts, different methods of promoting the project, advertising posters in each community centre in North Ayrshire and newsletter being distributed to a wider audience.


Families fear of benefits changing if the person they support begins to earn money and erson supported can feel disempowered and their efforts undermined and undervalued

The Project Co-ordinator took advice from Job Centre Plus and also Money Matters at North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership. Offered links to families to enable them to take professional advice. Stories of people who are successfully earning money were captured and shared.


It takes time to establish an enterprise e.g. Ashley’s Bow Wow Biccies has taken almost 10 months to set up

Support people to work through all the rules and regulations involved and to take professional advice at every stage. Throughout the lengthy process Ashley remained enthusiastic about her enterprise and continued to do what was required.


Social care professionals sceptical and unwilling to engage in the project. This can have a direct impact on the people they advise or support who are much less likely to engage with the project

Challenge discussed with Enterprise Connectors Group. Positive presentations about the project and its potential delivered to professional groups including Social Workers. As the project developed, we were able to share success stories and the benefits of being involved.


Slow roll out of self-directed support (SDS) in North Ayrshire in practice

Developed the project in partnership with North Ayrshire Council and had representation from them on the Enterprise Connectors Group. Worked with people in a way that maximised self-direction and used active co-production techniques. Developed systems and ways of working that can and will transfer to people who are using SDS once it becomes more established in North Ayrshire.


Not everyone wanted to set up their own enterprise

The project took a flexible approach and was always willing to adapt to what people wanted. Not everyone wanted to set up their own enterprise so the project responded to what people wanted and let them lead.


Enterprise Circles didn’t work out as planned

We redesigned the model to suit what was needed in practice. Lots of connections were made with local businesses and people and a number of virtual (rather than physical) Enterprise Circles were established.


Capturing the journey and measuring outcomes of people involved in the project

We designed the “My Journey” document to capture each person’s story. Evidence was collected in the form of quotes, learning diaries, data capture and reporting forms.

Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:


Engagement and Communications Officer

North Ayrshire Council

01294 317812

Case study added to site: June 2016

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