Care professional of the year award winner: Joanne Mackinnon

on . Posted in 2016 Case Studies

Jo Mackinnon is proud and happy to be a ‘voluntary sector professional’. It’s been her forte since reading for a social science degree at Coventry Polytechnic. On graduation she volunteered for a local homeless charity before getting jobs with several homeless schemes, working with ex-offenders and young people. She then joined Orbit Housing as a project worker, became a manager and achieved a master’s degree in housing studies.
By this point she had started to specialise in substance misuse and recovery, and felt strongly that “I’d found my client group”.

So the opportunity to lead the Welcome charity as executive director in 2006 seemed both a perfect fit and an exciting challenge.
Welcome had already grown significantly from its early beginnings with a couple of staff running a drop-in centre at a church hall in 1999. Since registering as a charity in 2001 it has become a key access point for drug and alcohol treatment and support services in Solihull, helping people towards recovery and rebuilding their lives.

Much of this is down to Jo’s leadership. She is spurred on by the fact that substance misuse is still not recognised enough as an illness that often goes hand in hand with mental health issues, making it particularly hard to raise funds to support individuals commonly seen as undeserving of help, in spite of the harm they do to themselves, their families and communities.
Her time at Welcome has never been easy, a “massive learning curve” throughout a period of service and staffing growth, partnership building and activity, and commercial expansion that has meant Jo has had to develop more business know-how.

When Jo joined Welcome she was the only manager, with a team of 14 staff and a very flat reporting structure. The charity now has 27 staff and 12 volunteers but Jo has kept the same image of Welcome clearly in mind. “I never wanted to grow an empire. I believe in localism and our profile is very good locally as the ‘go to charity’. But we don’t just exist in our own bubble.”
As chief executive, Jo sees it as her responsibility to ensure Welcome makes a wider contribution and works alongside similar service providers. But this has not always been the case.

When the charity initially shared a building with Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust it seemed an ideal match of organisations both commissioned to deliver substance misuse services, but their different cultures sometimes proved divisive.

This all changed with the formation of the Solihull Integrated Addiction Services (SIAS) partnership in 2008. It pulled together the activities of Welcome and The Bridge (part of the trust) and grew with the addition of Changes UK, Aquarius and Urban Heard.

“When I joined Welcome we worked in isolation as a small charity,” admits Jo. “There are differences between us and our SIAS partners but we value our differences and work together to complement each other.”

Coming together to provide all Solihull’s drug and alcohol services enabled SIAS not just to retain local contracts but get a £178,000 grant from the National Treatment Agency to set up a recovery centre to help people rebuild their lives.

Jo was given the job of developing it through a new community interest company called Welcome Change. She started by leasing a church hall in Shard End and turning it into a diverse community centre and café that acts as hub for people in recovery as well as a venue for other local groups.

Next she got two Welcome Change charity shops up and running. Together with the café, these offer training and voluntary work opportunities to help people in recovery into employment, supported by the qualification pathways in computing, gardening and catering Jo has also developed.

Winning a place on the free six-month 10,000 Small Businesses growth programme run by global investment firm Goldman Sachs made a big difference to her planning, says Jo.  “Meeting a diverse mix of organisations – mine was one of the few social enterprises – meant we all learned from each other, especially about thinking commercially. It really made me more business minded.”
For instance, she visited a recruitment company that held weekly sales meetings and realised she could introduce something similar at Welcome Change to look at ways to improve its marketing activity.
But however much she’s learned from private businesses, Jo will not be tempted to leave the charitable and voluntary sector, whatever its challenges. “It’s never easy, but it’s my job to always have a positive outlook.”

She’s equally positive when it comes to people management. “I focus on strengths, but sometimes people are placed in jobs where their strengths are not able to shine,” says Jo. She always tries to find HR solutions.
And Jo – described by Welcome’s patron Caroline Spelman MP as “an inspirational team leader” – has clearly found her long-term niche.  “I can’t really see myself doing anything else. I always try to lead by example, and I love stepping into someone else’s shoes, whether it’s cleaning, running the café or serving customers at one of the shops.”
Secrets of success

  • Appreciate diverse organisational cultures
  • Be prepared to learn from the private sector
  • Don’t neglect your own development
  • Think positively and face challenges as a team

Care professional of the year award winner: Joanne Mackinnon
Jo Mackinnon is proud and happy to be a ‘voluntary sector professional’. It’s been her forte since reading for a social science degree at Coventry Polytechnic. On graduation she volunteered for a local homeless charity before getting jobs with several homeless schemes, working with ex-offenders and young people. She then joined Orbit Housing as a project worker, became a manager and achieved a master’s degree in housing studies.

By this point she had started to specialise in substance misuse and recovery, and felt strongly that “I’d found my client group”.
So the opportunity to lead the Welcome charity as executive director in 2006 seemed both a perfect fit and an exciting challenge.

Welcome had already grown significantly from its early beginnings with a couple of staff running a drop-in centre at a church hall in 1999. Since registering as a charity in 2001 it has become a key access point for drug and alcohol treatment and support services in Solihull, helping people towards recovery and rebuilding their lives.

Much of this is down to Jo’s leadership. She is spurred on by the fact that substance misuse is still not recognised enough as an illness that often goes hand in hand with mental health issues, making it particularly hard to raise funds to support individuals commonly seen as undeserving of help, in spite of the harm they do to themselves, their families and communities.
Her time at Welcome has never been easy, a “massive learning curve” throughout a period of service and staffing growth, partnership building and activity, and commercial expansion that has meant Jo has had to develop more business know-how.

When Jo joined Welcome she was the only manager, with a team of 14 staff and a very flat reporting structure. The charity now has 27 staff and 12 volunteers but Jo has kept the same image of Welcome clearly in mind. “I never wanted to grow an empire. I believe in localism and our profile is very good locally as the ‘go to charity’. But we don’t just exist in our own bubble.”

As chief executive, Jo sees it as her responsibility to ensure Welcome makes a wider contribution and works alongside similar service providers. But this has not always been the case.
When the charity initially shared a building with Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust it seemed an ideal match of organisations both commissioned to deliver substance misuse services, but their different cultures sometimes proved divisive.

This all changed with the formation of the Solihull Integrated Addiction Services (SIAS) partnership in 2008. It pulled together the activities of Welcome and The Bridge (part of the trust) and grew with the addition of Changes UK, Aquarius and Urban Heard.
“When I joined Welcome we worked in isolation as a small charity,” admits Jo. “There are differences between us and our SIAS partners but we value our differences and work together to complement each other.”

Coming together to provide all Solihull’s drug and alcohol services enabled SIAS not just to retain local contracts but get a £178,000 grant from the National Treatment Agency to set up a recovery centre to help people rebuild their lives.

Jo was given the job of developing it through a new community interest company called Welcome Change. She started by leasing a church hall in Shard End and turning it into a diverse community centre and café that acts as hub for people in recovery as well as a venue for other local groups.

Next she got two Welcome Change charity shops up and running. Together with the café, these offer training and voluntary work opportunities to help people in recovery into employment, supported by the qualification pathways in computing, gardening and catering Jo has also developed.

Winning a place on the free six-month 10,000 Small Businesses growth programme run by global investment firm Goldman Sachs made a big difference to her planning, says Jo.  “Meeting a diverse mix of organisations – mine was one of the few social enterprises – meant we all learned from each other, especially about thinking commercially. It really made me more business minded.”
For instance, she visited a recruitment company that held weekly sales meetings and realised she could introduce something similar at Welcome Change to look at ways to improve its marketing activity.
But however much she’s learned from private businesses, Jo will not be tempted to leave the charitable and voluntary sector, whatever its challenges. “It’s never easy, but it’s my job to always have a positive outlook.”
She’s equally positive when it comes to people management. “I focus on strengths, but sometimes people are placed in jobs where their strengths are not able to shine,” says Jo. She always tries to find HR solutions.

And Jo – described by Welcome’s patron Caroline Spelman MP as “an inspirational team leader” – has clearly found her long-term niche.  “I can’t really see myself doing anything else. I always try to lead by example, and I love stepping into someone else’s shoes, whether it’s cleaning, running the café or serving customers at one of the shops.”

Secrets of success

  • Appreciate diverse organisational cultures
  • Be prepared to learn from the private sector
  • Don’t neglect your own development
  • Think positively and face challenges as a team

Our Partners

Parnters-solccgBSMHFTParnters-solcouncilParnters-hoengWMAS NHS FT

Sign up for our newsletter

* indicates required