GRoW

Greyfriars Recycling of Wood is the longest running and most developed training programme offered by GCP. GRoW started in summer 2006 as an informal woodwork training programme in a small portacabin in Greyfriars Graveyard with a special emphasis on sustainability and the recycling of wood. In spring 2009, with the help of funding by Lankelly Chase[1], Awards for All and the Agnes Hunter Trust, GRoW took a giant step forward and has developed into a booming social enterprise seeing an average of 10.7 trainee volunteers in the workshop per day; operating 4 full days a week.

GRoW has become a positive mix of sanctuary, support and skills training and for many it provides an empowering alternative to wandering the street, social drinking or other harmful activities. Regularly individuals come into GRoW looking for something to occupy them but very quickly get excited with their own potential and begin exploring the idea of a career or hobby in woodwork. This is exemplified in the example of Alistair, a volunteer trainee who came to GRoW initially through boredom but now spends his time outside of GRoW in Edinburgh’s Central Library reading books about woodwork and pyrography.

 The programme is designed around repairing people’s image of themselves, repairing their ability to work with others and repairing their relationship with the wider community.  Many new volunteer trainees are given a simple but attractive project they can finish in a day, such as a clock or candle holder, eventually working up to a larger project that is contributed to by a group of people. Because the products are for sale, there are frequent visitors to the project allowing the volunteer trainees see their work being sold and hear customers’ comments. Many times volunteers get to meet the buyers of their woodwork. An example of this is Charles, a volunteer trainee, who had the experience of a customer buying a bowl he had made on the lathe while he was in the workshop. The customer was introduced to Charles and praised his work. He was ecstatic and without words for half an hour and spent the rest of the week telling everyone about it. This showed Charles that his skills were valued by the wider community. These three aspects of the project are purposefully designed in this manner to meet the social aims set forward.

The workshop has been set up as a Social Enterprise, attempting to meet both social and financial aims. To this end, GRoW sells the items produced in the workshop, primarily through commissions and stalls at community groups and churches. As a social enterprise the workshop has set out a rigorous business plan aiming to be self sustainable at the end of year 3.  Winter 2009/2010 GRoW was featured in the Scotland on Sunday[2], Edinburgh Evening News[3] and Edinburgh’s Pulse[4] magazine as well as on BBC’s Reporting Scotland[5], Radio Cafe[6] and Radio Scotland.[7] This publicity helped skyrocket GRoW’s sales and has placed it on the course of exceeding its year 1 financial target.[8] Although GRoW will easily reached its year one financial target GRoW is currently working with a marketing consultant to identify additional outlets to generate increased sales in years two and three as the financial target rises.  The social enterprise model is new for GCP and as a result of the success of GRoW GCP believes that it can be a model for the other training programs in the future.


[1] £58,000 distributed over three years

[2] 4 Oct 2009

[3] 28 Oct 2009

[4] Feb 2010

[5] 16 Oct 2009

[6] 6 Jan 2010

[7] 10 Oct 2009

[8] £8000 in net sales, targets for years two and three grow exponentially. Year one is May 2008-May 2009

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