Introducing the SUSTAIN Cohort
31 May 2021 - Imran Ali


Last month we welcomed the SUSTAIN programme’s inaugural cohort to an online induction event for their first gathering. The cohort has progressed through its first month, with masterclasses and action learning sets on Storytelling and Reframing. We thought, this’d be a great time to introduce this wonderful group of social innovators, share some of the challenges their organisations are facing in the recovery from COVID-19 and how they’re hoping SUSTAIN might equip them with new tools for growth and resilience.

Susan Moreland
Centre Manager, Scholemoor Beacon

We work with local people to provide activities, sessions and one to one support to increase the wealth of the local area, improve the health and wellbeing and to provide opportunities to come together. We are currently increasing space and opportunity by building an extension and improving the overall look of the community centre. Our challenges have included: having to change the way we worked, respond to constant change and be nimble in our approach; a reduction in earned income, as not we’re not delivering the same number of sessions; leeping people safe in the centre and ensuring that we are able to work in a COVID secure way; as keeping staff well and managing their wellbeing.

Tasif Khan
Projects Faciliitator, Tasif Khan Community Boxing Academy

TKCBA engages the hardest to reach young people from underprivileged backgrounds helping them achieve better and stay out of trouble using Boxing and exercise. It uses a holistic approach: mentoring young people to learn life skills, aspire high, adopt a focus and have a better start in life. The challenges we’ve faced during the COVID-19 pandemic have included uncertainty during the pandemic and sudden lack of resources, skilled personnel, volunteers and an overwhelming demand for activities. We require new support in pandemic appropriate governance, digital, media skills and measures to be in place to deliver our programmes efficiently online and in-person.

Katie Mahon – Artistic Director
Bloomin’ Buds Theatre Company

I am from a council estate and went to a special measures secondary school. I went on to study at University of Leeds, a Russell Group University. I have a degree and a masters in theatre. While at University I also won a business enterprise scholarship, a business pitching competition, a business plan competition and a Sir Peter Thomas social enterprise award. I use my story to inspire other people, predominantly but not exclusively young people that anything is possible through the medium of making theatre and exploring working class narrative on stage. We offer high value arts and cultural engagement to disadvantaged communities having a positive knock on effect on mental health and well being, job prospects, educational attainment and quality of lifestyle. 

The pandemic has been extremely challenging for us as we lost all of our face to face work overnight. There have been many moments of not knowing whether we would still be open each month. However, we now approach the end of the financial year and have in fact done slightly better financially each month than last year. This shows that even in these incredibly tough times we have grown, we have used the time to develop the organisation and receive mentorship from Alex Croft, Nicola Greenan and Alan Lane. We have worked hard to fight to keep money coming in and the organisation afloat and this is the kind of motivation and work ethic that is at the core of everything we do at Bloomin’ Buds.

Katie Brown
Managing Director, MD Connectedesign

I have built a company from the ground-up leading research for the public sector. Working on innovative services driving change for: Survivors of mental health distress, The Gender Pay Gap, Modern Slavery in Supply chains and Women in leadership. I put Human Centred Design at the heart of this work. Relocating from London to the North of England at the start of the pandemic with no opportunity to rebuild my networks. I had to develop tight and secure practices, learn new software, homeschool and juggle care for a pre-schooler and have been my family’s sole reliable income.

Ben McKenna
CEO, Solidaritech CIC

We repurpose your old laptops, desktops, tablets & phones, passing them on to asylum seekers and refugees to help them start their lives in their new country. The pandemic has seen our waiting list balloon and donations plummet, despite this we’ve pivoted to delivering doing more of what we do online and using remote volunteers. We’ve also been fortunate enough to receive the last round of EU Funding, taking part in the regional Refugee Integration Service.

Shaqib Juneja
Head of Operations, My Foster Family / My Adoption Family / Arise Learning

Our drive is to represent a BAME & Muslim voice within the adoption/fostering space in the UK. We promote adoption/fostering within the Muslim community to meet the present need (300+referrals to-date). We educate adoption/fostering agencies/etc. around faith/cultural literacy (400+workers trained to-date). We support vulnerable families/children via Arise Learning with mentoring/family/mental health support (200+to-date). Since the beginning of the pandemic we have vastly expanded the work we have been doing with vulnerable families/children. We have partnered up with Bradford Foundation Trust and Barnados and we have changed our work practices with a greater focus on vulnerable families in Bradford. Mentoring has moved online and we are adapting it for further anticipated changes.

Fozia Shaheen
Director, Dream Big, Aim High CIC

We are a new organisation set up in light of Covid. We work in partnership with other community organisations to deliver a number of projects e.g, End Food Poverty campaign, supporting families with food parcels, we provided 7000 meals to the vulnerable and those in isolation, we deliver weekly Mental Health & Wellbeing sessions which consist of 50 plus attending on a weekly. We set up in light of COVID as we felt post COVID there will be a number of people who need our support. We wish to develop a new programme of support for adult South Asian women affected by the pandemic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an increase in the number of women needing additional support. Majority of the clients we support have long term mental and physical health conditions, they are classed as vulnerable to the Coronavirus and as a result have been shielding and self-isolating, this has further impacted their existing mental ill health.

Nicole Joseph
Associate Producer, Freedom Studios

Freedom Studios is a contemporary producing theatre based in Bradford who make theatre productions in unconventional spaces. We work with the local community through our Youth Theatre and Artist Development and engage them in arts and culture as audience members and for employment and experience. Our organisation has faced challenges due to the individual and the wider effects and impracticalities of COVID-19 such as being unable to put on productions, engagement delivery moving online and constant re-planning due to updated restrictions. Our ability to deliver with young people who face specific challenges is heightened.

Carl White
Chair, Bradford Co-operative Association

We are a co-operative association designed to create opportunities for our members & the wider community by co-operative ownership & management of shared resources. Our creative agency has continued trading, but our cafe/coworking/community hub has repeatedly closed due to COVID restrictions.


We’re very please at the range of experience, the diversity of disciplines and the ambitious social challenges each member of our cohort is tackling.

You’ll hear more about the individual journeys of each of them in the coming months as we profile their journeys and the breakthroughs they make throughout the rest of the SUSTAIN programme.