Kibble’s most distinguishing feature is our uniquely integrated array of services which is delivered through a social enterprise approach.

Perhaps this would be harder to deliver within other organisational models, but we consider that well-run social enterprises offer the child and youth care sector a model that brings in strong business disciplines while retaining at their heart the passion and purpose essential to meet their social mission.

Our 21st century model has evolved over time and is underpinned by strong national and international research, evaluation and social innovation.

Kibble’s Foundations

Miss Elizabeth Kibble wrote her Last Will and Testament in 1840, in which she set out instructions for money to be used: ‘to found and endow, in Paisley, an Institution for the purpose of reclaiming youthful offenders against the laws’. A trust was established, comprising local clergymen, businessmen and the Sheriff, and after 17 years of fundraising and planning, ground was purchased on the outskirts of Paisley, building commenced and the Miss Elizabeth Kibble Reformatory Institution was officially opened two years later in July 1859.

Kibble’s operating model at that time was to take young boys and men from the local ragged school or from prison and provide them with accommodation, education and vocational training in the trades of the day (carpentry, shoemaking, farming, tailoring).

Our record books from the 1860s tell us that fees were charged to Scottish burghs, and sales from the produce of the boys’ work helped finance the organisation’s running costs. This mix of sales, fee income and philanthropy is a wonderful example of a Victorian blended income stream – regarded by many as the holy grail of social enterprise today.

In August 1859, we learn of Kibble’s first marketing campaign.

Two hundred copies of ‘The Rules’ were printed. One was to be sent to each of the Clerks of the Criminal Court of Renfrewshire and to the Clerks of the principal courts of neighbouring counties along with ‘a circular intimating that the Institution is now open for the reception of boys and requesting that the communication may be laid before the magistrates’.

The shift away from independence to a centralised funding model occurred during the 20th Century, principally with the introduction of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937, and this approach became the model for charitably run public service delivery for most of the 20th Century. However, in 1995 local government reorganisation meant that Kibble’s 100% grant funding, together with local and central government administrative control, were removed and the organisation was faced with the stark realisation that if it was going to have any chance of survival it would need to reinvent itself.

In 1995, the senior management team and board of trustees began a period of formal business planning and the decision was taken to form a separate trading company with its own board, with Miss Elizabeth Kibble’s Trust retaining its role of guidance and governance. Kibble Education and Care Centre (a company limited by guarantee with charitable status) was formed in 1995 and a local retired lawyer, James Jack MBE, was invited to form the Board of this new operating company. James Jack’s foresight and shrewd business sense together with his unfailing commitment to his role as Chairman were pivotal in providing strong leadership in the early days. Critical was his decision to bring the four members of the senior staff on to the board as executive directors to ensure shared decision-making, risk and commitment.

The Development of Social Enterprise

Around the time of the millennium, social enterprise was beginning to attract more attention nationally and internationally, and in the UK, the Social Enterprise Unit was created within the Department of Trade and Industry. In 2003, we entered a competition by the New Statesman to find the UK’s social enterprise of the year. Much to our surprise we won this award. This thrust us into the spotlight, not only in the UK, but also in North America, since the Social Enterprise of the Year award included attendance at the Social Enterprise Alliance conference in San Francisco. This opened up a huge network for us and was also pivotal in giving us the courage to drive forward some of our ideas, particularly in relation to developing our training and employment activities for young people leaving care or custody.

Our KibbleWorks social enterprises were effectively modelled on North American organisations including Juma Enterprises, Homeboy Industries, and our transitional jobs model was pioneered by REDF in California.

These links and networks continue to form a key plank of our ongoing social enterprise development. It is interesting to note, however, that we have come across very few child and youth care organisations, nationally or internationally, who would describe themselves as ‘social enterprises’.