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SEC4: Jonny Kinross from the Grassmarket Community Project

Mark has a chat with Jonny Kinross, CEO of the Grassmarket Community Project, to discuss what the project does and how he didn't know what SE was.


15th September 2015

Whether your social enterprise is customer focused or is positioned to fill a hole left by Britain’s dwindling public services, be it making money from consumers or through procurement, in the end you are giving back to the community. My guest on this episode knows this better than most people.

Jonny Kinross is currently the Chief Executive of the Grassmarket Community Project in Edinburgh, and as you will find out in this episode, he has a history of helping the vulnerable and disenfranchised through social enterprise, both as the owner of his own company and as the brains of the operation at a community outreach project.

The Grassmarket Community Project was founded in partnership with the Greyfriars Kirk and the Grassmarket Mission in Edinburgh. The aim is to create a community and provide sanctuary and support to some of the most vulnerable people in our society. They achieve this with a combination of mentoring, social enterprise, education and training so that participants can develop skills that allow them to achieve their potential.

The project is aimed at improving the life skills and developing the confidence of the services users. After visiting the project and hearing some of the successes and recognition they have achieved, I can safely say that they have reached this goal. These values are combined with a customer facing café and multipurpose art space which is available for public use, creating a unique space where community and society meet and co-exist.

Jonny is a passionate advocate for the social mission that the Grassmarket Community Project prides itself on, and his enthusiasm is positively infectious, as you will no doubt be able to gather from the podcast.

Highlights of this episode include:

  • Jonny talks about the Grassmarket’s mission
  • How the Grassmarket Community Project was set up and what it does
  • The way that the Grassmarket CP contrasts to other services in the area
  • That the goal of the Project is to reduce the social isolation that vulnerable people feel
  • The initial reluctance of the local community to the Project
  • The historical connection of the Grassmarket to vulnerable adults and homelessness, from the Kirk’s soup kitchens to the hostels that used to operate in the area
  • Jonny discusses the planning behind the Project
  • Jonny’s social enterprise journey – from being a social worker to services operator and how his different approach to social work led to him operating a social enterprise
  • How he started a business with a social focus but not knowing what a social enterprise was
  • The fear of non-profits to talk about enterprise and profit
  • Social enterprise should be offered to businesses at the start-up stage as another way to operate their business
  • Jonny’s journey to becoming Chief Executive of the Grassmarket Community Project
  • How having a good board is key and getting the right people in the organisation is key
  • Why setting up a social enterprise to save money is a bad idea
  • Social enterprise is about added value, and backing people who are driven by social change
  • Where he hopes the project will go in the next five years

Jonny’s drive and passion for social change is wonderful, and leaving the fantastic surroundings of the Grassmarket Community Project, I found myself buoyed by his outlook and optimistic energy.


Grassmarket Community Project on Twitter
Grassmarket Community Project on Facebook
Grassmarket Community Project Website

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SEC3: Social Enteprise Summit
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SEC5: Scott Ogilvie from Post Creative
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