INTERVIEW WITH MARK MCKENNA, FOUNDING DIRECTOR OF DOWN TO EARTH.
Interview with Mark McKenna, founding Director of Down to Earth.
1) Who are you and what do you do?
Mark McKenna – I’m a founding director of Down to Earth, an award winning social enterprise based on the Gower peninsula, Swansea.
In a nutshell, we believe relationship centred and meaningful, outdoor experiences have the potential to change people’s lives… we do this through innovative and inclusive approaches such as creating remarkable buildings with natural materials and renewable technologies, outdoor learning & well-being programmes and also through adventure activities from our 2 hand-built centres on Gower…
Although our specialism is working with vulnerable and ‘hard to reach’ adults and young people, we also work extensively with business and corporate groups on team building days, CPD and diverse training programmes. We can offer fully accredited training and qualifications as an approved Agored Cymru centre.
We’re just completing a £1.2 million development on our second site on Gower – stunning training facilities built by and for the most vulnerable groups in south Wales, using the most sustainable and locally sourced materials you can find.
This centre will be 100% renewable and effectively off-grid by utilising the most cutting edge technologies.
We also work with other organisations to create remarkable buildings on their own sites as well as building confidence to get their groups outdoors.
What makes Down to Earth different is that we are innovating in education, health care and tackling poverty through the medium of being outdoors and creating sustainable buildings. With 3 years of clinical research from ABMU to back it up, as well as 7 years of externally validated research, we are showing that there completely new ways of delivering integrated services which are good for people and good for nature.
2) Why is this important to you?
I think it’s fair to say that we can’t carry on doing “business as usual”. I’m personally very passionate about equality and I see sustainability as a vehicle for enhancing quality of life and bringing about social inclusion, whilst simultaneously creating a world that exists in balance with nature.
New business models are emerging which show we how we can deliver this vision and social enterprises (or social businesses) are an important part of the vision.
3) What else can we expect from Down to Earth this year?
It’s our 10 year anniversary and it coincides with the opening of our new training centre at Little Bryn Gwyn, Gower (Big Lottery Fund Wales and Welsh Government funded).
We’ll also be launching our new 5 year “Building Sustainable Communities” project (Our Bright Future, Big Lottery Fund UK funded), we’ve been awarded just under £1 million to work with vulnerable young people 16 -24 years to create remarkable sustainable buildings.
And finally, we’ll be starting the next major new building this autumn, with just under £600,000 awarded from the People’s Postcode Lottery we’ll be building a stunning 2 storey residential centre with young people at Little Bryn Gwyn.
A busy year ahead!
4) What’s the best piece of business advice you have received so far?
Buckminster-Fuller: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
5) How can we know more about DTE and join in the fun?
Come by for a cup of tea to find out more or go to our website www.downtoearthproject.org.uk and link through to our social media pages or sign up to our newsletter, if you prefer…
This August will be jam packed with anniversary and launch events but you don’t need to wait till then – you can book a group on our activities any time, just get in touch.