Interview with David Higham, The Well

| Helen Sharp

We recently spoke to David Higham, Founder and Chief Executive of The Well. The Well is a not-for-profit community interest company founded in 2012 by ex-offender and former drug addict, David Higham. With hubs in Barrow, Morecambe and Lancaster as well as sites in Kendal and Fleetwood, they give support to people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction through therapy, counselling, peer mentoring, employment training and social activities.

Tell me about what you’ve done David:

The Well is currently working with G4S on their healthcare services in prisons. This is a really exciting piece of work because they’re committed to changing their organisational culture to becoming more values based and have opened their doors to us, both strategically and operationally. Additionally we’re further developing our Maintaining Well social enterprise – creating employment for people whose expertise in plumbing, window fitting and carpentry had been interrupted by their addiction.

Who has been your greatest inspiration or influence?

Some of the movers and shakers in this sector – Dave Best, John McKnight – and the people who introduced me to them and their work.

The best thing about what we’ve done is…

When we started four years ago not many people had faith in our ability to achieve what we have achieved at The Well; we were not supported as much as we could have been, hence I had to use my own money to get The Well off the ground. Now we are being seen as real assets in the community that can enhance and improve services and we’ve managed to do this keeping to our values and principles.

What has been the biggest or best mistake you have made

Hiring friends to work for The Well. We recruit people who have been a part of the system, whether through addiction or offending, as well as people outside the system. One thing remains key to our recruitment – that everyone has a heart and a commitment to work within The Well’s values. However, boundaries can become blurred when working with friends and the conflicts of interest can create problems.

Did anything surprise you during the project?

How successful The Well is and how it has grown. It now has its own momentum. Where I once drove the project and provided most of the leadership, I have become replaceable because we have grown our own – there are many leaders now.

What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of doing something similar?

Trust and believe in yourself. Don’t enter this to make money – instead, go with a heart and if you keep to honesty, willingness and openness, you will last…

What’s next?

Developing more business opportunities: we are currently in discussion with an organisation which develops and supports social enterprises. It is integral to our organisation that we can stand on our own two feet without needing to sell out to funders who don’t agree with our values and mode of working. In order to do this, we need to fund The Well through business and at the same time, we are able to offer members of the Well, employment which uses their skills and abilities. The members of The Well shape the opportunities at The Well because it’s their talents which grow our businesses.

Tell us your favourite quote

“If you put your heart and soul into something, anything is possible.”

Where can we find out more?

Visit our website! And watch this video:

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