About us

Click here to read our Social Impact and Annual Report 2015-16

Click here to read our Social Impact and Annual Report 2014-15

Click here to read our Social Impact and Annual Report 2013-14


Our philosophy

At Tree Shepherd, we believe that everyone has the right to the self-respect, health and well-being that comes from useful and rewarding employment.

We believe that unemployment is the most pressing issue facing society. Its effects are more toxic than is commonly understood. Unemployment is a primary cause of homelessness, crime, poor environment, obesity, mental health issues, and depression.

We recognise, though, that for millions of people in this country work is but a distant dream. We believe that the real solution to worklessness is to help people create jobs in the areas that most need them and jobs that are appropriate to the skills of the people who live there.

We work with the natural entrepreneurial skills of local people and support them to transform where they live from places of neglect to places of opportunity. We help enterprises to start, develop and grow and help create the conditions where new jobs can be created.

The scale of the issue

Tree Shepherd Start Your Own Enterprise from Lydia Gardner on Vimeo.

Unemployment is also a much larger issue than is suggested by official statistics. Out of a total working age population of 40 million, over 6.5 million are workless. This includes nearly 1.5 million part-time workers who need more hours.

A lack of basic skills and educational qualifications is a handicap to a huge number of people. In the country’s most deprived areas, over 40% of working-age people do not have a single level 2 qualification (equivalent to a GCSE grade C or above).

Furthermore, lifestyle issues make stable, structured employment difficult for many. The Department for Work and Pensions estimates that over 360,000 people claiming some kind of out-of-work benefit are serious drug addicts.

At Tree Shepherd, we believe that the solution to worklessness, and the consequent social and health issues that accumulate in many of our most deprived areas, is a patient, concerted and committed focus on creating the right environment for local communities to create jobs.

COMPLAINTS: We take our mission and work very seriously, always operating within the guidelines of: Tree Shepherd Complaints Policy. If you have any concerns or complaints, please contact us so that we can look to improve our service and rectify any issues.

Colin Crooks, Chief Executive

Colin Crooks is the Chief Executive and founder of Tree Shepherd, a social enterprise focused on promoting and supporting employment and business growth in the UK’s most marginalised communities. He is also the author of How to Make a Million Jobs – A Charter for Social Enterprise, published September 2012.

Colin has a successful track record in establishing and running social enterprises spanning over 27 years, working with large corporate and governmental clients to deliver environmental and social objectives.

In 2000 he founded GreenWorks, which was the first business to recycle office furniture on an industrial scale.  In 12 years GreenWorks recycled and reused more than 48,000 tonnes of office furniture and equipment.  In those years GreenWorks employed hundreds of people from marginalised groups, including homeless people and ex-offenders. Before GreenWorks, Colin ran several waste and recycling businesses, all of which specialised in training and employing unemployed people, recycling everything from computers to white goods, and paper to plastics and metals. In addition, he provided waste consulting to businesses through his consultancy 3Re (Rethink, Revise, Recycle).

Colin was also a local councillor with responsibility for the environment and sat on the Western Riverside Waste Authority, a statutory waste disposal authority. He has a t various times been executive Chair and trustee of the London Community Resource Network, a trustee of Think Global, a council member at SEUK and has regularly delivered witness sessions for both the School for Social Entrepreneurs and for Common Purpose.

Lydia Gardner, Regional Enterprise Manager

Lydia joined Tree Shepherd in 2013, after 10 years in developing community-based social enterprises at the world-renowned Bromley by Bow Centre.

Since joining Lydia has managed the complete start-up training programme, the BIS-backed mentoring scheme, monthly network events, Lambeth Country Shows and Small Business Saturdays. 2015-2017 she managed a two-year NHB funded business incubation programme with business clinics and a new focus on setting up trade co-operatives. She has forged and cultivated an array of key partnerships and has been instrumental in establishing and bringing to independence the borough-wide Lambeth Forest Network.

In 2016 Lydia managed a new street market in Tulse Hill: Twist on Station Rise (GLA crowdfunding award-winner). She also managed Back2Business supporting lone parents and older-aged entrepreneurs. Additionally she designed a bespoke programme for young people: Start Out Start Up, supporting 18-30 year-olds, backed by Walcot Foundation. In 2017 her role expanded to London-wide. She joined the CEO as Senior Manager with responsibility including strategic direction, marketing, fundraising, partnerships plus project management.

She previously managed a BA degree in social enterprise programme with the University of East London. Prior to her work in the third sector, Lydia spent 10 years in the production and marketing of cultural television to broadcasters worldwide.

Joanne Hunt, Learning Manager

As Tree Shepherd’s Learning Manager, Jo’s main responsibility is to ensure that learners receive a consistently high-quality learning experience which is interesting, fun, informative and accessible to all.

Alongside experienced enterprise tutors, Jo provides appropriate information, advice and guidance to support entrepreneurs when planning and working towards achieving their goals and aspirations.

Jo has extensive experience in both delivery and management of a variety of training programmes within third sector organisations, including community mentoring, volunteering and personal development/employability.  Jo has supported learners from a variety of backgrounds and experiences to achieve their goals often against the tide of a number of obstacles and barriers. Training programmes are carefully managed with the ultimate aim of breaking down some of these barriers and enabling both learning groups and individuals within them to recognise and achieve their full potential.

Jo has a PTLLS teaching qualification and post-graduate level qualifications in Psychology and Community Learning.

Partnership Working:

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