When Andrew Mawson arrived in Bromley-by-Bow, east London, in 1984, the agencies that were supposed to be helping local people were, he says, characterised by 'a lot of management committees and a lot of sitting around drinking coffee'. He continues: 'When I went to see Karen over the road, who was living in a deprived council estate, wondering where her children's next meal was coming from, I realised that none of the talking was actually doing anything for her.'
The story helps explain how the Reverend Mawson, who had just taken charge of the local United Reformed Church, came to found a Healthy Living Centre that has become the heart of the local community, employing more than 100 people and offering a wide range of services from medical treatment to training, nursery facilities and even garden allotments. It also led to Mawson becoming an evangelist for a new creed: that of the social entrepreneur.
'We have got to back people with ideas,' he says. 'It's all about delivering to people who really need support and assistance, and not just talking.'