Mutual Ventures

Case studies

Environment – Wycombe District Council


Wycombe District Council’s Woodland Management Service, led by John Shaw, was facing severe cuts and his team was facing the prospect of losing their council jobs. Not content to sit back and wait, John and a colleague, Tony Speight decided to take their destiny into their own hands and set up a social enterprise, Chiltern Rangers CIC. This project was about creating a socially-focused business based on John and Tony’s passion for managing the natural environment.

A year later, Mutual Ventures is supporting the team to develop its understanding of social impact and the different ways to monitor, evaluate and report this.

John Shaw, Managing Director, Chiltern Rangers: “I’ve been a team leader in the public sector, held budgets and run departments, but running your own business is completely different, and I knew I would need help.

There was a lot to learn along the way and the Mutual Ventures team was really supportive in helping me build the confidence I needed to lead the new organisation. They helped me understand the nuts and bolts of how to run a business, from market research and service design through to financial modelling. I am hugely grateful for their help, expertise, patience and good humour that has helped us realise our dream.

Their support was delivered over several months, which meant we could work as a seamless team to get us to where we needed to be and be able take on a five-year contract from the Council to fulfill the woodland preservation work that we used to do within the Council.

Since spinning out, we are intending to expand our horizons and deliver multiple contracts for a range of land owners in the public, private and third sectors whilst always maintaining social value at the heart of what we do – by engaging communities and bringing them together in the open air. We have engaged young people though apprenticeships and work experience programmes, and we now offer services to adults with mental health needs.

The mutual movement is growing and with the support of Mutual Ventures I feel very optimistic that Chiltern Rangers is moving into an exciting new phase – one rich with opportunity.”

Anne-Helene Sinha, Senior Consultant: “Mutual Ventures worked with John and Tony to develop the business plan and transition to independence. With increasing interest in social enterprise delivery models within the natural environment sector, Chiltern Rangers is launching at a time of increasing opportunities, which I have no doubt they are very well placed to secure. It’s great to see that such a small service, with just two full time staff, has been able to  successfully explore and implement an alternative delivery model.”