Highlighting best practice
Gary Pettengell, CEO
Empowering-Communities is not just a software provider, it
is a social enterprise. Founded in 2007 by Gary Pettengell,
the company provides a national service used by support
and enforcement organisations, assisting vulnerable individuals
and their families. Though the idea seems simple, Empowering-
Communities is unique in its provision. It facilitates communication
between organisations – from police and councils to the third
sector – creating a wide information umbrella for vulnerable
individuals, preventing organisations working in isolation
with limited data and potentially administering incorrect
management. Under this broad web an individual can be
enveloped in a multi-organisational blanket that can serve and
protect them. Gary discusses the simple yet brilliant nature of
his company’s service and its future – for wherever there is a
vulnerable individual, Empowering-Communities intends to be
there too.
What we do
In 2010 we met with the Home Office, who wanted to know if we could create a
multi-agency national database managing victims, offenders, vulnerable persons
and families. This was a task we could accomplish with our non-commercial
mindset that did not involve user licenses or silo working. Software companies
make their money through selling piecemeal systems to compartmentalised social
»CEO: Gary Pettengell
»Established in 2007
»Based in Great Yarmouth,
»Services: Helping to empower
victims, communities,
vulnerable people and their
families by giving the right
tools to the right agencies to
wrap support around them
»No. of employees: 23
»No. of users: 16,000
»Covers 50 per cent of the
police force areas in England
and Wales
»Accreditations: ISO 27001,
ISO9001, Cyber Essentials,
Cyber Essentials Plus
organisations. We thought it would
be more effective to think of these
societal elements as a complete
Empowering-Communities’ approach
aims to not pigeonhole individuals.
People are complex and cannot be
reduced to binary absolutes – we are
not A, B or C, but a bit of each. In our
case this can mean that an offender
can also be a victim of domestic abuse.
We avoid reductive labelling, enabling
support to be wrapped around an
individual who will have complex
requirements, be they victim, offender
or both.
Police, councils, mental health and
restorative justice teams, probation,
housing providers – all these community
organisations have their own databases
on individuals who are or could be at
risk. Such organisations traditionally
looked at this data in isolation. But
isolated systems will not help the whole
individual, only the aspect of their
life that pertains to that organisation,
meaning measures will not adequately
comprehend and consequently protect
a vulnerable individual.
If these bodies were to share their
information on individuals, certain
individuals would appear in multiple
databases across numerous sectors.
A cross-partnership perspective,
if established, can make it easy to
identify an individual who has mental
health issues, is in a vulnerable
domestic situation and could become
involved in gang-related activity. The
fact that at-risk individuals appear in
multiple community databases seems
self-evident, but there has historically
never been this multi-agency sharing
of information.
A broad integrated approach means
practitioners can know what will
trigger an individual to offend and
local bodies can pre-emptively enact
appropriate, protective, preventative
measures. The approach to the
individual is considerably more holistic
when vulnerabilities and protections
required are recognised using
wider evidence. With the whole
picture understood there is less
risk an individual will be incorrectly
categorised by an isolated organisation
and ineffectively dealt with.
More than software providers
We are more than software providers
– we are community-centric problem-
solvers. Coming into local situations
as outsiders with extensive experience
we can problem-solve without bias,
forging partnerships promoting better
results. We facilitate sharing and
risk management and educate local
organisations on how to address their
situations within a wider framework.
Organisations often do not understand
how their efforts contribute to the
bigger picture surrounding vulnerable
individuals. With information-sharing
it becomes evident that problems
are best solved by having more
perspectives coming from support,
protective and enforcement agencies.
It allows agencies to work clearly
towards an understood collaborative
long-term solution which will be
appropriate for the individual.
We specialise in enabling early
interventions, pre-emptively preventing
an incident, rather than finding ways
to deal with fallout – empowering
vulnerable individuals and the
community. By facilitating early
intervention we can improve outcomes
People are
complex and
cannot be
reduced to
absolutes –
we are not A,
B or C, but a
bit of each
Highlighting best practice
for individuals, save the country money
and provide social value.
Our clients
We have crime and disorder agencies,
schools and other community
organisations approaching us due to
our credibility, reliability and simplicity
of service. Our client organisations
work with us, helping to further
enhance our systems. We have
thousands of users who effectively
act as expert consultants for us as we
work to a constantly evolving agile
development framework. We are able
to capitalise on our clients’ input and
feedback, working together with them
in a unique partnership.
Clients subscribe to our service on a
geographical basis with no cap on how
many users can be in one location,
allowing a limitless network in constant
collaboration with one another – this
level of inter-organisational sharing
is ground-breaking. The system’s
breadth is now incredibly diverse,
from managing the complex needs of
prolific offenders through to individuals
who are long-term unemployed.
Challenges faced
When we created our Social Enterprise
most public sector organisations
were contracted to large IT providers
and departments worked with a silo
mentality. As a cloud-based system
enabling multi-agency collaboration
what we were offering was pioneering
and quite radical.
We won the hearts and minds of
practitioners who wanted a simple and
effective way to share information,
and we worked hard to reassure them
that our system provided high levels
Our goal from the beginning was to
be self-sustaining. We do not seek
or rely on external funding which
means we have complete control over
our operation and expansion. It was
a challenge getting started during a
recession but it has given us a dynamic
and agile framework – we are captains
of our own fate.
It required a big leap of faith for
some of our clients to adopt a new
way of working but our ideas were
sound and those approached saw the
validity of our aspirations and trusted
us. We are GDPR-compliant and have
many accreditations. From these initial
investors our reputation spread via word
of mouth, with no marketing budget to
speak of. Counties and boroughs now
approach their neighbouring authorities
and suggest our systems to facilitate
their own greater interconnectivity.
Our product really does speak for itself.
The next step
We are confident in what we do.
Despite its simplicity our system
remains ground-breaking and the best
system for the job, as attested by our
employees who have previously worked
in support and enforcement. We
intend to make this a global package
with Australia as our next step. The
UK complex individual is the same as
the one in Australia. Vulnerable gang
members, victims of modern-day slavery
– these are worldwide scenarios. With
our services proven to work at home
and with a social drive as opposed to
commercial, we see no reason to stop
our offering at our borders – we can
help more people and we intend to
do so. As long as there are vulnerable
individuals, Empowering-Communities is
going to be there to facilitate their care.
We specialise
in enabling
preventing an
rather than
finding ways
to deal with