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Karen Mattison & Robinne Collie

Together, Robinne and Karen created Cook For Good, a social enterprise that tackles food poverty and social isolation, connecting businesses with local communities, for the benefit of both.


“We were chopping fruit the first time we met,” remembers Robinne. “The second time we met was at an awards ceremony. I was the ‘foodie’ judge and Karen [Mattison] was the social impact judge. After that, we went for a coffee and started talking about how we could build something together.”

And build something they did.

All run out of a community kitchen on an estate in Kings Cross, Cook For Good offers free cooking classes, community meals and a surplus food pantry. They also host cooking-based team building experiences, sharing the profits (and the food) with local residents.

We caught up with Karen and Robinne to chat about how their very different careers lead them to create Cook For Good, the inspiring stories they’ve seen unfold since starting the project, and the advice they have for businesses that want to make a social impact but aren’t sure how to.

Here’s Karen and Robinne’s story:

Growing bold


“I’ve always worked in the third sector. I started off in more traditional charities, but for the last 15 years I’ve set up and run social enterprises that centred around women and employment,” says Karen. “I’d always had a side passion for food, but never thought I could bring it into my day job. When I turned 50, I felt like I still had one big project left in me and I thought it would be amazing to involve food in some way. And then, by chance, I met Robinne and the rest fell into place.

”Social impact work was new to Robinne, but it came at just the right time. “I’d always worked quite commercially, in corporate team building, and I’d seen how much the teams got out of our cooking-based events” Robinne explains. “Then I started to think about how much more powerful it could be if the food – and the profits – were used to do good. There is a real business need for people development and client engagement. So why not bring a social impact element to those things?”

Karen recalls: “I remember asking Robinne what the dream would be for our project and she said having our own kitchen that we could build everything out from and use to run our own programmes. That was a defining moment for us. You’ve got to know what your North Star is - it gives you something to work towards.”


“You’ve got to know what your North Star is - it gives you something to work towards.”


“You could say that 2020 couldn’t have been a worse time to start a business, but that period highlighted how much need there is in communities,” remembers Karen. “It exacerbated issues like paying bills, debt management, domestic violence, and cultural and language barriers.”

Although conditions were against them, Karen and Robinne knew that this time presented them with the opportunity to make a real difference. “It was a challenge, but everything came together when we found our site in Kings Cross,” says Robinne. “Here was an established community, that was ready for us to start making a difference.”

“Cook For Good exists to reduce food insecurity and social isolation by bringing together businesses who want to deliver social impact and a community that very much needs that support,” Karen explains. “We do that by running a range of community programmes on a social housing estate in London. We run a food pantry, a soup café and lessons such as cooking on a budget or diabetes management. We also offer programmes that focus on gaining employment in hospitality. All of which is largely funded through the profits from our team building events.”

And while Cook For Good is making a meaningful difference for the local community around it, business is benefitting too. “When the corporate teams leave, you can see that their energy has lifted,” says Robinne. “Knowing who they’re cooking for, meeting people from the community as they cook and seeing the pantry – you can see that it means a lot.”

“Everything came together when we found our community – they were ready for us to start making a difference.”

Bold but bigger


When it comes to growing Cook For Good, Karen and Robinne’s plans aren’t necessarily focused on growing outwards, but instead focus on growing deeper.“

Often with social enterprises, you’re judged by numbers. It’s about how many people you help. But numbers don’t tell individual stories and the depth of that help. We want to show there’s a different way of helping people – and that’s to see them as a whole person,” Karen explains. “That’s why we’ve grown Cook For Good in a slow and organic way. Working within a community and with people from that community means we’ve created an environment where people feel comfortable; they trust us, and so are more likely to access the wider support that we offer, which goes far beyond our surplus food pantry.”

Although Cook For Good’s growth has been careful and considered, Karen and Robinne’s work has still attracted attention; “We’ve been visited by Nigella Lawson, which was amazing. And Ed Balls came here to make a cheese souffle,” says Robinne. “We also received a wonderful letter of support from Gordon Brown.”

”Cook For Good’s impact matches a growing expectation of business to do more when it comes to social impact and meaningful change. “Not everyone can work for a social enterprise or charity, but people do want to work for an organisation that they can feel proud of,” Karen says. “CSR and ESG are no longer the things that you put in the corner and give no budget to. It’s become clear that doing good, working with integrity and delivering some social impact where you can is no longer just a ‘nice to have’, but it’s good for business too.”


“Numbers don’t tell individual stories. There’s a different way of helping people – and that’s to see them as a whole person.”

Fueling bold


For Karen and Robinne, the inspiration to continue and grow their work with Cook For Good is all around them – in the stories of the people who they’re helping.

“Once a month, we put on a community meal and that’s a real highlight for me” Karen says. “It’s made in our kitchen, by a corporate teambuilding group, who then serve it up just like it would be served in a restaurant. You can see everyone enjoying it and having a great time together. And you see how they’re changing their lives.”

“Seeing the results happen right in front of you is really powerful,” agrees Robinne. “Last week I caught up with a man who’d been to some our diabetes management cooking classes – he looks amazing and is so much healthier. He told me that he would not have done it without the help from the classes.”

And a tip for where the rest of us could find a dose of inspiration? “I watched the film “I, Daniel Blake”, and I found it deeply affecting,” Karen shares. “After that I just knew that I wanted to do something to help people caught in similar systems. It can be challenging, but something I’ve found useful as I’ve set up various projects is to look at a social problem and ask how you bring a business solution to it. How can you think creatively to solve it?”


A bold future


So, what’s next for Cook For Good? “We are producing our own beautiful book of soup recipes and stories,” Karen shares. “It features everything from a healing chicken soup to a Harira soup that is eaten to break Ramadan. There are recipes from our volunteers, community residents, corporate teams – as well as Nigella Lawson and Gordon Brown too. In a similar way to how we’ve tried to shake up corporate team building, we want to get people thinking differently about corporate gifting too.”

And Karen and Robinne’s advice to those of us wanting to do something bold?“

Keep your eyes open for opportunities and keep talking to people about what you want to do. You don’t have to do it all alone,” says Robinne. “Having that support and a great team is what drives you forward and will help you to stay the course when things get challenging.”

“I agree- I’ve learned that it’s really hard building an enterprise on your own. It can be very lonely. But we all need to find the joy in our work and a lot of that comes from sharing it,” Karen adds. “Also, there’s never a right moment and there will always been ten reasons not to do something. But don’t keep waiting for all conditions to be perfect before you take a leap – just go for it.”

“Look at a social problem and ask how you bring a business solution to it. How can you think creatively to solve it?”

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