Five visions for change, one year of support. What happened? 

In 2018 UnLtd launched the Pioneers, a pilot initiative to put the weight of the whole organisation behind a few game-changing entrepreneurs. The programme provides them with bespoke support to focus on wider systemic issues affecting the UK. 

These select individuals all have the personal vision, drive, and business model, that we believe could have a long-term impact.

Now just over a year on and we’ve had some fantastic experiences together. We’ve helped each of the Pioneers make progress with their ambitious goals, and learnt what more they need from us, and from society, to succeed.

Alex Smith is on a mission to tackle disconnection in a connected age, bringing together young professionals and older neighbours in cities that can so often be lonely and isolating for both groups. This year we worked to refine his fundraising plan and crystalise a long-term strategy. Inspired by his desire to promote the Cares Family story, we co-created the first episode of UnLtd’s podcast

UnLtd is now supporting Alex and the Cares family their new five year strategy to inspire people to build new connections in their communities by empowering a new generation of social leaders.

John Bishop and Graham Morgan’s vision is to ensure that every child receives the right support to achieve their potential, working with pupils in primary schools to combat the inequalities of poverty. 

We organised a roundtable with a range of industry experts, from healthcare, government and social investment, so Evolve could explore their concept for an innovative new style of public service commissioning, that would see them paid by multiple government departments for the value they create; Education, Health, Public Health, Justice, and Work and Pensions.

We are now helping them secure legal advice to understand the kind of contracting that would be required to make this work, as well as investment to allow them to have the financial sustainability to work with young people long-term.

Think for the Future’s founder Cherie White works with young people across the UK to tackle social and emotional barriers to learning.  

Cherie received bespoke advice on TFTF’s financial model and business plan, drawing in experts from across our network. This had an immediate impact on the way that they sold to customers, leading them to secure higher value contracts, and with new audiences.

We also helped develop TFTF’s social impact data collection framework to enable them to integrate it with schools’ data and improve their reporting offer to their customers. This will help them access new, high value clients, such as Multi-Academy Trusts, and therefore grow a more sustainable, large scale business.

Cemal Ezel is using Change Please to make homelessness a thing of the past. His coffee brand employs homeless people as baristas, goes beyond just providing a job to pay a living wage, provide housing, a bank account, and most important of all, in-house therapy support. 
In the past 12 months he’s secured amazing contracts with Virgin, bringing his products and mission to public attention, with coffee served first on trains, next on planes. 

UnLtd helped introduced him to industry partners. These conversations enable Change Please to explore potential new contracts, and also challenge unfair wage practices in the coffee industry. Looking ahead to what next, UnLtd will help Change Please upskill their core team, freeing Cemal up to keep innovating. He is also looking for help with setting up a sizeable Property Fund to enhance the support he’s able to offer their baristas.

There are more exciting developments as we’ve just welcomed a fifth Pioneer to the program, Immy Kaur. Immy is Co-founder and Director of Mission Birmingham, a ground-breaking organisation on a mission to help build a fairer, more equal, and just city. 

She and her team work in multiple areas of change. DemoDev is a project responding to the UK’s housing crisis by using new technology and open source systems to create homes. Radical Childcare asks, “if it takes a village to raise a child, what this modern village could look like”, so that families don‘t feel trapped by care that is unaffordable and inflexible.  

We know there is still a lot required to help these Pioneers – and people like them – to genuinely achieve seismic social change. We’ve learnt it will take: 

  • New models of funding – patient capital, especially equity, which would provide financial security for long term, systemic work. 
  • Help navigating complex structures & new ways of thinking – the Pioneers’ ambitions require them to understand and navigate complicated interconnecting structures (such as the education system, housing, the evolving job market), effectively working in partnership and to adapt their business for different contexts. 
  • Ways to bring others with them – as they can’t do it alone, Pioneers are looking for ways they can inspire other social entrepreneurs, as well as corporates, governments and civil society to be involved with their mission.
  • Leadership and wellbeing support – it is tough going against the tide and rallying others, alongside running a social business. Pioneers must create time to think at the strategic level and have good mentors to encourage & challenge them. 
  • Understanding of their impact & learning – as each Pioneer scales their impact to new geographies, services, partnerships, they need to understand how to adapt their approach and demonstrate the new impact they are delivering.

UnLtd can play a crucial role in meeting these needs. We want to ensure we are offering the right financial products and support that meet the needs of these Pioneers. We are drawing on our network of exceptional social businesses plus many partner organisations to act as trusted convenors. 

Our second year of the pilot will let us test how best to deliver the required support and truly change the world! 

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We interviewed the Pioneers, and met with other social entrepreneurs who are tackling the same problems, in our optimistic podcast How Do You Solve A Problem Like..?

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