A rainy day on Barking High Street is where we set our scene. People are heading to the tube, opening shop fronts and taking their children to school. It may look like an average morning in the UK, but we hope that for these school kids specifically, their experience is quite different, thanks to the social enterprises in their community.
Social entrepreneurs and Big Local partnership members from across the UK, joined us in Barking on the learning journey, all with an interest in youth development in their local area, from toddlers to young adults. Big Local areas were well represented, with participants from Riverside Community, William Morris, Sale West, and Little Hulton.
UnLtd organises Learning Journey visits across the UK to give place-based social entrepreneurs the opportunity to meet other people who are facing similar challenges and experiences. These events are a way for them to learn from each other and form a community.
We kicked off the day hearing from Wayne who is Development Director at Every One Every Day (EOED), which is a growing network of projects and businesses across Barking and Dagenham. One such project is an exciting food incubator programme, another is about providing the tools for getting products shop-ready.
Throughout the day, we learnt from three brilliant social entrepreneurs who chose to use their confidence, skills and power to engage services that foster the development of young people in education. They work directly with young people in their close community that need a bit of guidance and to create positive prospects for a better future.
UnLtd award winner, Kate Shelley, presented to the group how she addressed the issue of poor literacy and low attainment among young people in Tower Hamlets. The solution she created, Tales Toolkit, is a hugely impactful and interactive resource for schools to improve pupils’ skills in language, literacy, social skills, creativity, confidence and empathy. They also provide support with boys’ writing skills, problem solving, maths and lots more. We also had an interactive session, with Kate getting people up and moving to have a go at Tales Toolkit themselves.
What followed was some really engaging conversation about how different Big Local areas could utilise this resource with the schools and parents in their area. There was also some great peer discussion about how to get a social venture into schools.
We took a scroll down to Barking Enterprise Centres to hear from the talented spoken word artist, John Akinde, who is developing Scrapbook, a project in its infancy that teaches young people about literacy through spoken word poetry and rapping. On the high street, we visited Stephen Addison’s new premises for Box Up Crime, a truly inspirational and ambitious man who has used boxing as a tool to inspire, educate and develop young individuals, specifically those who have been involved in crime.
John and Stephen live in Barking and are an example to the young people in their borough – both with gang affiliation and crime in their past, they now use their life skills and creativity to meet the needs of young people. Kate’s venture taps into the core educational and holistic needs for small children, so that as teenagers, they can use important skills of reading and writing to engage with the world confidently, bringing their own ideas to improve society. A very clear link was evident between all three of these stories: if schools (and parents) can excite and educate young people on the most basic level, their life chances will be much improved.
A sunnier horizon
The sun came out and it was reflected in our guests. The conversation beamed into all corners, cards were swapped and ideas were shared. The purpose of these learning journey days are to inspire, and also to encourage a community: being a social entrepreneur can otherwise be a lonely experience. Knowing there are people, some in your local area, some who are 300 miles away, with the same intentions as you, can comfort, inspire and potentially lead to ways of working together. No matter what stage you’re at in developing your social venture, there is always something you can learn.
We know that people in every community have the talent and potential to find solutions to social problems. We have partnered with UBS to launch East End Connect in Hackney and Barking & Dagenham. We will support 42 social entrepreneurs in these areas to start, grow and scale social ventures tackling challenging local social issues. Applications are currently open for this programme.
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