Quite apart from helping people to achieve their Social Enterprise goals, I love just simply hearing the stories about where people’s inspiration for new social enterprise ideas has come from. It reminds me that there are so many different lenses through which we see the world and work to develop solutions to the issues we find.
So, please do post your inspiration/stories here for everyone to get inspired by!
I’ll kick things off.
One of my huge passions in life is connectedness - that we are all a part of something bigger than ourselves, and that we belong to one another. This has been massively informed and fuelled by working overseas in many East African countries, eastern Europe, Iraq etc, as well as multiple communities at home in the UK.
I am convinced that the act of linking our lives to others, sharing what we have, and knowing the names and faces of people who live in utterly different situations to ourselves, enables us to view to world differently and hold material things ‘lightly’ whilst putting the world back together one bit at a time.
In order to build more of this, my sister and I started a not for profit Coffee House and Bistro called HOME.
We wanted to create a ‘third space’ for people which became a hub of their lives - somewhere that was not work, or their accommodation, but somewhere else that they belonged. We also wanted this space to be linked to wider ‘family’, and so partnered with a great organisation in Kibera, the slum area in the city of Nairobi, Kenya. I had worked with them before, and knew that their aims jammed with ours - that everyone belongs and deserves to have all that they need to live a full and whole life. All of the surplus profits from HOME were shared with our partners overseas.
It was a real ride, and I’m sure I’ll share more of the roller coaster ride in different places here, but I guess that my main inspiration is that ‘we belong to one another’.
I love that story Claire. My inspiration for different social enterprises has come from various different places.
My inspiration for Angelfish came about a decade ago when I started becoming interested in social investment and thought it would be really interesting to have an open democratic model for making investment decisions.
There was a site called myfootballclub.com where about 50,000 people came together, chipped in some money and bought a real football club. I was one of the people and so I became a part owner in a real life football club called Ebbsfleet United and the entire community made all decisions democratically - including kit colour, sponsorship and the starting line up for each week. I thought this was a really interesting idea and I wondered if we could tap into that but make it much more socially orientated.
That and about a decade of letting the idea ferment at the back of my brain and the idea for Angelfish was born
I have always loved the idea of running my own business and I want to give something back. I grew up in a pretty rough area and I wanted to create something that would help other people who came from my kind of background.
That sounds really exciting, Sally. Can’t wait to see how you develop things.
I know what you mean Sally it’s been tough watching my town lose its old industries and jobs and I think new businesses are just what is needed to help people get back on their feet.
I see a lot of people have talked about deprivation and poverty in their areas. I was only 11 when the Great Financial Crash happened and the memory of all these shops and businesses closing down really stuck with me. Obviously the pandemic has sadly had a similar effect in some areas as well, so I thought now would be a good time to try and make a difference. After years of watching my dad work in the social enterprise sector I’ve gained a real appreciation for the amazing work that can be done there.
At the risk of coming across as tasteless given the devastating effect it has had, the pandemic is an opportunity for people to innovate and change the way we do things on a huge level (I’m sure a lot of us never expected to work from home anytime soon until it hit). Not only that, but there’s a lot of money in that kind of innovation, Amazon has done very well out of this whole thing for instance.
I just want to see that money and ingenuity go to good causes, to making people’s lives better, not just making some shareholders another massive pile of cash. I think that the last few years have shown people are willing to work with each other and make sacrifices for everyone’s benefit and I think social enterprise is a powerful way to do it.
I’m afraid that I don’t necessarily have as well defined an inspiration as many of you - I just know in my belly that business can be done better, and so where we can, we should.
All of your replies are very inspiring to me though!
Deffo, loads of businesses only really care only about profit, and while it’s important to make sure there’s enough money to make things happen, I keep feeling like business should be a force for good, not just a force for money you know?
I qualified as a :earning Disabilities Nurse 20 years ago, and through my journey in practice, and through the intervening years, I have seen the structural inequalities in place and the difference I and my fellow Learning Disabilities Nurses can make to individuals lives.
Over the last 8 years I’ve been working with others on making that difference at a population level in the Kent Surrey Sussex region with a Community of Practice https://ldcop.org.uk/.
We’ve always grappled with the distinctions between social and financial capital to achieve our shared purpose, that people with learning disabilities and their allies should live Healthy Safe and Fulfilled lives.
I’m really interested to get to know this community and see how this might influence our journey to our shared purpose.
Hi! Welcome to the community. It’s great to have you here. Your practice sounds really interesting, and there will hopefully be some gems that you can mine here, as well as sharing your skill and wisdom!
Hello Daniel, welcome to Angelfish! I’m very excited to have you here as disability services are a very important cause for me personally and an area that can really make a huge difference for people’s quality of life. Please feel free to message me or another member of staff if you have any feedback or suggestions on how we can improve the site, particularly for people with disabilities.
The primary inspiration for our people-centered business model was Carl R Rogers who believed that given access to necessary resources an individual could resolve their own problems, flourish and grow.
I love this story, Claire. Home/Connectedness. This is real #swoon.
Thanks Servane! Connectedness is what it’s all about, isn’t it. If I know someone’s name and story, they cease to be a statistic.
Hi Everyone! My daughter gave me my inspiration. She is about to turn 17 and has Autism & severe learning difficulties. She wants to work in a coffee shop but that’s going to be tricky for her as she is slow to learn, has communication difficulties and sensory issues. Noisy environments can be very distracting and even distressing for her. I have researched what is out there for her to do when she leaves school and the answer is not a lot! A lot of the supported internships are for kids who are more able than her and I don’t want her going somewhere to be babysat! She and her peers can definitely be functional members of our local community. They just need the right opportunities and patience. I want the community to see that they have skills and can be good workers. So, I’ve decided to buy a coffee van and will visit the special needs schools to train teens with severe learning difficulties, give them real life work experience and relevant certifications to prove to potential employers what they can do. All I need to do now is raise more money to buy a van!
Jennie, I love this so so much. It’s brilliant. My friend runs the Orca project in Melbourne, Aus, which is a work experience scheme for young people with different abilities. If you like I can connect you and she might have some handy hints?
Love it. So excited for you.
Thant sounds interesting. What kind of stuff do you do?