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Emerging BME Entrepreneurs
Voice4Change England are working with the School for Social Entrepreneurs on the ECAP project to bring you inspiring stories of young, emerging BME social entrepreneurs and how they hope to change the world!
Meet the fantastic young BME entrepreneurs who tell us how the programme at Social for Social Entrepreneurs has helped them bring their ideas to fruition.
Bilal Dunn believes 'that given the opportunity to do good, most people will do good.' In 2010, Bilal founded The Noor Initiative, a social enterprise, to support and liberate young offenders to begin a transitional journey that is free from crime and imprisonment and take on to life development programmes. Based in London, The Noor Initiative runs educational programmes by means of arts and social media, offering training and support to a growing number of young offenders within the country's Young Offender and Adult Prison Institutions.
Being a young offender himself, Bilal had spent much of his adolescent years in Young Offenders Institutions and care establishments. He clearly understands the dynamics of the lives lived in these institutions. Issues that relate to mental health of young offenders, deaths in custody and the impact of such tragedies on offenders' families are much too serious social issues to ignore. The wider adverse social impact is impossible to measure, breaking social bonds and community safety. Bilal feels that 'inclusion' is the only way forward. For Bilal, The Noor Initiative is a 'hook' providing a connection to young offenders to live inclusive and purposeful lives.
During his imprisonment, Bilal received legal training with a distinction in Prison Law. He also worked with local authorities supporting them to identify and tackle problematic offending by organising workshops within the prisons. Young offenders had the opportunity to meet with officials and pose questions, as well as share concerns related to their confinements. It helped many young offenders to understand the process of their release.
Bilal's experience led him to campaign for reforms in prison education. He worked with UNLOCK (The National Association of Reformed Offenders) answering queries relating to Prison Law and Reform Policy via their advice service. It was this experience with a third sector organisation, and his passion to reform prison education, that inspired Bilal to establish The Noor Initiative.
The Noor Initiative runs various workshops and training programmes to support young offenders. Its crime diversion programme 'Separate Ways' tackles the issue of gang and firearm culture through a series of accredited techniques, seminars, media projects and mentoring schemes. Young offenders are encouraged to share their experiences. This helps in developing a collective understanding and analysis of the problems young people are facing in the society and in prison. 'The Youth Inclusion and Development Programme' is developed as an education hub. Working with small groups of 4-6 students, the programme provides training in furthering understanding of digital media, script writing and film production.
The Noor Initiative is also being recognised as a trusted partner by various corporate institutions including The Longford Trust and the Sainsbury Family. Their partnership with The Open Bank Project offers scholarships, supported by corporations, to successful graduates of The Noor Initiative. The scholarships are provided to help students with financing university education either in The London School of Economics and Political Science, Goldsmiths or Queen Mary University of London.
Bilal's experience of the Enterprising Community Advisors Programme (ECAP) has been 'absolutely amazing'. He believes that School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) provides its students an atmosphere of co-learning where they can help each other, share ideas and anxieties related to their businesses and find solutions. 'It (SSE) has given us the benefit of learning together.' In addition to the valuable knowledge and understanding of developing and refining business models, serious value propositions and measuring the social impact, ECAP programme provides the most crucial signposting to relevant institutions for further support. For Bilal, SSE encouraged him to focus on how things will work, as oppose to counting the challenges.
'When I joined SSE, my project was at a start-up stage. I sat down with another student, and he said to me, you know what, we need to be honest about our own shortcomings and recognise where we are at with our projects. I took that advice from him, recognised the shortcomings of my project and gradually resolved many. I developed so much more because of this.'
The Noor Initiative envisions to continue to refine its ways and develop more in-depth innovative support packages to help young offenders recognise their potential and live meaningful lives free from fear and prejudice.
Read more about www.thenoorinitiative.org
Naomi Mwasambili runs Community Therapies and Training Service (CTTS), a social enterprise based in London. CTTS use social innovation to help people feel better, feel happier and lead fulfilled lives. Through various workshops, groups and one-to-one sessions, CTTS helps individuals and families from BME communities who are experiencing life difficulties, health problems or mental health problems. Focusing on providing psychological based support, CTTS holds culturally sensitive workshops on stress management, self confidence, assertiveness, anger and aggression, depression, panic and anxiety, sleep problems and other health problems.
CTTS is keen on partnership working with other organisations to extend their reach to BME communities in need of support. They are currently running a 16 weeks course on English for Employment and Enterprise in partnership with Somali and Somali Land Community; Healthy Living programme for over 50's in South London; and Young People's Healthy Living Programme with Turn it Around in Liverpool. They also have a partnership with Africa Advocacy Foundation and work on community based projects including projects around HIV, Diabetes and Mental Health.
Naomi is of mixed Tanzanian and Jamaican heritage. As she was growing up, she was aware of the impact of health problems on the family as her grandmother suffered from mental health problems. Over time she realised the difficulties other family members and carers faced for not knowing how to respond to different illnesses and then dealing with the stigma attached to them. Naomi feels that this lack of understanding and stigma around health and mental health leads the sufferers to chronic isolation and exclusion, breaking family ties and bonding with the wider community. Naomi studied psychology at university level and completed her postgraduate studies in Evidence Based Psychological Therapies (with a focus on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). She is also a Director of Invigorate Minds CIC, a Community Interest Company based in London dedicated to working with women and providing Ofsted registered childcare with services. She believes that with honest communication and empathy, trust can be gained between individuals and agencies in providing need-specific, non-judgemental support and help. CTTS is also establishing partnerships with organisations in Tanzania to provide training in health and mental health. Always one to take on a challenge Naomi stated her proudest moment was reaching the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro with setting up CTTS coming a close second.
Naomi feels that the learning experience from the Enterprising Community Advisors Programme (ECAP) has been crucial for her in developing CTTS. She joined School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) with an idea of what she wanted to achieve. Being around 21 social entrepreneurs, all aiming to develop their ideas as social businesses, has been instrumental to encourage her to develop tailored services for people in need.
'SSE has given me the confidence and a belief that my dreams can actually become a reality.'
From a concept nurturing over the past few years that turned into an idea a year ago, CTTS is now a registered company with a dedicated team of professionals offering services, developing partnerships, and winning contracts from government agencies. As part of the study, SSE offers 'witness sessions' in which established social entrepreneurs share their stories of putting ideas into practice. Naomi believes that listening to people with experience of dealing with the challenges of establishing and running a social business helped her tremendously to focus on setting up proper organisational structures and mechanisms.
'Had it not been for the course, I don't think I would have had the opportunity to meet and listen to these inspirational people [in witness sessions]. They helped me to understand and resolve the challenges of running a social business.'
Read more about www.ctts.org.uk
Pamela Simpson is a founder Director of the ParentSkills2Go - a community interest company based in Camberwell, London. Pamela is passionate to help parents and carers of young children to understand their roles and responsibilities as parents and carers and to support learning and development of their children with confidence. She feels that good parenting involves an ability to enjoy bringing-up young children. ParentSkills2Go equips parents and carers with skills, knowledge and understanding and build their confidence in their own parenting abilities. Pamela believes that good and responsible parenting not only brings positive change for individuals but also for the wider community.
ParentSkills2Go provides services to communities living in areas of the London Borough of Southwark in south east London. Majority of their clients are residents of Peckham, Camberwell and Rotherhithe. Deprived communities in these areas face several challenges including unemployment, child and domestic abuse, teenage pregnancy, and street violence. There is a high number of single parents and young parents on low income. Overcrowded housing is also a significant issue.
Being a mother herself, Pamela is sensitive to these challenges. She had to give up fulltime employment to look after her children, which also meant living on a limited budget and effective management of personal finances. Pamela believes that to enjoy raising their children, parents must be skilled to deal with challenges of low income and unemployment. ParentSkills2Go provides free services and training in understanding child behaviour; developing employability skills; helping start-up enterprises; managing personal finances and budgeting; and parent mentoring for parents and carers with English as a second language. Other services include working with and supporting groups and companies that provide support to parents by helping them contacting parents in the community; conducting surveys and evaluation studies. ParentSkills2Go work with children centres in Southwark.
For Pamela, learning from the Enterprising Community Advisors Programme (ECAP) has been very positive. The programme helped her structuring the company a lot better. Pamela and her team are now better able to plan in advance for organisational activities and managing finances. The understanding of the importance of social impact in particular, enabled ParentSkills2Go to measure the impact of its services and ensure that they deliver services according to the needs in the community.
"When I joined School for Social Entrepreneurs, my colleagues and I were faced with various challenges in structuring, managing and sustaining ParentSkills2Go. I joined the programme at the right time which meant that I was able to speak to people in the programme, share challenges and find solutions. Learning through ECAP has been really helpful in sustaining our company and to continuously providing services to our communities." [Pamela Simpson]
Read more about ParentSkills2Go.
Joel Davis founded Tutors United, a social enterprise based in London to support the development and education of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and low income families. Tutors United provides affordable private tutoring by qualified university graduates, who in turn gain valuable professional experience in teaching. With this dual approach, it not only benefits students with low attainments but also young university graduates in gaining necessary experience to become teachers or develop careers based around young people.
Joel feels that parents with low income and other disadvantaged backgrounds are facing a challenge of not having access to extra academic support for their children. Private tutoring is unaffordable with rising costs of living. On the other hand, there is a growing number of young graduates who are unable to find jobs in the education sector lacking the necessary work experience. Joel had personal experience of these challenges. He was unable to get into work because of lack of experience. He started to provide tuitions to younger cousins who needed extra support with their school work. They belonged to low income families and some were severely dyslexic. With his support, his younger cousins drastically improved their understanding and knowledge of various school subjects. Joel felt that there could be a joint solution to these challenges. The challenges motivated him to establish a group, an enterprise to support young people in education and employment. Tutors United provides home-based tutoring and group courses for SAT preparation. At present, it covers the Islington and Hackney boroughs of London. It also runs an open recruitment drive for graduates to become tutors for Tutors United.
Joel will be the youngest graduate of the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE). Learning from the Enterprising Community Advisors Programme (ECAP) has been invaluable for Joel in gaining management and communication skills, necessary for establishing and running a business. The management skills help him in structuring and utilising the available resources well and with communication skills, he is better able to negotiate and build partnerships with other agencies.
'It[SSE] has been a great experience. I have grown beyond my belief.' SSE Support Groups were instrumental in building self-confidence. For Joel, the Support Groups assured entrepreneurs that they are not the only ones with a dream of establishing a social business. He learned a great deal about the third sector and social enterprises in the UK.
Experience of learning from SSE 'is really hard to put in words..... it has been crazy...... in a good way! It is like a cherry on the ice-cream for me.' Joel believes that without SSE, it would have taken years for him to understand how social businesses work and can work better for the communities in need.
Read more about www.tutorsunited.org
Tania Gessi is currently an employee for the Roma Support Group (RSG) as a Roma Art Development Worker. Her ambition is to establish the Roma Cultural Centre which would be a trading arm of the RSG. Through the support of the School for Social Entrepreneurs she is on her way to achieving this ambition.
At present there is not a Roma Cultural Centre in Western or Eastern Europe and the Roma community is the only ethnic minority group not to have a cultural centre. Such a centre would be unique to the United Kingdom. The Centre would act as a conduit to celebrate the Roma cultural history and enable Roma people to better integrate into British Society. It would also provide a platform to carry out research to raise awareness about the Roma community - it would be a repository of the Roma culture, and a place for non-Roma people to find out more about the Roma community.
Within the Roma community there is a long history of prejudice, mistrust, and stigma attached, which often creates barriers to collaboration with external agencies. For example, Tania is seeking premises to house the Roma Cultural Centre and the local council is the obvious choice for collaboration. However it has been difficult to engage with the council. Therefore Tania has been going door-to-door to find potential supporters and collaborators with the project.
For Tania, learning from ECAP has been very positive. There are two elements she attributes to her development. The first is coaching. The programme delivery acts as a life coach to encourage your initial idea and support you in making it into something more tangible. And secondly the access to resources and information is targeted and allows for knowledge to be applied more easily.
“It has been very positive, I really like it. It is great because it’s very inspiring. You get to meet, listen to and speak to a variety of people who have become successful social entrepreneurs.”
Patrice Ferguson’s background is in youth and community work. She set up Inspired Interactions having been a young mother with very little friends and family to talk to about problems and issues she was facing.
So she used her community skills and experiences to establish a community project to seek to empower and support the community to make the changes needed to facilitate personal, social and emotional development through Arts, Culture, Natural Health and Wellbeing, Skills sharing and Enterprise. Inspired Interaction is based on the principle that each person has something they can share with another.
Like many VCOs at present, lack of funding is a problem. Patrice’s organisation has only managed to receive small pockets of funding with no funding coming from the statutory sector. Despite this, Inspired Interactions has gone from strength to strength due to the commitment, investment and dedication of Patrice and her colleagues. The organic nature of the project has attracted the attention of a number of organisations that have seized on the opportunity to partner up with the Inspired Interaction project. This includes working with the National Association of Black Supplementary Schools to provide extra help and tuition for young people that are finding it difficult in the education system.
For Patrice, learning from ECAP has provided a platform of support which allows her to access mentors from the business world and community world.
It’s great to be in a place where people have time for you, you are the focus and your aim to get your project done and to a high standard is their dream as well.
Idil Hassan is graduating from the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) in March 2011. Among the graduates this year, 15 social entrepreneurs were supported by SSE’s Enterprising Community Advisors Programme (ECAP) which delivered a 12 month practical part-time learning programme for aspiring social entrepreneurs who suffered inequality and disadvantage. ECAP’s aim was to support communities to set up new organisations and expand existing ones to represent their communities’ interests. Learning by ECAP enabled Idil to ‘put a structure in place’ to improve marketing for Midaye SEED – a programme of support founded by Idil.
Learning from ECAP has been very encouraging. SSE drives you to your objectives faster than you could imagine.
Idil is passionate to help long term unemployed especially Somali-British women, who have never worked in the UK, to gain skills and employment. She founded Midaye SEED designed to deliver tailored skills, education, employment and development to the most disadvantaged BME communities in Kensington and Chelsea, the City of Westminster and adjacent boroughs.
Midaye SEED supports long term unemployed and in particular Somali-British women that are below the unemployment line, who regard themselves to be ‘unemployable’ due to the extreme number of barriers they face for example, language (not being able to read/write), education (lack schooling/ learning difficulties),and economic deprivation (suffer from sustained poverty) due to lack of available options. The idea is to plant the SEED that guides, supports and empowers these people as without intervention their circumstances will remain the same for many years to come.
Idil feels positive about the potential of her programme of support. Learning from ECAP has helped her ‘sell the offer’ and market ideas better.
With these improved marketing skills, I have been able to develop new partnerships with organisations and businesses. Now I have more clients offering work placements to skilled Somali women and training organisations to skill-up more women coming in for support.
Idil informed that as the SSE course comes to an end, her peers at SSE have formed a support network to continue to meet and support each other on their projects.
Adwoa founded Ghanaian Londoners Network in February 2009, a social enterprise which unlocks the potential and encourages Ghanaians in UK and the Diaspora to use their power, skills and knowledge to advance change in their lives, make social impact and contribute to the development of their community.
“If SSE’s support can be described in one word than it would be ‘clarity’. What SSE does is to give people like myself the opportunity to engage their target groups with clarity and with confidence that our ideas are good and workable," said Adwoa
Adwoa feels that the Ghanaian community in London faces range of challenges. Adwoa is most concerned by the disconnect in the community where class differences overshadow cultural and lingual similarities.
"Our common origin should lead us to know each other better and to help not only our fellow Ghanaians here in UK but also in Ghana. There is a perception about our community of lack of education but we have so many Ghanaians who are well educated and doing well. Educated and un-educated need to talk and should have the space to share their thoughts. To bridge this understanding gap, I founded Ghanaians Londoners Network."
Adwoa is also concerned about the brain-drain in Ghana with educated people moving out of the country for better opportunities. Adwoa volunteers to visit Ghana and help people establish small enterprises. She feels other Ghanaians can do the same to contribute to the development of their country of origin.
Ghanaians Londoners Networks provide a space for professionals and non-professionals to meet, share and learn new ideas from each other. This sharing of ideas and skills develops their entrepreneurial strengths to learn and apply these ideas into practice. Its mission is to enhance and expand the capacity of Ghanaians in the Diaspora to contribute to Ghana’s development through enterprise development.
Adwoa’s experience of learning at SSE has been ‘great’. The training has helped her to diversify income sources for the Network, enhance organisational development and structures and learn better models in giving advice and guidance to people who approach the Network.
Armando Conte started Contekunda Productions to help Protugese Afraicans become more self-reliant. Armando felt that lack of education and understanding of society has been the biggest challenge facing Portuguese Africans in Britain. Many do not integrate in the society because they think they will not be able to keep their community identity – most confuse integration with assimilation. And so, Armando explains, his community lives on the margins of the society.
“It’s been 18 years since I came here. I knew little English but this did not stop me to use my communication skills and experience as a journalist to fight barriers that were facing me. In my journey to live an active life in this society, I learnt that to help my community I will need address this lack of understanding that exist between Portuguese Africans and the system that governs our society.
I worked with social services as an interpreter. From this experience I came to know that the community I represent does not always understand the support system available to us and often expect more when it comes to asking for support. I wanted to help them. I wanted to say to them that ‘come on friends. We did it in Africa, why can’t we do that here.’ I wanted to break barriers that prevent us to help our selves and live an active life.” Armando explained.
‘Drop of Your Heart’ and ‘Contekunda Productions’ – Armando’s enterprises use film, drama and radio and print media to improve understanding of Portuguese Africans about services available to them and limitations with in the system. They educate them to help themselves and support and integrate in the society they live in.
Armando Conte is the first Portuguese African to study at SSE. Armando has been a journalist since 1983 (including BBC World Service), a professional linguist (fluent in 7 languages) and an associate researcher. His enterprise ‘Drop of Your Heart’ promotes self reliance for Portuguese Africans in the UK in education, employability, family mediation and youth activities.
“Learning from ECAP has been great! All my ideas and abilities came together. I had many ideas, skills and experience. ECAP helped me to explore and grow every single potential I have and apply these into practices. I am thankful to SSE for the rest of my life.” said Armando.