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So are you a social entrepreneur?

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NCS SelfieI’ve been working in the social sector for nearly 2 years now. I guess some would call me a social entrepreneur. It’s the kind of title I have to explain to almost everyone – most people have never even heard the term ‘social enterprise’.

“It’s simple” I usually say, “A social enterprise is a business that makes money like a regular business whilst solving a social issue, like a regular charity”. It’s the merger of 2 worlds, the unforgiving world of business where everyone’s out to make a quick buck, and the do-gooding world of the charity and NGO sector.

“A social entrepreneur is just somebody who wants to solve a social issue, like poverty for example, and uses some kind of business model to do that.

Early on in my journey into social entrepreneurship, I got a lot of support from Unltd, an organisation working right at the forefront of social enterprise here in the UK. Unltd has been supporting social entrepreneurs for more than a decade and so far, they’ve put 13.5 million pounds into the hands of young people who want to change the world.

I’ve always loved the work Unltd do so when an email landed in my inbox a couple of months ago asking if I’d be able to help them teach other young people about social enterprise, I didn’t have to think too hard about my answer.

The program I’m working on is called Social Switch On, it’s designed specifically for NCS residents to keep doing great things even after they graduate. In case you’ve not heard of NCS, it’s a huge youth movement to get young people engaged in skill building activities over the school holidays. It’s our goal at Unltd to inspire some of these young people into starting their own sustainable social enterprises.

After lots of preparation, I set off bright and early to teach my first workshop at Swindon College last week. Feeling slightly nervous and very excited, I arrived and got started straight away.

The first step is to explain what a social enterprise is and get people to think about how they can solve the social issues in their areas. Next, we get them to pitch their ideas to us and maybe apply for small grants to get started.

For me, it’s been an amazing experience to be involved right at the beginning of the idea formulation process. I’ve always enjoyed working for startups but seeing young people become passionate about their projects so quickly is incredibly inspiring. In fact, during a workshop in Leeds this week, one of the teams even came up with an idea that was nearly identical to the first social enterprise I set up!

More than anything else, my early experience teaching with Unltd and NCS has shown me just how much power young people really have to make positive changes in their communities. When I was 16, I was already involved in entrepreneurship and it was always a challenge to get adults to take me seriously. For young people today, the story’s the same – we discount young people as immature and incapable too quickly. In reality, progress often stems from the ideas of the young generation and we ought to embrace and support this reality.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a hostel in London getting ready to go to Slough first thing in the morning to work with 40 ambitious and energetic young people. Every session presents its own challenges as well as its own rewards, with each twist and turn of the day, I’m inspired, exhausted, but most of all, humbled to be part of such an amazing movement.

Whether you’re an NCS graduate, whether you’re young, old, forever 21, the best time to start a social enterprise is always now! If you feel passionately about a social issue, it’s up to you to do something about it. If you do happen to be an NCS graduate, you could get up to £500 for your idea by applying for a Social Switch On award here on our website, so what are you waiting for?! Find out more about Social Switch On now!

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