by Kate Brundle, Associate Director at Livity. Kate is sharing her experience taking part in the Wavelength programme through a series of blog posts.
As part of the Wavelength programme I was lucky enough to visit the Eden Project. The Eden Project is a shining beacon in the world of social enterprise and is a living breathing example of thinking big and not taking no for an answer. It is aphysical demonstration of what is possible if you have a big audacious dream.
Eden was the concept of a flamboyant entrepreneur, Tim Smit, who afteryears of being in the music industry producing for the likes of Barry Manilow he decided to tackle something entirely different.
He wanted to do to this by creating the eighth wonder of the world. Bonkers you might think. And bonkers might reappear in your mind when you meet Tim Smit. However Tim was incredibly welcoming and inspiring to us business types and took time to explain how he sees things in business and what has worked.
So here I’ll just give you a short list of Tim Smit-isms that maybe useful and will probably make you smile:
- Young people: Ask young people because they don’t know it’s can’t be done
- Kitchen Table Thinking: Be the person at work that you are at the kitchen table
- Life: Be a person who can say ‘I’m glad I did rather than I wish I had”
- Management: Lose your fear of being disliked
- Strategy: I’m a business man who is like a kitten who is distracted by the fluff, but I find good fluff
- Recruitment: I hire people who have been there but will take a step back down to build it back up
- Pressure: You can tell the quality of the stereo when you turn up the volume
- Belief: Tell the story that inspired you not the story you think will inspire others
- Last man standing: If you hang around long enough someone will eventually give you the money to go away
- Tinkerbell: Get four other people to believe and magic will happen
Tim Smit is up against Livity Co-Founders Sam Conniff and Michelle Clothier in the Ernst and Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year
2011. We wish him (and all other finalists luck). We believe for social enterprise to really work we need to profile all successful social
entrepreneurs to inspire more of us to think about our big audacious dreams and make them happen.
by Kate Brundle, Group Account Director at Livity
Last week I was at the stunning Sheepdrove Organic Farm at Wavelength Connect event, which is dedicated to connecting visionary businesses. Whilst I was there it was International Women’s Day (8th March) and I was lucky enough to be spending the day with some of the most incredible business people in the world. Two of which were inspiring women.
International women’s day revealed some facts that came as a surprise to me. For example that two thirds of the worlds work is done by women yet only 10% of the total income and only 1% of property is owned by women. (Amusingly brought to life with the help of Daniel Craig, if you have a couple of spare minutes.)
At Wavelength we heard from Julie Hanna who is an entrepreneur who, having already set up and sold five (yes, five, what have I been doing with my life?) successful consumer internet and business software companies decided it was time to harness the power of technology to create benefit in the world. Kiva was created which is a microfinance facilitator. Kiva believe that providing safe, affordable access to capital to those in need helps people create better lives for themselves and their family. By the mere fact of the statement I started with, many of these people are women.
Event speaker Dame Helena Kennedy was one of four panelists at the event and she totally blew me away. One of the things that really struck home to me as I sat and listened to Helena was how far women’s rights have come in quite recent history (in my lifetime). She was the responsible for leading the way in changes to policy in the legal profession particularly their absence as judges on the Bench. As Dame Helena left the stage to return to London to vote in the House it made me firstly feel incredibly grateful for all the women (and men) who have lead the way for me to be able to achieve everything I have but secondly it made me feel a great sense of responsibility to be the best that I can be to lay the path for women who follow me.
The thing that I loved about these women is how they have used their skills and passion. It is not just that they are smart, funny, confident people but that they are real women. And they are real women who don’t hate or resent men. They don’t see changing the way the world works for women and the distribution of wealth and power as a struggle against men but instead as a struggle alongside our male colleagues, friends and family.
Written by Caroline Roake, Head of People at Livity
There were lots of interesting and opposing views expressed in response to a recent Guardian article about the rising NEET (not in employment, education or training) figures among young people.
Firstly, the article highlights how confusing the figures are – from pointing out that the DfE’s NEET stats always increase from the summer to the early autumn (should you really class someone as NEET who is between courses?), and you can always find a positive stat to outweigh (at least partially) any negative sounding one, e.g. steady increases in 16 to 18 year olds in education or training.
Having said that, everyone knows unemployment is a huge and scary issue at the moment, regardless of age, but among young people it seems more dire as they are ‘the future’.
One Guardian reader comments that the focus should be on improving career guidance services rather than pumping money into youth work efforts to combat the problem (i.e. prevention rather than cure) – we certainly see very few teenagers who feel well supported by the free careers guidance they are offered, and many who aren’t aware of the options available to them, so this seems like a good place to start. With money now going directly to schools instead of being controlled by local authorities, maybe this could happen?
Perhaps if there were improvements in this area more young people would see the benefit of pursuing a (relatively) stable, vocational career, rather than one where there is so much competition that it’s often only those who can afford to work for free until they get a foot in the door can succeed, which is common in many companies in the creative industries.
Stories such as this one about a 23 year old grad who pursued work experience in her area of interest (journalism) but then tried to get employment in something most would think requires relatively little training (retail), highlight this issue of employers wanting more experience than is fair to expect from this demographic.
Employers should not keep young people in the catch 22 situation of only considering those with experience or a degree. We know first-hand that there is amazing untapped energy and talent to be found in young people, including those who haven’t been to uni!
Apprenticeships can be a way to bridge this gap – offering employers a more cost-effective and supported pair of hands, and offering young people a way to learn on the job in roles that may not otherwise available to them, and gain a qualification that in many cases will increase their confidence and motivation. The issue is ensuring the qualification is nationally recognised, and that this becomes a sustainable means of employment for the young person rather than a one-off.
Encouraging entrepreneurialism is another way that some young people with a genuine flair for it can get out of (or not become a part of in the first place) the lack of jobs available right now.
On a positive note, there are always encouraging stories even in these difficult times (many that come straight from Livity!), and we should work together to change attitudes and find solutions, rather than dwelling on figures and which government to blame.
Art print by Alison Gilchrist & Nigel Costley. Available from East End Prints.
Last week I travelled to Denmark as a guest of the British Council to speak at two of their Young Creative Entrepreneurs club events, in Copenhagen and Aarhus (the second city). Standing in the austere, modernist Aarhus town hall designed by Arne Jacobsen, I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. It was my first visit to Scandinavia, and on the face of it the country seems wealthy, well organised and calm. The streets are clean and the people friendly.
After a very warm welcome from the municipal Mayor-in-waiting, I told the story of Livity and some of our favourite projects, including a cameo appearance from Bill Hicks urging everyone in marketing and advertising to “kill yourselves”, to around 70 up-and-coming creative entrepreneurs, who mainly work in the arts and cultural industries. They were super-engaged and interested in Livity’s work and how the principles we’ve developed could be used in their own work.
One of the key challenges I took from the lively discussion after my speech, was that everyone is very used to turning to public funding to get their work off the ground. Livity’s use and engagement with brands definitely seemed like new thinking. Aarhus is bidding to be European City of Culture for 2018, and there was a palpable sense of ambition about showing what the city is made of, and a frustration at being hampered by the municipality who hold most of the power over funding (and funding that is set to dwindle). Could brands come to the rescue?
Among the crowd were about 15 Kaospilots: students at the Kaospilot academy set up by radical Danish entrepreneur Uffie Elbaek. These students spend three years learning how to become creative entrepreneurs and changemakers, as an ‘alternative’ degree course (but one that is accredited by reputation, rather than an official mark). They have a controversial reputation, but the energy and excitement of the place, full of young, ideas hungry students from around the world, was infectious. To get in, you endure a two-day an initiation ceremony designed by first year students rather than an entrance exam, and part of the course involves being posted off to far flung countries like Columbia to spend three months running a social innovation project. At dinner with their Irish head of learning, Simon Kavanagh, we talked about the possibility of Kaospilots doing placements at Livity.
After a snowy train ride across to Copenhagen the next morning, I had a quick meeting with Anne Sofie and Thomas from the Danish Centre for Social Economy. They gave me a snapshot of the social enterprise sector in Denmark, which is slowly emerging, and suffers the same confusion around definition of what a social enterprise actually is (Livity would NOT qualify under Danish definitions!). The idea was mooted of Live Magazine doing some reporting at the Roskilde festival, which has a strong interest in social enterprise projects.
That evening I gave a second, shorter talk at Republikken in the city centre: a hip, homely small business and freelance space which houses graphic designers, architects, creative entrepreneurs and even a sword importer. The talk seemed to strike a chord, with lots of feedback on how Livity’s work was ‘inspiring’, especially for young entrepreneurs looking for ways of getting ideas off the ground and bringing social innovation into their work.
In my talk, I tried to emphasise that social innovation didn’t just have to be about ideas for the poor in Africa: and that focusing closer to home could be a better place to start. It was only afterwards, speaking to someone who runs a charity in Copenhagen, that I heard how creative businesses are generally not engaging with some of Denmark’s social issues: especially the problem of non-integration of immigrant communities. I let wanting to know more, but wondering – given the overwhelmingly positive reaction I got from people in the crowd – about the scope and possibilities for replicating some of Livity’s ideas to a place like Denmark. I came back home to a message from the Mayor, saying he would be in touch…