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I won The Scottish Social Innovation Award 2018 for the Collaborative Hub.



What a Friday it was finding out I was the winner of The Scottish Government’s Social Innovation Competition delivered by Firstport and awarded The Young Social innovator award 2018! The competition delivered by Firstport was a Scottish wide competition for people to pitch their social enterprise ideas that involve young people and aim to create social impact. On Friday I had the chance to eat miniature food and talk to a room full of social entrepreneurs from all over the world and seek potential investment! Hope my ‘dad’ jokes paid off.

The award was embargoed for 2 weeks so I have been desperate to shout out about the award and tell everyone what I will do with the start-up investment. My idea is the collaborative Hub, A training space in Glasgow City centre that will include high level training rooms that will be hired out with the profit being used to support young people in the North West of Glasgow to enter employment, training or receive support to enter development opportunities. The collaborative hub will be led by young people from Glasgow with my support, employing 2 young people full time firstly and then Glasgow wide takeover to follow….

(Funding Lingo alert!) This idea aims to create transformative capacity for those living in poverty to solve chronic youth unemployment within areas of deprivation and increase community resilience. The challenge facing young people living in poverty today is the lack of intervention that supports their development into employment, mental health and the stress they face while living in poverty and trying to eradicate the barriers that hold them back. The idea collaboratively looks to solve this by working with state led processes and systems that no longer have the budget to offer this support.

Like any social impact idea, there is a story, a person/a group of people and a reason behind it. Here is mine. 

For those that know me or have met me, my accent does not ring true to my roots! I’m called the “posh burd” by the young people I work with, but it sparks conversation and consequently has people reflecting on the beautiful philosophy that you should never judge someone by first impressions. I am a Glasgow woman from a Glasgow tribe, my family have experienced the classic “glasgow effect” theory and have nothing but resilience in their bones. My Granny, I am adamant, started the hoop trend in Glasgow, starting in Possil and still holds the fort today in Barmulloch! My connection with Glasgow, as a grow older only gets stronger, I came to Glasgow in 2012 to study at Glasgow Caledonian University and always felt like an intruder considering all my family lived here…I am feeling less intrusive as I make a life here however!

I am the daughter of a driven fella from Possilpark that signed up to the army on the day he turned 17 and began to open his own pandora box of adventure away from a life that was shaped by extreme poverty. He returned twice a year to see his mammy but at 21 he came back for a visit and fell in love with a dinner lady at Springburn Academy, my beautiful ma, who went back to college later in life to become a well loved support for learning teacher in Fife. A woman who was turning heads down Springburn high street on a daily I’m told! From there they embarked on a life away from the poverty and travelled the world experiencing a life they both never thought would be one they would lead. After the begging from my dad, I was born in Cambridge for 2 whole years before moving to Germany where I spent my childhood. To make it easier for my education, I was put into a military school in Dunblane at the age of 11 and stayed there until I was 18, surrounded by other children whose families came from the generation who used the army to escape council estate life. I had an incredible experience there, although I won’t be sending my own kids to boarding school…another story!

By the time I was finished at Uni I was being chucked into the world with a semi useful degree but no clue on what to do….so I got involved in student politics and became Student President in 2012. This is where I realised I wanted to join the third sector. I was building my confidence as a person (thanks to my manager at the time) and began to make social impact the main element of my role. One day I would be sitting in court with the people who lead the University and then the next I was supporting young people who were struggling to juggle 2 jobs and a degree, I became involved in advocacy without even knowing it.

That was a fast-paced year that left me looking for my next chapter. After 6 months of interning at Citizens Advice Scotland, where they paid for my travel expenses, I joined a community organisation called Xchange Scotland after someone took a gamble on me and stayed there for almost 4 years, eventually managing the organisation. I was starting my career in the third sector by being a wifi expert, a radiator drainer, manager and a funding guru but looking back, it was a chapter in my life that made me who I am today. Not many people in the sector in Scotland have worked for grass roots organisations and can say they have felt the rush of seeing the £100.00 go to £78K> overnight, meaning you can complete the dream project you know will make the change the local people want to see.

Now, I am Head of Development for Achieve More Scotland where I am fortunate to be a youth worker half the time and a project creator/manger the other 50%. My work involves working alongside some of the most hilarious, resilient and incredible Glaswegians. In my role, I developed an employability intervention that has seen up to 50 young men and women 16+ into employment from the North West of Glasgow (funding area) who turn up every week to our youth sessions but undermine their own potential due to their postcode, family name and/or the fact poverty has grinded them down so much that they see no alternative. At times, it has been tough, trying to convince some young people, men in particular that joining me for a chat will pay off over a life of selling drugs and being on the brew. But the joy of youth work is you don’t make the magic happen until you gain their trust, so 3 years down the line, I have had the honour of catching up with young people who are turning their life slowly into their own version.


Interventions…changing perspective

All of that sounds positive. But let’s be frank, interventions are created and delivered to make change to support those suffering and marginalised in society. I have become frustrated with the community economics in the communities I work in and in the words of McGarvery a.k.a Loki (2017) these services have ‘the potential to interrupt this stream of needless inevitability. They can provide a sense of continuity in a young person’s life” (page 82). Street youth work has decreased in Glasgow, drug use has increased within young people and more young people in 2018 needed mental health support than ever before. More young men 16-18 in Glasgow are economically inactive and do not engage with their local job centre due to territorial issues or due to shame. This was clear in research I completed in 2017/18 supported by Developing The Young Workforce (DYW).

I have seen the change these interventions are creating in Glasgow’s poorest communities and instead of waiting on the next fund to apply for that will support it for a bit longer, I am creating the Collaborative Hub that can provide sustainability to offer an employability intervention that enhances tri-sector collaboration and fosters dialogue and networks between people and state. It will ensure accountability on local young people and their resilience for change by giving them the capability to eventually run the hub, not dictating how they should run it. It offers opportunities through purchase power and inter agency support whilst providing an innovative platform for social intervention in Glasgow.

I will be documenting my social enterprise journey as I go along to share the challenges and highs, so I hope you will stay tuned and please get in touch if you want to chat more about the collaborative hub, it is going to be an exciting one!

A big thank you to The Social Innovation competition, to @Firstport in particular Kirstie my advisor, @ScottishGovernment, @AchieveMoreScotland, @ScottCampbell,Owner of Standard Real estate Ltd (who is always up for meeting me!), @Glasgow Caledonian Student’s Association and to all the young people I get to work with every day.