STEPUP – Raising the aspirations of young people

The StepUp foundation is a not for profit organisation that aims to educate and inspire teenagers the world over about the possibilities for the future in business, and in life. StepUp events bring the teens, particularly those underprivileged or at risk, together with high-profile business entrepreneurs, sports leaders, legends of the arts and members of the local business community. Their vision is to be operating on all six continents and by the year 2013; each year reaching hundreds of thousands of young people around the world.

Established in Australia in 2002 StepUp has now launched international events outside of its native Australia, in New Zealand and the UK. Its goal is both simple and ambitious and stated as “shifting the future of humanity in a single generation”. To succeed in this goal, they educate and inspire teenagers, whom they consider to be our future leaders, about the possibilities for their future in business and in life. Uniquely designed into a two-day event it shares with the teams a fresh approach to leading and making a difference in the world. With its own uniquely formulated, engaging learning process consisting of growth exercises and life lessons integrated with real-life stories by high-profile inspirational business sporting and entertainment leaders, they have worked to date with tens of thousands of teenagers, volunteers and parents and their work goes on.

In the UK, StepUp’s UK volunteer team was formed in early 2008 with the support of dozens of individuals and organisations. The team successfully delivered its first UK pilot event in Blackpool to 450 teenagers. Since then, in October 2009, they completed their second UK event in Calderdale, Yorkshire.

Their focus on the teens of today is both laudable and progressive. StepUp uses business as a medium to have a conversation about life or any endeavour highlighting persistence, risk-taking, courage, creativity, strategy planning, and much more. Another reason, they state, for using business as the medium of communication is that generally business doesn’t care about your background. They insist that anyone can make it if they just know how as any teen’s potential business is the perfect access out of poverty and struggle and into the life they dream about via inspirational stories from speakers personal experiences, information, games and learning exercises.

Teens are taught how to play and win in the game of business and life. They learn the grass roots strategies so no matter where they are starting from or what their interests are they leave StepUp inspired to have a go and believe in their abilities; to apply themselves to any area. They also discover that in taking responsibility for their own results, creating teamwork, helping others and sticking to their goals. It is up to them to own the life they dream about. It is one thing, having a goal and another still having inspired and proactive volunteers, but the success of any training and development programme can only be measured in terms of the impact received by the audience. It is impressive, therefore, to review the following statistics. According to StepUp’s official press releases teens at every StepUp event typically report the following:

98% more encouraged, excited and inspired about their own lives.
96.5% feel like there are more possibilities and choices open to them.
96% feel armed with more information, tools and strategies
94.5% feel better about themselves, stronger and more empowered to have a go in life. 93.5% feel they have a say in how their life goes from here onwards.
96% feel their lives have been enriched by attending StepUp

And the good news doesn’t stop there. The following are just a small selection of quotations from coaches and mentors that attended the first UK event in Blackpool.

“I didn’t imagine that being a StepUp coach would have had such a profound impact on me as well as the teenagers; witnessing the change in the teenagers over the two days is phenomenal and the encouragement and I received throughout the event was uplifting and inspiring. Inspirational speakers, plus the caring friendly group of volunteers made this a truly wonderful experience. Brilliant, uplifting, emotional, inspiring, limitless, rewarding; I am so glad that I was asked to be a coach”. “just wanted to say thanks again for allocating slots for us at StepUp. I had an exceptional experience. I know you must think I am crazy, but I really did love working with the kids and gained loads of confidence in working with this age group and I believe that I did alright!”. “I was one of the coaches at the event, and it was a wonderful experience. If I can be of any assistance in future please don’t hesitate to contact me”.

There are many similar quotations from coaches who attended StepUp events, and it is clear that these events are as inspiring and motivating to the coaches as they are to the teens. Indeed, whilst being unequivocably targeted at the teens it is clear that StepUp are just as positive and supportive to the coaches that get involved. They state with some confidence that their events are truly like no other that most coaches have experienced before, and that it is almost impossible to quantify all of the benefits that the coach would gain from participating.

For many coaches, they say. it is getting fired up about life again, inspiration, team leadership skills, better communication, coaching strategies, planning and much, much more that they can then take back to their workplace and home to enable them to produce dramatically improved results. For other coaches it’s a new sense of themselves as someone who makes a massive difference in the world, a new direction in life, new commitment to personal relationships that work and this is possible primarily because the coaches go through the same two days as the teens, listening to all the same amazing speakers and working through the same hands-on exercises.

In addition there are excellent networking opportunities with other coaches, the businesses they represent, and with a high-profile speakers themselves. Coaches have the opportunity to learn new business skills, strategies and tools that they can utilise to dramatically impact their ability to achieve even greater success in every area of their own lives.

By way of example, the speakers at the Calderdale event included the following speakers and I must say that in my personal business career I have attended many events and conferences, and this particular line up of speakers was the most diverse that I can remember seeing:
Matt Bowman – lead singer of the Leeds indie-rock band “The Pigeon Detectives”.
Michael Sheargold – founding member of StepUp and internationally renowned sports and business coach.
Diedre Bounds – former stand-up comedian, world backpacker, English teacher and self-made millionaire.
Richard Reed – co-founder of Innocent drinks and smoothies
Imran Hakim – founder of i-Teddy, recent winner on BBC2’s Dragon’s Den.

And the benefits don’t stop there. Each speaker is given responsibility to tailor their presentation towards a particular aspect of business and life. After each speaker is finished an exercise takes place, where the coach works with the teens on a particular business concept and immediately and directly apply this to their team, themselves and their business. In effect, you get the results right there and then, “on the spot”.

I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting several coaches at a recent seminar and two things struck me quite profoundly; firstly, the clear and obvious positive impact that the last two events had upon them as coaches, and their respective commitment to support future events; and secondly, and somewhat frustratingly, that these events require support, time and funds from local authorities, and it is here, where frustrations lie. It would appear that despite the clear immediate and potential future benefits to the teens participating in events, and therefore to society as a whole, that local authorities are still somewhat reticent in providing their support.

In contrast, the StepUp Calderdale event was supported by Yorkshire Forward and the Young Peoples Enterprise Fund. In speaking with Suzy Alderson of YEPF it was clear that, not only had they been delighted to support the StepUP event, the intention is to provide continuing support to the young people and mentors who had participated in Huddersfield.

Here at the3rdi magazine, in addition to our commitment to the future StepUp activities, we will provide contact details and more information on forthcoming events and would encourage you to strongly consider your own personal involvement. I very much look forward to informing you as to the progress of the programme, and even more look forward to reporting back directly after my own participation, wherever and whenever the next event may be.

Please, watch this space!
We at the3rdi are incredibly excited and motivated by these events. Not only because of their ultimate goal, that is to inspire and motivate the next generation of leaders in business and life, but also because of a profound effect that these events have on the coaches themselves. In the coming months, we shall present more articles about the individuals currently engaged in the UK setup program and hope to provide details in the near future of the next event.

In conclusion I would like to thank the following people for helping me to initiate my involvement in the program and for being so helpful and supportive in my interest to date:

Danny Matharu

Debra Brown

Diedre Bounds

Adrian Johnson at Umpf PR and
Suzy Alderson of YPEF

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