Social enterprise by its very nature has to be based on a collective spirit, community engagement and collaboration. No social challenge can be tackled effectively and with any real sustainability without an inclusive strategy.
This is why when Claire Young and I were deciding on how best to develop a brand for teenage girls in the UK we chose to establish a Community Interest Company as we recognised from the outset the enormity of our vision and the need to harness communities, educators, businesses, public services, entrepreneurs, politicians, charities, the police, probation and youth services and not least of all other social enterprises.
Our vision is to raise the aspirations of teenage girls in the UK beyond a glamour model, WAG or teen Mum. The knock on effect of this audacious goal is to embed a more empowering mindset in our girls, which in turn, reconnects them to education, helps them achieve exam success and broadens their aspirations, encourages them to find their individual voice, take risks, make better life decisions, improve their self image and become role models for future generations.
One of the main ways we deliver this is to introduce the girls to incredible role models, normal women from all walks of life who are shining and comfortable in their own skin; women that have excelled on the career ladder, in public service r or in business; women that are passionate about giving something back and sharing their highs and lows in a structured way to embed emotional resilience and self belief in our next generation.
The response to our mission has been amazing and is a shining example of collaboration and community engagement in action!
Our BIG SISTER mentoring programme, for 14/15 year old girls was launched earlier this year in Sir William Stanier Community School in Crewe, Cheshire. Our Head Big Sister and Girls Out Loud Director, Rachel Ward Lilley harnessed a community team to fund and facilitate this project – the team included Community Police officers, Manchester Metro University, Wulvern Social Housing, the Local Area Partnership at Cheshire Council and several local businesses. It was a community affair before we even secured funding and the response from the town has been awesome, so much so, bids have already been submitted to several funding bodies to run a Big Sister programme in all Crewe schools and beyond. The girls who put themselves forward for the scheme are very excited and the range of Big Sister mentors stepping up and volunteering is an inspiration – on this programme alone we have a broadcaster, sports psychologist, several police officers, university lecturer, Theatre Director, Financial Advisor .fashion stylist and several entrepreneurs.
It is our intention to facilitate BIG SISTER programmes all of the UK and we are currently harnessing community teams in East London, Warrington, Leeds and Manchester. If you are interested in being a Big Sister or getting involved, have a look at our website and complete our JOIN THE TEAM enquiry form. We are also keen to talk to commercial organisations to link them into this activity via their corporate social responsibility goals.
Alongside this programme we also host intervention programmes in schools from one day to three months and we take the same community approach to fund and deliver these.
Collaboration is our watch word as we know there are so many amazing organisations out there doing great work that have a definite link to our very big mission. Working together and supporting each other is the only way we will influence a necessary paradigm shift. Inspiring and nurturing young girls to achieve more and believe in themselves is a social issue, it needs to be tackled at a community level with a high degree of ownership of the organisations instrumental in effecting social change. We would not have it any other way!
Have a look at www.girlsoutloud.org and get involved. Our teenage girls need women like you NOW!