Social Enterprise Schools share experiences across the globe. Illustration by Martina Paukova
Paid for by The Social Enterprise Academy
Social enterprise can have a powerful impact in the world – and you are never too young to learn how to run one. Just ask Aaron and Orla from St Bernard’s Primary in Glasgow, who first got involved with their school’s social enterprise when they were in Primary 4.
Now in P7, they are both going to high school after summer, and are enthusiastic about wanting to stay involved with social enterprise when they get there.
Along with pupils at 12 other schools across Scotland, young people from St Bernard’s are busy selling special editions of this week’s Big Issue magazine, to help make money for their social enterprises.
Businesses children are working on at St Bernard’s include their famous ‘Santa-tizer’ personalised hand sanitizer bottles which were a perfect Christmas gift during the height of the pandemic.
And they are also making personalised reusable water bottles to reduce plastic waste. The social enterprise team went around classrooms and measured how many single-use water bottles there were, to make sure there was a market for them. And they made them more appealing by personalising them, with a choice of colours for the names.
It is all part of The Big Issue’s partnership with the Social Enterprise Academy (SEA), now in its fourth year, where we publish a special mini-magazine distributed in the main magazine UK-wide, which highlights some amazing social businesses that youngsters are running.
Different schools’ projects range from building insect-friendly wildflower habitats and vegetable patches in school grounds, to manufacturing stress toys and worry-bracelets to help fellow pupils cope with anxiety.
There are community cafes which responsibly source their products and keep an eye on food miles – which is where growing their own fruit and veg in the school can come in handy. And glass gift manufacturing, with community members invited to be part of workshops.
And all are run in the schools with support for teachers from SEA, which since 2007 has provided opportunities for almost 56,000 pupils to learn in a real-world setting the skills required to set up, manage and grow their own social businesses.
With 1,103 schools now running social enterprises in seven countries around the world, this growing generation of young people are learning incredibly valuable skills such as creative thinking, leadership, entrepreneurship and global citizenship – as well as embedding ideas about social justice and supporting communities – which hopefully they will carry beyond school into their adult lives.
Among the other countries featured in The Big Issue’s special edition are Australia – which was the first country after Scotland to join the Social Enterprise Schools revolution in 2015. Its programme is tailored so that it focuses on business ideas that work best in the rural areas.
Making clothing and jewellery that reflects their local ecology, they raise awareness of the natural world while raising money to support food and environmental charities, while another group makes and sells food with profits created helping mental health charities in an area with high suicide rates following bush fires.
Pupils from Malaysia, Egypt and South Africa also feature in the magazine. They joined an online Global Meet-Up organised by SEA, with pupils and teachers across the globe discussing their experiences and challenges.
In South Africa, where youth unemployment is 49 per cent, social enterprise is increasingly recognised as a way to combat this. In Zwaanswyk Academy, also Cape Town, pupils collect waste and stuff them in plastic bottles to build eco-bricks – tackling waste, learning skills in recycling and manufacturing – and use them to build kennels for homeless dogs in their area.
And teacher Ms Mahomed, of Hidayatul Islam Primary, in Cape Town, explains why their pupils focused on food, creating an eco-garden and growing food to share with the community. “Members of our community depend on this food for different reasons,” she says. “I’m so proud of the learners, their ideas and their burning desire to tackle the issues of poverty.”
Meanwhile in Malaysia, which has been part of Social Enterprise Schools since 2021, groups are recycling waste, replanting mangrove trees, and baking cakes and cookies which are sold to raise money for environmental charities.
This range of individually tailored approaches for different territories show that these young who make a difference at local levels can also have a global impact, too.
“One of my favourite parts was realising how much power we actually have,” Maya, from Egypt, said during the Global Meet-Up. “Before, I thought, ‘We are just 15-year-olds from Egypt, what can we actually do?’ But after running the social enterprise I realise now that we can make a real impact.”
During COP26 in Glasgow last November, SEA hosted its first Climate Change Dragons’ Den pitching competition, where teams could win seed funding to kick-start their businesses that focused on the environment.
And, with the climate crisis escalating ever more rapidly, the need for inspired global action from the future generation has clearly never been more urgent.
As Ellen Tacoma, Chief Executive at Social Enterprise Academy International, points out: “Around the world we’re seeing more and more that social entrepreneurship is an essential skill for young people to develop.
“The challenges we’re facing globally as a result of the climate crisis and Covid-19 will need a mix of head (practical business skills) and heart (sense of social justice) to solve them. Which is exactly what Social Enterprise Schools offers young people.”
By 2024, SEA has the goal of having a social enterprise in every school in Scotland thanks to support from The Scottish Government. And in other positive developments, for 2022 it is relaunching its programme in London and calling for schools across England to get in touch if they are interested in introducing social enterprise education.
“We are delighted to announce we are back!” says Matt Nicol, Social Enterprise Schools Lead (England). “In collaboration with SAP and the Artemis Charitable Foundation, we are partnering with schools from Lambeth, Greenwich and beyond to find the next generation of social entrepreneurs. We aim to deliver Social Enterprise Schools throughout England, while growing our pool of education facilitators.”
With this energy in the ranks of the Social Enterprise Academy, both in the UK and globally, harnessing the inspiration, ingenuity and enthusiasm of young people with a drive to build a better, more sustainable world for all through social business – the future looks bright!