Championing Learning within the EDP
The Enterprise Development Programme (EDP) is a five-year programme, funded by Access – The Foundation for Social Investment. It is managed by a coalition of partners, including multiple infrastructure bodies (referred to as ‘sector leads’), including the Centre for Youth Impact – now part of YMCA George Williams College - for the youth strand of the programme, and Social Investment Business as the strategic grant partner.
The EDP provides a broad range of support for charities and social enterprises in England, helping them make a transition to new enterprise models, or grow existing ones, to build their organisational resilience by diversifying their income streams. The youth strand of the EDP creates cohorts of like-minded youth organisations and provides them with funding grants, a continuous learning programme, consultant support, and peer-to-peer support across the EDP community of practice.
The EDP has now transitioned into its Alumni Network phase, which means that the funding aspect of the EDP has concluded. However, we are very much continuing to provide support to grantees in the form of consultant expertise, workshops, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities, albeit a bit differently from the way they were run during the first phase of the programme.
The EDP and its coalition partners aim to design a learning and peer-to-peer offer that meets the participating organisations’ needs and wants. The learning programme of the EDP was based on what grantees told us they would benefit from hearing more about, and - rather than just designing a one-size-fits all programme - we ensured workshops and consultant support were bespoke to grantees and their enterprises.
This led to inviting social entrepreneurs into peer-to-peer learning sessions. Participants mentioned that they really wanted to speak to social entrepreneurs who understood the ups and downs of the enterprise development journey. Enterprise-focused projects are often new and bold ventures for youth organisations: they want to exchange ideas with others who are doing the same thing and who understand the challenges and opportunities that come with the process.
In May, we were lucky enough to welcome Meg, from Fat Macy’s - a social enterprise that uses its restaurants and events catering business to train and support Londoners living in temporary accommodation and help them move into their own homes. Attendees had many questions about how to balance managing a business (like a restaurant) with achieving positive outcomes for beneficiaries. In order to reach targeted groups, Meg advised exploring spaces where these beneficiaries might already be, and building an authentic relationship with them over time. Meg also found that the social enterprise model required a structured approach, with clear legal definitions, in-depth conversations with both staff and beneficiaries, clear milestones, and pathways integrated in their programming. "Outreach to potential beneficiaries needs to be a dedicated work stream,” said Meg. “It’s a full-time job, really.”
For the second session, participants had the chance to talk with Dave Linton, the founder of Madlug, a bag brand which helps give dignity to children in care. This time, we were also joined by Amber Anderson, a visual notetaker who created the images below in order to summarise the conversation between Dave and the attendees as it was happening. You can see which organisations participated in the session, the journey Madlug and Dave went through, along with Dave’s advice to the participants. Dave emphasised how important it is for social enterprises to have a clear idea of the problem they are working to solve – that clarity of focus allows a social enterprise to plan their offer carefully, define the way they want to market themselves, and start network building strategically. In Madlug’s case, Dave explained their defining story was of foster children having to transport their belongings in black plastic bags. This story motivates everything Madlug does.
A space to talk about challenges
Alice from Luminary Bakery, a social enterprise designed to offer opportunities for women who experience social and economic disadvantage, attended our most recent session. The conversation centred around the need for efficient systems, balancing financial and impact goals, and team building. Alice also brought a unique authenticity and vulnerability to the conversation, and participants were able to share the challenges they encounter around motivation and of juggling demands in their social enterprises.
Several participants shared that they feel overwhelmed by the various aspects they must grapple with in their role, including the consequences of the pandemic on the youth sector and the need for perpetual fund raising to get their social enterprise off the ground. There was something precious about having this safe space for participants to be honest about both the rewarding and challenging parts of their work.
The EDP has always been about supporting organisations that engage in enterprise development to both grow their impact and diversify their income. In the youth strand of the programme, the learning and peer-to-peer support offer has been designed to meet the needs of the cohorts involved in the EDP and address challenges they may be facing, in order to maximise their success. The EDP Alumni Network will provide, amongst other things, more bespoke training, tailored consultant support on specific issues each organisation needs support with, and a comprehensive programme on evaluation and impact measurement. We’ll also be releasing a report on research conducted within the EDP on enterprise development in the youth sector in November.
As the EDP alumni progress in their enterprise development journey, we hope that the Network can provide a space where they can identify challenges, co-create solutions, and find a group of peers willing to go on the journey alongside them, no matter the ups and downs.