Our thoughts - Soizic Hagege
Each month, our team members set out what’s currently occupying their thoughts. For May's 'Our Thoughts', Enterprise Development Manager Soizic Hagege reflects on her first few weeks at the Centre and the power of enterprise when embedded into youth organisations.
When you accept a job offer, you usually do so for the following reasons:
- You have to;
- It is the necessary next step in your career; and/or
- You believe it will be a great opportunity, and a wonderful experience.
For me, there was no question that accepting an offer to work as the Enterprise Development Manager at the Centre for Youth Impact stemmed from the latter. After earning a Masters in Social Entrepreneurship, I gravitated towards the world of education. I knew it was essential to teach entrepreneurship as a mindset, a tool and a solution for the problems currently affecting societies, both nationally and globally. As Ernesto Sirolli stated in both his TED Talk and his book ‘Ripples from the Zambezi’, “seemingly insurmountable problems can be solved when the drive and power of local entrepreneurs is harnessed”. As someone passionate about social impact and quality services, choosing to focus on enterprise and its outcomes was a no-brainer.
As the Enterprise Development Programme Manager, I would get to be part of an organisation that values evaluation, quality and impact and I would work at the intersection of entrepreneurship and learning, since a critical part of the EDP includes a peer-to-peer learning programme. It was the perfect fit.
Working with the cohorts
Having worked globally for many years, I really wanted to dive as deep as possible into the youth sector in the UK, understand the challenges youth organisations face at the moment, and determine how enterprise is presently being perceived and used.
Here are a few things I have discovered in my first few weeks:
Youth organisations do incredible work. It might sound corny but it’s true. There’s no denying that we have further to go as a sector with understanding and measuring impact, but practitioners in the youth sector are interested in increasing the quality of their provision and often gathering data on services so others will recognise said quality.
Considering the impact of Covid and lockdowns, it has been incredible to witness how quickly and resiliently youth organisations have adapted to the new circumstances they were faced with, and all of this in a climate where these organisations often get little or insufficient support.
In our two youth sector cohorts in the EDP, we have organisations training young people to become consultants on youth voice, or supporting them to become professionals in the film industry. We also have organisations working with under-served young people through music and enterprise training, others that are opening their own shops to sell innovative packages to schools and local authorities, and organisations focusing on empowering young women and girls affected by gang violence.
Enterprise might be a way to support youth organisations to become more resilient… but it shouldn’t replace core funding. Over the last decade, local and central government funding for youth organisations has been constantly questioned and often decreased. Enterprise can provide a way for organisations to be less reliant on this type of funding, but this should not be used as an excuse to decrease funding yet again. Enterprise is an opportunity to create additional income, or to build a more financial stable organisation in the long run. Depending on their size, the services or products organisations are thinking about providing, and where they find themselves in their enterprise journey, different projects and approaches will make sense for each organisation – but core funding is always part of the picture.
There’s a place for everyone in enterprise. It doesn’t matter if you are a really small or really large organisation, long-established or a start up - there is no criterion that prevents a youth organisation from participating in enterprise. Time and resources are almost always limited, but there are no fixed requirements when it comes to thinking about where enterprise might benefit one’s organisation. One of the best aspects of the EDP is the peer-to-peer learning sessions, where youth organisations can come together to discuss both the hurdles they face and the opportunities they have mastered. When it comes to enterprise, everyone who is in the arena (learning about it or trying it out) is a champion.
It goes without saying that there are no magical remedies for the challenges facing the youth sector or the broader injustices in our society that affect young people. We always knew this, and the pandemic has highlighted this in so many ways. However, enterprise provides another crucial avenue for organisations, which might bring in additional revenue, but more critically allows organisations to use some assets they already have and much more.
At the moment, there is no definitive research on the intersection of enterprise and impact in the youth sector, although we’re working on it! More than anything, we believe in quality youth work and provision for young people. We want to understand how enterprise influences this, and the opportunities it offers to both the sector and to young people.
As for me, I have no regrets about starting this journey. Only hope and optimism.