How can social enterprises develop the aspirations of young people?

For us, here at InspirEngage International the focus is primarily on young people – developing their aspirations and training them to acquire the essential life skills needed to be successful in employment and enterprise.

With the government focus on these areas, there’s been a stark increase in number of organisations working with young people.

Over the past 14 years of working within the youth sector, InspirEngage has developed a unique way of engaging young people – even those who some dub, “hard to reach” (a term wrongly used).

Here are a few InspirEngage tips for those social enterprises who work with young people:

1) Inspiration is just the first step. Inspiration is vital, however inspiration alone does not last, especially for young people who are struggling and looking for a way to turn their life around.

This is why, InspirEngage is so passionate about delivering skills bootcamps that build on inspiration and turn it into sustainable results. Young people may feel inspired, but if thier inspiration is not harnessed into action all benefit is lost.

2) One size does not fit all. Development of skills and aspiration is a personal journey. We get a lot of calls at InspirEngage asking for our training programmes, and we tell them ‘we don’t have set training programmes’. All InspirEngage skills bootcamps are tailored to suit the groups taking part.

For those working with young people, it’s vital to encourage a personalised approach, even in a group setting, training content is designed in such a way that it encourages personal consideration.

3) Interaction is key. A lot of motivational speakers visit schools sharing their personal story on how they succeeded. I, myself, receive numerous requests to do this. My answer is always the same: I do not do one-way speeches.

To a young person, the benefit of sitting and listening to someone tell their story for 45 minutes is limited. Yes they may feel inspired but when they go home they might think “wait, how do I connect what that person has achieved to my own goals?”

The truth is, they probably can’t. Everyone will have a very unique path determined by their personal skills. This is why, I deliver interactive presentations. We turn it to the audience, set them mini-exercises to provoke thought, encourage them to think about themselves and their journey as opposed to mine.

Interaction is also key in online social networking. It is even more important in training and teaching. Last year, following the riots, I attended a conference called “Not in Our Name”. Young people came together to tell the world’s media that the unlawful behavior was being carried out by only a few of the nation’s youngsters.

One of the speakers was a 17 year old girl. She admitted feeling tempted to take part in the riots, she said she wanted a better life as her family was struggling. This girl had a presence about her. I went up to her afterwards and gave her and her friend a ticket for one of InspirEngage’s bootcamps. She thanked me and said she’d come, but I wasn’t sure she would. Next week rolled by and she came with a friend, but I noticed she was cautious. She leaned back in her chair, not even wanting to zip down her coat in case it was another “talking shop”, not good enough to help her, and maybe she should slip out at break. But she stayed.

The InspirEngage skills bootcamp, encouraged her to consider her style of leadership, her ambitions, her natural talents and passion, and most importantly she used tools given to her to draw up a strategy on how to achieve her goals. She smiled throughout the day as she took part, and stayed until the end to proudly receive her InspirEngage certificate of chievement for completion. That evening, she went home and tweeted us: “Just left the @InspirEngage skills bootcamp. I can finally see how I can make my life work. Thank you”.

It’s moments like this that give us the motivation to continue our work. It’s also results like this that tell us we’re doing a good job as a social enterprise (not just the financial bottom line).

This also highlights the challenge for a lot of social entrepreneurs in describing what it is we do. Aspiration, passion and people development are not tangible notions like products, therefore much more difficult to define. But perhaps the beauty is in the moments, and the stories we have to tell.

Tweet us your thoughts and stories on @InspirEngage.

Melody Hossaini is founder and chief executive of InspirEngage International, a social enterprise delivering skills bootcamps to support young people into employment and enterprise. In 2011 she became the first ever social entrepreneur to compete on BBC’s The Apprentice making it to week 10 out of 12.

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Paul Champion

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Twitter: @blogapprentice
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