Spark and Mettle
Spark+Mettle is an aspirations agency that likes to help people flourish. We bring diverse people together to make great things happen.
The competition is only open to people between 18-34 years-old and resident in UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark or the Netherlands. Does this apply to you
Country of residence of entrepreneur
Tell us about your personal background. Why are you passionate about this issue? Making an idea a reality takes innovation, dedication and strong leadership. Do you have the necessary entrepreneurial skills to realize your vision?
There are some young people who are given a raft of opportunities and who glide through childhood, their only problem being that there are TOO many things to choose from. Ah, the tyranny of choice. What a wonderful sort of problem. That was my own sort of problem when I was young: I didn't know what I wanted to do. But I was lucky: I had parents who were supportive (financially and beyond), I had contacts who could set me up with some work experience, and I had teachers who encouraged me to think big.
And then there are those young people, the majority of young people, for whom figuring out what they want to do, what their potential is and how they're going to fulfil it: well, that's less like gliding along, picking opportunities off trees, and more like wading through mud. In the dark.
So how did Spark+Mettle come about? When I was teaching in south London, I saw first hand the chasm in aspirations and opportunities between the privileged and the less privileged in this country.
I then moved to California, studied for a Masters and worked at an insane and inspiring nonprofit called 826 Valencia. It taught me a whole lot. In particular, it showed me that we can do awesome, powerful, life-changing things and not have to be earnest or drab and speak in monotone.
I moved back to the UK and got depressed. Employment rates? Bottom. Social mobility rates? Bottom. All these talented, aspiring young people with nowhere to channel it. And all these talented, inspiring professionals who could help them on their way.
Am I innovative? Well, we're piloting our first programme using almost entirely online tools such as Facebook, Tumblr and Google+. So far, so awesome.
Am I dedicated? I'm doing all this while working freelance to earn money (as the sole breadwinner in the house right now). Oh and I have a 16 month old son. I'm not not busy.
Am I a strong leader? Here's what Gianni (one of our co-creators) said: "You know the ‘I have faith in you’ feel you got from your favourite teacher back at school? Spark+Mettle’s CEO has it." Thanks Gianni.
As for entrepreneurial skills: honestly? I take a parasitic approach. I look for a need, I look for a gap, and I find ways of getting people together to bring about positive change.
I love collaboration and co-creation: I had the kernel of the idea, but our team as well as our advisors, volunteers and co-creators are all making it way more amazing than I could have imagined. Confession: I am more UFO than CFO, but I'm getting a lot better at the financial side of things.
And my feeling is this: if we can make this work when the economy is so utterly awful, then we are in great shape for the years ahead.
I write a lot. Sorry. So if you've skipped to the bottom, fair enough. The key thing is this: I absolutely love what I do. And I want young people, wherever they're from, to be able to say the same.
About Your Organization
United Kingdom, ESX, BRIGHTON
Country where this project is creating social impact
United Kingdom, ESX, Brighton
Is your organization a
Non‐profit/NGO/citizen sector organization
The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..
The Need: What problem are you trying to solve?
There are now over a million unemployed young people in the UK. There are over 130,000 known instances of unpaid internships each year—four out of five employers say they hire former interns. What happens if you can’t afford to work for free?
The soft skills that are needed to get a good job and have a good life are not systematically taught. People from the poorest families in the UK are half as likely to flourish as those from the wealthiest. If you haven’t been taught the skills to help you realise your potential and thrive, how can you learn?
Young people spend over 50 hours online at home each month, and yet 74% of that time is doing stuff ‘just for fun’. If you don’t find any engaging but productive online activities, wouldn’t you just watch more YouTube cat videos too?
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
Our flagship project, Star Track, is a highly-personalised, year-long incubator programme to shape, support and accelerate the emerging talent in young people aged 18–24 from less privileged backgrounds. We want all young people, regardless of background, to be able to secure engaging, productive work and to live fulfilled lives.
By the end of the programme, our young people will:
• Understand their own potential and the possible options and pathways towards their future career
• Develop key employability skills
• Learn how to flourish in their life and in their work
• Improve their levels of resilience
• Become role models: sharing their learning with others.
• Use digital technology for meaningful purposes
In addition we are about to pilot 2 other projects:
• The Dreamers Supply Company—creating a range of products that will be sold through the Design Museum
• Forge On—a series of utterly non-exclusive events on how to flourish and fulfill your potential.
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities
Our Star Track programme centres around three terms of part-time mentoring and coaching, delivered online, which is augmented by face-to-face events, career-focused networking, funded summer work placements and peer-to-peer outreach opportunities. ‘Soft’ skills, ‘hard’ skills, philosophy, psychology, social and cultural studies, leadership training: our year-long programme is much more than CV-writing and interview techniques.
Take Arfah, for example. She wants to make documentaries, but she can't afford to intern for free and she doesn't have any contacts. What she does have, in spades, is spark. And mettle. So she's on Star Track as one of our co-creators. Her agent, Eugenie, 'hangs out' with Arfah and two other co-creators using Google+ every Monday evening at 8pm. They all have a socratic sort of discussion on set themes and topics—anything from how to boost your self-esteem, to what is a good life, to how to present your own life narrative to boost your employability skills.
Once our discussion is over, Arfah then sets about completing some additional research and reflective activities, and blogging them on her Tumblr. Eugenie checks in with her (via phone, email, text, Twitter and Facebook) over the course of the week.
Eugenie also approaches career experts and employability all-stars who can give exceptional guidance to Arfah. Arfah arranges to meet or talk with them and then tells Eugenie how she got on. Eugenie also helps Arfah find a paid work placement for the summer and negotiates on her behalf, if necessary.
There are four compulsory and many more optional opportunities for co-creators and their agents to meet in person over the course of the year. Some of these events include our Lunch Parlays, when we invite SuperMegaAwesome People (that's their official title) to meet our co-creators, to listen to them as they make a presentation and to give immediate, personalised feedback. And to eat delicious food.
We stress that the benefits go two ways. Yes, our young people gain a HUGE amount from the one-on-one attention that we and our volunteers provide. But we make sure that every opportunity for professionals to interact with our young people is engaging and rewarding (and, often, creative) for everyone. A chore? Nope. A “Man, I suppose should really do this?” feeling? Nope. A “Hey, this was a TON of fun!” reaction? Yup. Volunteering with us is a hyper-flexible, ultra-awesome addition to a busy life. And that’s why our volunteers keep on wanting to do more.
We take a long-term, holistic and user-directed approach. The young people are not just the programme’s participants; they are its co-creators. Together we blend new techniques, resources and delivery methods and come up with fresh approaches around what works best for each individual. Together we explore a raft of competencies — both professional and personal — to help our young people follow their passion, fulfil their potential, find a job they love and feel good about what they do.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?
There are a number of great organisations working to address issues of social mobility in the UK. These include the Helena Kennedy Foundation and the Prince's Trust. There are so many young people needing additional support that demand still far outstrips supply.
What differentiates Spark+Mettle from them is, firstly, our mode of delivery. We know that young people spend a lot of time online, so we go to them there, where they’re already at.
Secondly we see ourselves as a mixing pot: maximising opportunities for people from different walks of life to engage and interact with each other. That doesn't happen enough in this pocketed country.
Finally our approach is different. Our process is one of co-creation: young and young(ish) working together to bring about real, lasting change.
Select the stage that best applies to your business
Operating for less than a year
This Entry is about (Issues)
What is the social impact you have had to date and how you measure it?
Through Star Track, we aim to improve young people's flourishing and employability.
“It utilizes the time I spend on the internet in a much more productive way.” Arfah Farooq
“I already feel much happier.” Umair Baig
“It connects young people like me with professionals. There aren’t many organisations out there doing that.” Gianni Bolemole
Young people spend on average 50 hours online at home each month, and 74% of this time is doing stuff “just for fun.” Through Star Track we convert approximately one fifth of our co-creators’ online time into productive, engaging activity.
Since September our 13 co-creators have benefitted from almost 900 hours of direct, personalised support. By the end, that will total approximately £65,000 worth of experts' time, all offered voluntarily.
What barriers might hinder the success of your business? How do you plan to overcome them?
Scaling and reach. The Star Track pilot is successful so far. Great. But we've only got 13 on the programme. Initially we imagined expanding rapidly, so that Star Track would be directly impacting 1,000 young people in 5 years time. But our team and co-creators realised that some of its magic lies in the fact that it is a small cohort who live far apart but know each other well.
Sustainability. We're a registered charity but we don't want to be treated like one. Our next two projects are ones that will generate income for the organisation as a whole AND benefit many more young people too.
Two birds, one stone.
How does your model address financial, social, and environmental sustainability?
Our first chunk of money came from a successful crowdfunding campaign, that proved we could rally a large number of people to support our work. Since then we have had over 50 substantial donations from individuals as well as two grants from foundations. Halfway through, we've already raised all the funds needed to run the Star Track pilot and evaluate it.
The Dreamers Supply Company, a separate project launching this spring, has been supported financially by the RSA Catalyst Fund and voluntarily by the Design Museum. After the pilot, this project will form a cornerstone of our revenue-generation. We will launch an online store that will include our own range of products as well as a sort of Etsy for young people from which we will take a small commission.
We are also partnering with Hub Westminster and Westminster City Council to pilot Forge (On) a series of interactive events that bring together at-risk school pupils and inspiring professionals. These events will be ticketed on a sliding scale, so that they are affordable to all. We will also provide follow-up teaching materials.
As an organisation we reduce our environmental impact as much as possible and share our principles with our young people. We have no office to run, we rarely print. Even our website is powered by the wind. Two of our co-creators who are passionate about the environment are developing a Spark+Mettle environmental policy.
Awareness & learning
How do you see social entrepreneurship contributing to the improvement of developing countries?
The most impactful sort of change is when it comes from the ground up and is then supported by a wider nexus of understanding. That's a tenet of Spark+Mettle, and why the process of co-creation is so important to us.
I am nervous of the words 'improvement' and 'developing countries' (here comes little Berkeleyfied radical me) because they imply a global hierarchy that I'd prefer to be disbanded.
The strongest solutions to social or environmental challenges are ones that are born out of a community but are nurtured by a diverse group of advisors. It’s the blending of different opinions and contexts that is so exciting when working towards positive change. But the praxis of the 'home' social entrepreneur is key and should remain at the core of any solution.
Empowering local people to create positive change for their community is the single most important thing. And providing an accessible global forum to exchange ideas is vital too.
What aspects of your stay in Uganda as part of the competition do you think you will find most challenging and rewarding?
For me the challenges and the rewards of this opportunity are interconnected. The different social structures and concepts of personal rights and liberties in East Africa are something that I have previously found frustrating. A lot of Spark+Mettle’s work centres around the concepts of flourishing, agency and fulfilment. There are obviously many cultural nuances to these ideas, and I would be really excited to explore these in Uganda.
In 2003 I supported a local community in Oyugis, Kenya, to train widows to give HIV and AIDS advice to young people. One thing that struck me hugely whilst I was there was that, despite the fact that coffins had to be constructed on the main street because there wasn't enough space in the workshops, and despite the fact that there were ululations across the valley every night, the attitudes of many people were unswervingly positive.
If I could learn how to bottle that outlook and bring it back here?Amazing…
|62 weeks ago Eugenie Teasley updated this Competition Entry.|
|62 weeks ago Suraj Rai said: Spark & Mettle are tackling some tough challenges creatively & energetically. Coming from so many different backgrounds they work ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >|
|62 weeks ago Gianni Bolemole said: It's awesome. As I said in the video, without Spark and Mettle I couldn't get 30+ professional creatives all in one room to question at ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >|
|62 weeks ago Eugenie Teasley updated this Competition Entry.|
|62 weeks ago Coco Corr said: I'm also a young person on the star track programme, and it has been just wonderful. It has been so valuable, without the help and ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >|
|62 weeks ago Francesca Stuttle said: As a young person on the pilot scheme of Spark+Mettle's Star Track programme I would like to say how beneficial I find the support, ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >|
|62 weeks ago Eugenie Teasley updated this Competition Entry.|
|62 weeks ago Eugenie Teasley submitted this idea.|