Ian Findlay, project manager of Beyond the Finish Line, takes us through the first year of the social enterprise accelerator programme
Beyond The Finish Line (BTFL), is a project using the momentum of the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the imagination of Glasgow’s young people to regenerate local communities.
The project challenged 16 to 30 year olds to find social enterprise solutions to the widespread issue of high street and town centre decline.
BTFL is co-ordinated jointly by Firstport, the go-to agency for social enterprise start-ups in Scotland, and Icecream Architecture (ICA) a community interest company that works between community and public agencies to deliver creative, enterprising regeneration projects.
The project has just been shortlisted for the Town Centre Regeneration category of the 2014 SURF awards. The awards, delivered in partnership with the Scottish Government, recognises and rewards best practice and innovation in community regeneration. BTFL has also been awarded prestigious Legacy status, awarded to projects in 2014 working towards creating a more prosperous, inclusive and accessible Glasgow
The project, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, has produced a variety of exciting initiatives including a youth culture magazine, an upcycling enterprise, an illustration company, confidence workshops for young mothers and a community cinema. Each business received one-to-one business support, mentoring from industry experts, free workspace within a refurbished incubator space, funding of up to £2014 and support to find their own premises to open for business in time for the Games
The social entrepreneurs on the project are totally individual, all bringing different skills, contacts and experiences along with their different social enterprise business ideas
The social entrepreneurs on the project are totally individual, all bringing different skills, contacts and experiences along with their different social enterprise business ideas. Uniquely though the co-working space and the programme’s journey of training and workshops, it allows for sharing of skills, resources, contacts and a support network of people who are all facing the same issues as each other.
With a programme of workshops and support from professionals in a range of areas including human resources, branding, leadership, marketing, design and social impact allowing them to build on their current skills set. Daily support and guidance from ICA and Firstport, the social enterprises were set challenges that would force them into thinking about their business in different ways allowing them to develop the ideas, concepts and define what the final “product” would be.
As the end of the project approaches everyone is at different stages of their business. For example, Little Book Transfers are a group of graduates with BA (Hons) Visual Arts from North Glasgow College, who collaborate to create mural art. The three girls, Hollie, Nikki and Mairi, got accepted onto the project and really benefited from the the co-working space and community aspect.
Hollie explained: “It was perfect for us.We prefer to be in a creative environment with others. The fact that some of the challengers were working in similar creative fields made sharing the space even more fulfilling. Also, the diversity of social enterprises allowed us to question things about our own work that we may not already have. You could see first hand the progress everyone was making!”
Many of the Challengers - as they are called – had other work commitments as well as spending time developing their new business but try and make as many events and workshops as they could. Juggling both their day jobs and building a business is tough, as
Hollie says. “Each week we had set objectives to get through - the workload does add up. It’s a case of just making sure that you have a good system in place.”
She added “The most valuable experience of all is the people we have met and networked with and the other creatives that we have bounced ideas with. It was a very encouraging and welcoming environment.”
A final challenge has been set to all the challengers, giving them the opportunity to get access to a final £3000 top-up funding. With one-to-one sessions provided on their business plan, marketing and measuring social impact, that will allow them to fulfil their objectives and build a strong sustainable business. The final event held later this year will see the challengers pitch in front of their peers, mentors and potential funders and investors.
Ian Findlay is project manager of Beyond the Finish Line. For more information visit www.beyondthefinishline.org.uk.