I recently completed a piece of work for Hammersmith and Fulham Volunteer Centre, who engaged me through the NCVYS Affiliate Service and Big Assist to help them convert a fully funded youth project called ‘Events 4 Youth’ into a self-sustaining social enterprise, one preferably led by young people.
My initial reaction to that was to ask whether or not it was feasible to let those currently involved in Events 4 Youth to lead that conversion; otherwise, how could any enterprise developing from it, genuinely be led by young people? Besides, despite my best efforts, I am a long way off being a young person anymore!
There was however a board of trustees to convince, and whatever the charity, they are not always the easiest people to please, especially when it comes to letting young people take the reins. So that is where I came in, adding a little structure and experience; and in consultation with both trustees and young people we came up with a viable model. This is how we did it:
We took a fairly basic business model generation approach to the task in the first instance, getting those involved in Events 4 Youth to get creative in their thinking and ‘re-imagine’ the project with a new set of eyes. We then looked at how viable those models were in reality, by doing a little market research, which is always a daunting subject, as it can either scupper or bolster your ideas! Finally, as the task was to set up a social enterprise that engaged young people, we needed to find a way of effectively engaging young people and measuring the impact the enterprise would have on all those involved.
Breaking this approach down into five clear steps, we ensured there were ‘critical review points’ after certain stages, so stakeholders would not only be consulted but would need to give their thumbs up before we moved onto the next stage. In summary, those five steps looked like this:
- Step 1 brought together the existing staff team with volunteers/young people in on ‘ideation’ session, where the existing model of service delivery was critically reviewed against a number of building blocks such as customer segments, key activities and social mission, vision and values. The aim was to come away with a couple of new model sketches for future social enterprise;
- Step 2 took the findings from Step 1 and recommended three possible business models that would then need closer analysis through focussed market research. The aim of this step was not just to begin identifying where opportunities for the social enterprise might lie, at this point we also wanted to start looking at how outcomes and social impact will be measured throughout the new enterprise’s lifespan with regards to the young people engaged with it. This stage culminated in one of those ‘critical review points’, which simply involved a presentation to the board of trustees in the hope of a thumbs up on the recommendations (which thankfully we got!);
- Step 3 was a market analysis completed entirely by the young people involved in Events 4 Youth, who expressed a keen interest in this work after the session at Step 1. My contribution at this stage involved the provision of questions and writing up the findings only. The aim was to look at potential pricing structures as well as revenue sources. We also wanted to look at customer satisfaction and this meant not only asking existing customers, but asking the very young people involved as volunteers about their experiences and expectations. This was a crucial stage in this piece of work and ensuring those already engaged in the project were involved so heavily at this stage proved invaluable;
- Step 4 simply went into more detail, where we looked at the business model options proposed at Step 2 and taking all the information gained from Step 3 reviewed what each model could do and what its advantages/disadvantages were with regards to both its social and commercial mission, while also assessing which might be the most financially viable. At this stage we also presented an approach to engaging young people and measuring the impact the proposed model may have on their lives. This stage also culminated in a ‘critical review point’ where we asked the trustees to approve our recommendations so that we could put together a more robust plan of action for the chosen model in the final stage;
- Step 5 followed that approval and involved the pulling together of all the work done so far into one single business plan that ended with an immediate action plan, so what needs to happen over the next six months, as well as a sketch for the next five years.
It is worth noting that this process started a good year before funding runs out and there is still another six months to go. This kind of development work takes time and there are still a number of actions to put in place to ensure the project does not have to close down later in the year. Planning is key, there is no point leaving it to the last minute if you want all stakeholders involved and most importantly engaged. We found the Step 1 session incredibly useful in that ‘involving’ and ‘engaging’ process and will look to do some similarly but more detailed sessions over the course of the immediate action plan.
If you would like to know more about the details or think something similar might be useful to your organisation, please contact me direct at firstname.lastname@example.org or look out for up-coming webinars via NCVYS channels.