Three unlikely starting points for social entrepreneurs

In 2015 Social Enterprise UK reported that the proportion of social enterprises that grew their turnover was 52 per cent, compared with 40 per cent of SMEs.

Social entrepreneurs are increasingly leading the way in economic growth and social change. From poverty to climate change to gender inequality social entrepreneurs are tackling some of the world’s biggest problems with unlikely approaches from unconventional places.

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On a football pitch:

Ashoka Fellow Mel Young is fighting homelessness, from a football pitch. According to the United Nations around 100 million people globally are homeless, and as many as one billion people lack adequate housing. In the UK over 2000 people sleep without shelter on any particular night. The challenge around tackling homelessness is in part the complexity of the problem: homelessness often stems from a variety of factors, and solutions require far more than providing housing. Furthermore individuals are frequently incredibly difficult to reach through programmes, this is where the power of football comes in. Mel Young founded The Homeless World Cup, an annual international tournament which unites teams of homeless people to represent their country. The Homeless World Cup works with partner organisations in more than 70 countries to engage homeless people into local programmes and empower them to change their own lives through street football.

On a surfboard:

Riding a surfboard might not be the most conventional place to look for a social entrepreneur, but Ashoka Fellow Tim Conibear is using surfing to support traumatised and disenfranchised young people. His organisation Waves for Change, originally started as he shared his love of surfing with a group of local children in South Africa, where he was working at the time. In South Africa 33 per cent of children in townships suffer from mental health issues. Waves for Change has now become a programme with a dedicated curriculum through which it uses surfing and surf therapy to tackle the mental health problems faced by these children. The outcome of the programme is an integrated network of children and youth who are empowered to support each other through emotional trauma, the ultimate goal of this deeper understanding is to challenge the cycles of violence that plague many townships.

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In a bank:

You might think of banking and finance as very traditional industries but Ashoka Fellow Faisel Rahman is leading the social enterprise revolution in the sector. Nearly two million adults in the UK are ‘unbanked’ — Faisel’s organisation, Fair Finance, is tackling financial exclusion head on. Traditional financial institutions ignore vast groups of the most vulnerable citizens, for many of whom the only remaining option is an exploitative payday loan with extremely high interest. Fair Finance offers products and services to the individuals that are excluded from the financial system, including tailored advice and affordable loans. To date Fair Finance has approved over 18,000 loans, totalling over £15 million. The social impact of this is enormous — they have helped over 5000 residents avoid eviction.

– By Meera Patel, Communications Manager, Ashoka UK. This article is part of a series celebrating 10 years of Ashoka’s work in the UK. This series will culminate in a two-day Changemaker Summit, held in London. The 10 year celebrations are kindly supported by Blackstone Charitable Foundation.

This article first appeared on Virgin, on August 30, 2016

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We work across sectors with social entrepreneurs, businesses and educators to create a world in which everyone is equipped and empowered to be a changemaker.

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