Our young are ‘Abandoning Ambitions’ – could corporate partners help earlier on?

Ariel shot canary wharfThe Prince’s Trust have just released some alarming new research ‘Abandoned Ambitions’, supported by HSBC, which shows that 1 in 3 young people leaving school with poor grades believe they will “end up on benefits” and 1 in 5 young people claim they have “abandoned their ambitions” due to their poor qualifications.

They’re twice as likely as their peers to say that they “struggled to concentrate on schoolwork due to family problems” and that their “homelife was so stressful that they struggled to focus” . They are also significantly less likely to have had access to a computer, the internet or a quiet place to do their schoolwork at home.

Martina Milburn CBE, chief executive of The Prince’s Trust, believes it’s more important than ever to invest in ‘vocational support and training for young people who are not academically successful’ and that government, employers and charities ‘must work together to get them into jobs’. Without this, thousands will struggle to compete, leaving them hopeless and jobless which causes a huge impact on the economy.

I’m doing a mentoring programme with Timebank at the moment and during our training session we met the Major of Tower Hamlets (who was about 16 as he was a young ambassador). Having a quiet place to do schoolwork or study was something that cropped up then too. Also the glaring disparity of the wealth in Canary Wharf versus some of the poorest areas in Tower Hamlets.

It made me think, why don’t corporate companies open up parts of their offices to school children struggling, in the evenings or weekends to do their school work or study. Surely this is paramount in PREVENTING the issue in the first place, rather than trying to help people to find jobs and build confidence AFTER they’ve got low grades.

A lot of effort has to go into un-doing damage to self confidence so why not help make things more accessible before it gets to that stage. Corporate partners surely have a role to play in society and giving something back. Are there programmes focusing on opening up their offices to these kids to study?

The Kindness Cab

Last year Leon Logothetis gave free rides to strangers in his kindness cab, raising over £10,000 to fund books for Classwish.org. This year he did the Mongol Rally with his team mates, nicknamed the Flying Dutchman, and 10,000 books were donated to firstbook.org.

He swapped his life as a city broker to pursue his dreams to travel the world and spread kindness: “If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” –Frank A. Clark

Social Enterprise in childcare: London Early Years Foundation

This feature by Social Enterprise is one of the most exciting I’ve ever read. Why?

In the future I’d love to run a nursery, giving places to families who can’t afford it. It’s been a dream of mine the last 5 years since doing work experience in a nursery. It’s great to read such an in-depth interview with June O’Sullivan, who’s the CEO of the leading childcare social enterprise, London Early Years Foundation (LEYF). She took it through a transformational process and re-brand in 2005 but was sensitive to the heritage of the company in doing so.

Its annual turnover has increased from £2m to £8.5m but she’s aiming on a turnover of £50m, by running 50 nurseries in up to 15 London boroughs (currently it’s in 5 boroughs). And she believes in a very collaborative approach.

She’s transformed it from a charity reliant on funds for 60% of its income, to being a fully self-sufficient social enterprise model and a very successful one at that.

The current economic and social climate is a good one for social enterprise, as more people are interested in doing good and moving away from pure capitalism. It’s great that the appetite is there but June doesn’t feel we’re fully capitalizing off it in childcare, as the public consciousness isn’t there quite yet. Her ambition (for social enterprise in childcare) is benchmarked against the Fair trade market, where everyone understands that you’re paying for the best because it’s doing good somewhere else.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for how LEYF do and hopefully I may even get to work with them.

Dave Eggers’ TED wish

The Times wrote of Dave: “many writers, having written a first best-seller, might see it as a nice way to start a career. He started a movement instead.”

Dave is a creative genius check out his bio here and Open Upon A School. I’m going to keep this short and sweet, watch this video. His talk is very charming and he gets a standing ovation which is so touching. It’s no surprise considering what he’s achieved and started though:
”open minds and open ears and boundless compassion….some of these kids just don’t plain know how good they are, how smart and how much they have to say. You can tell them and shine that light on them, one human interaction at a time.”

Hackney Pirates have taken inspiration from this, to carry on the movement here in East London.

[ted id=233]

How the social enterprise Hackney Pirates change children’s lives

Hackney Pirates blackboard roomThe Hackney Pirates is an innovative education project, developing literacy and creativity in young people, by giving them one to one attention in an unconventional learning environment.’ They help 9-12 years old each day from 3.30-6.30 and rely on volunteers so they can provide one to one support.

On April 25th I was invited to the Young Pirate Apprentice t-shirt event, as I donated some money through their Buzzbnk campaign. Hackney Pirates collaborated with Enabling Enterprise for it, a not-for-profit organisation aiming to ‘equip young people with the skills, aspirations and experiences to succeed in life’. This really is a massive thing, they and Hackney Pirates are CHANGING lives.

Hackney PiratesThe t-shirt project ran for a few months where the children worked on the designs for their t-shirt, market research, negotiating t-shirt deals, planning a sales strategy and organising the launch event.

Each week they were visited by an entrepreneur and the children presented their t-shirt designs at the launch event. I kid you not, I was very close to tears a few times at the event. You can clearly see the confidence the children have developed and you can see how it’s changing their lives, for good. They’re being taught creativity, entrepreneurship and are improving their literacy at the same time. Camilla and Catriona are such amazing people, giving these children faith in their abilities. I bet the kids feel like there’s now no limit to what they can do.

Hackney Pirates t-shirtThis is the t-shirt I’ve bought and you can buy one here if you’d like to help support them. They’re also looking for volunteers and you can sign up here.

Giving children happiness ‘DANCE’ – TedxHackney

Edward Monkton Greeting cardGiles Andreae – Giving our children happiness – TedxHackney event April 14th

Giles is behind the Edward Monkton distinctive greeting cards.

He also creates brilliant kids books, which are endearing fables under the name ‘World of Happy’.

They’ve won a Gold parenting award and I’m not surprised as they help teach kids really important values. I’ll be buying my niece and nephews some.

Giles’ talk was done in such a charming way, which comes through in all of his best-selling work. He’s obviously got something very right and I’ll be remembering his tips for happiness ‘DANCE’:

Dedication – keep learning, practice, commit to passions
Active – challenge yourself to try something new
Nurture – care and be kind
Celebrate – with rewards for what we put in
Enjoy – savour today’s moment, enjoy the present

Kony vs. Clooney


Awareness: We all know of the KONY video (Make Kony Famous), which is the most viral in history, to date. A major criticism of the Invisible Children campaign was that the LRA had significantly weakened in recent years though, and the organisation overstated the army’s current power. Oh and then Jason Russell’s hospitalisation for brief psychosis of course, which has naturally undermined the campaign for lots of people.

Action: they have since come out with a less glorified follow up video (Beyond Famous), which has received 1.5 million views compared to the original film’s 87 million, which is a shame as phase 2 is even more important. I’ll be keeping at eye out for April 20th to see what the impact of ‘Cover the night’ is.


Rehabilitation: Phase 1 accomplished its role in making Kony famous globally but what else can be done, other than capturing him (which may be unlikely). For a good round-up, check out this interview with Finck from Invisible Children headquarters, as they’re doing some great work in Uganda i.e. rehabilitation in communities and investment in education with their amazing Schools for Schools programme.

Prevention: They are now working with local partners tracking LRA movements, using an early warning radio network for local communities, so they have time to escape.

Collective responsibility: The ultimate dream is that ‘We’re a global community protecting each other’ (Luis Moreno-Ocampo ICC)


Awareness: I’m sure you’ve all seen Clooney’s very visible arrest orchestrated for the cameras for exposure. I have to say, I did cynically think Jason Russell’s odd behaviour was done for the same reason, to help with phase 2.

Prevention: Clooney has taken an innovative approach to trying to prevent atrocities.  He came up with the idea to use advanced satellite imagery to monitor areas, the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP). He spoke to Google and the satellite company DigitalGlobe to help set it up and it’s funded by him. The team can issue a warning, giving an opportunity for many to flee, meaning they can have an impact in saving lives too.

Documentation: The imagery is so accurate it can be used to monitor massacres and mass graves. So it will help gather evidence which can be used in future war crimes tribunals, for Sudanese leaders.


Conclusion: It’s too early to tell whether Kony v.s Clooney has a conclusive hero, so I’ll be revisiting this debate. Great to hear any thoughts…..

Pay It Forward – Stranger kindness

I’ve been on the hunt for stories about kindness, how one person has helped another and discovered something very exciting. Something much bigger, that can connect people across the world no matter what their religion is, through simple methods – stranger kindness.

What is the Pay it Forward movement

The beauty of it is in it’s simplicity, the Pay it Forward bracelet, which acts as a reminder, something to pass onto a stranger, which creates the ripple effect: ‘Some people call us crazy, we prefer visionaries. The ideology behind “Pay it Forward” allows us the freedom to look at life from a different perspective.’

The concept is actually something that’s been around since 317 BC and Benjamin Franklin re-discovered it in 1784. In 1944 to gained traction with the development of what became the Heifer Project, whose core strategy was passing on the gift:

‘each participating family would study animal husbandry and agree to Pass on the Gift, to donate any female animal offspring to another family. In this fashion, he imagined that a single gift would multiply far beyond the original investment’

The history of Pay it Forward

Pay it Forward isn’t something new, it has a very long history. Why hasn’t it become more mainstream and part of what we’re taught at school? Why don’t we have a Pay it Forward day, to help raise the level of consciousness?

It’s incredible on so many levels, their ambition is 1 billion bracelets worldwide and I’m pretty sure Charley will reach this. He’s a very busy man but kindly did a video interview for me to answer some questions I had, which you can watch below.


They’re doing a worldwide book flash mob on March 28th at 4pm and here’s how you can get involved. They’d like to set a Guinness Book of World Records. Or if you’re not around then, do something nice on the Pay it Forward Day April 26th. This video is not quite the Kony video, maybe that’s because it’s not as sensational but it is realistic and a ‘Idea worth spreading’ (which Tedx guests agree with).