71.1. Short description
In 2010 The Future Melting Pot (TFMP) set up the YEER pilot project (for 1 year) to provide business support to black and minority ethnic individuals who were not in employment, education or training (NEET) with the main aim of participants being able to set up their own enterprises. YEER was designed to provide business-specific training and assist young people from developing an idea to starting their own business. The project included training, support and access to accredited advisors. The approach could be characterised as intensive, personalised support to stimulate entrepreneurialism.
The project’s approach was innovative in that it offered hard-to-reach, excluded young people an alternative to unemployment or ad hoc paid employment. This differed from conventional employment support and the focus on “getting a job”. It used innovative approaches to communication and retention using the clients preferred method of communication such as Facebook and other social media.
71.2. Conceptions and ways of addressing users
TFMP is a community interest company, which was set up in 2009 after identifying a gap in the market for an organisation to support the aims and aspirations of disadvantaged young people. The project provided a structured yet flexible programme of support in a “safe and welcoming atmosphere”. Young people had to be over 18 years old and on benefits for at least 3 months. There were a limited number of places and young people had to complete an application form and take part in an interview. Participation therefore required a certain amount of motivation and commitment from the outset. The usual timeframe for young people to be engaged with the project was 6 months or less.
Participants were offered the chance to improve personal development; nurture their entrepreneurial “mind”; start the business they had always wanted to start; create their own work and become their own boss; and make a difference for themselves, their family and their community. An action plan was drawn up with a mentor and participants received support in developing business ideas from initial design to completion. It provided the opportunity to explore the option of self-employment in an environment, which was led by the needs of individuals and where feedback was incorporated into the project. The project developed in response to the different learning paces of individuals and more advanced learners could benefit from a “fast-track” approach to courses and additional sessions.
71.3. Internal organisation and modes of working
TFMP is a community interest company, which is a social enterprise that uses profits and assets for the public good. They operate with a board and have shareholders/members. The philosophy of TFMP is to “enable and empower young people to achieve their potential through enterprise”. The concept is very much about developing individual ideas and talents, to “open new gateways to disadvantaged groups who find it hard to engage meaningfully with traditional business networks”.
The YEER project received support through a local Innovation Fund, which provided small grants to test innovative approaches to issues of unemployment. The Innovation Fund was part of the wider WNF. The mentors and advisers were recruited specifically for the project so that they had existing networks that people could tap into. Partnership development was seen as a large part of the success of YEER and gave participants the opportunity to network effectively from the start.
71.4. Interaction with the local welfare system
In Birmingham, young people who are NEETs have been a particular concern over the years and this project helped to address this. It was a small-scale pilot project and so low risk for the local strategic partnership to support; therefore, also the potential for impact on the local welfare system was limited. The project did shift the focus away from getting people into work to supporting entrepreneurial activities, which had not often been central in policy discussion, and even less so for this particular group, which was considered difficult to engage with. It was an example of the increased involvement of the third sector in delivering services and the application of business practices to areas of social concern.