Pandora - Staff mobility: My time at The Ubele Initiative by Anita Duda, Autokreacja Fondation, Poland

Introduction

It is great to be part of the project Pandora that focuses on female entrepreneurship and to get a chance to exchange practices between partners and explore new opportunities in different countries.

The Ubele Initiative is a new inter-generational community building initiative which aims to increase community’s capacity to lead, and create innovative and entrepreneurial social responses to some of the most stuck social issues. They support and partnership with organisations across the UK and internationally create innovative solutions for some of the most pressing social, economic and political concerns.

I joined The Ubele Initiative in April and left London in mid-June. I participated in meetings and events that helped me understand the importance of social enterprise as one of the solutions to social issues. The Ubele Initiative projects that I got involved in, not only include innovative ideas, but also focus on intergenerational dialogue that for me is one of the best aspects of the Ubele’s work. Itwas an amazing experience to be part of an organisation that treats community as priority and develops potential of its members.

Key Objectives of my staff mobility and Reflections

Orientation

The first week of my mobility was focused mainly on learning about the Ubele’s work. I visited for the first time The 639 Enterprise Centre in Tottenham, where the Ubele’s office is located. The Centre is run by the London Youth Support Trust and is a visionary new space that has been developed to help local people get started in business and gain employment skills. I like the idea of working in a shared space – it gives opportunities for networking and sharing experience with one another. In Warsaw I also work in a co-working space, so the idea behind the Centre is close to me.

Yvonne introduced me to few people involved in The Ubele, including two of the Directors of The Ubele Initiative: Michael Hamilton, who has more than 20 years of experience working with young people and their communities in the London Borough of Lewisham and Makeda Coaston, who has experience in project management, programming, organisational development and advocacy as a diversity and inclusion champion for the creative industries.

I visited also one of the Ubele’s partners - KORI – A Community Youth Charity that was founded to support the development of children and young people aged 5-25 years through programmes that enable them to continue to grow throughout their time in the organisation.

Social Enterprise

During my time spent with The Ubele Initiative, I had an opportunity to explore and learn more about social enterprise in London. I visited several organisations that aim to make a bigger social impact, including Hatch Enterprise that provides community driven support by workshops, 1-1 support, mentoring and access to a network of business pioneers and experts. I have met Karen Stenning and we talked about the Female Founders Accelerator Programme that she manages.

Yvonne and I attended the NCVO Annual Conference on 20th April. NCVO champions the voluntary sector by connecting, representing and supporting voluntary organisations. It has a diverse community of over 12,500 member organisations, including The Ubele Initiative. During the Conference I participated in workshops on impact data, where we talked about how to define impact and how to measure it. I also tookpart in workshops on the future of volunteering and on making your organisation’s story resonate with a sceptical public. Keynote speakers that included Sir Stuart Etherington, Julia Unwin CBE and Bear Grylls were great during their plenaries with Q&A. It struck me the most when Bear Grylls talked about choosing his team members. He said that for him the character matters the most because you can teach people new skills, but you cannot teach them kindness under pressure.

I had an opportunity to help with the applications for Bright Ideas Fund that offers grants to community groups to develop their business ideas. The Fund provides not only early stage finance, but also gives support and tools. The two applications I have been helping with were: Morsel – a food app for monthly events bringing the community together to make a meal from surplus food – and Wise Women on Wheels – one of the Ubele’s incubation projects that is a collaboration between Rockstone Community Foundation and The Ubele Initiative which supports Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) women over the age of 45 in cycling proficiency.

One of the national projects of The Ubele Initiative is Mali Enterprising Leaders. It is the first community business pilot project which seeks to create community business opportunities intergenerationally within BAME community organisations in the UK.

I visited organisations involved in Mali project:

-          198 Contemporary Arts and Learning that is a visual arts space that grew out of the social unrest of the 1980’s as a regenerative project to empower the local community in Brixton to express themselves creatively;

-          Carnaval del Pueblo Association that has been delivered exciting and diverse annual Burgess Park based Carnavals that reveal and share with Londoners the authentic 19 country Latin American cultural heritage of music, dance and food in London;

-          The Lewisham Sports Consortium which is a voluntary organisation set up to benefit the community by providing facilities for sport and recreation, advancing public education for children and young people through physical and mental education and training programmes.

When I visited The Lewisham Sports Consortium, I attended a meeting with The London Marathon Charitable Trust that provides capital funding for building or facilities projects that inspire increased participation in physical activity, sport and play. It was great to experience how the talks on the process of application for funding look like.

Unfortunately, I didn’t visit all places recommended by Yvonne, however I did some research on them. I think it’s worth mentioning Social Enterprise UK that is the biggest network of social enterprises in the UK. One of the elements of their strategy is Buy Social. It is a flagship campaign that aims to build markets for social enterprises among the general public as well as the private and public sectors. Especially nowadays, it is important to raise awareness of the importance of where we buy our goods and services from.

Also, I would like to mention The School for Social Entrepreneurs that supports individuals from all backgrounds who have practical ideas for change by teaching them entrepreneurial approach. Their programmes and workshops cover topics such as starting a social enterprise or moving an existing charity towards a social enterprise model. I am very much looking forward to joining one of their workshops in the future.

I arrived to London with an open mind and a readiness to learn about social entrepreneurship in the UK that I didn’t know much about back then. All the conversations I had and visits I made showed me how many opportunities there are for social entrepreneurs. Starting from gaining skills through workshops, programmes and trainings to practicing and being part of a positive social change. I especially like the idea of mentoring that for me is a special kind of bond that results in self-awareness, but also exploring and developing of the potential of the person being mentored. Learning about social entrepreneurship in the UK was a great experience and I gained new knowledge that I will definitely use in the future.

Adult education

I participated in Theory U training in Berlin that was part of The Ubele’s project called Creating resilient communities through social leadership. Participants were coming from different organisations from the UK. The focus of the training was introduction to Theory U and developing leadership skills to predict more effective response to new societal and economic challenges.

During the training I learned more about how community works. We also discussed how to learn from the future and how to make a bigger impact. And there’s one quote I wrote down that summarizes it perfectly: “The quality of success depends on the quality of our being”. The time I spent in Berlin was very valuable. I enjoyed conversations in a diverse and intergenerational group that we were and talking with all the inspiring participants about their work and experience.

ICT

I have met Shwetal Shah firstly, to work on her food app Morsel application for Bright Ideas Fund and secondly, to talk with her about her ICT experience. She shared with me stories from hackathons that she participated in and talked about ‘Balancing Tech: Women at the forefront of the gender revolution’ – a project she launched that is about seven case studies of women from different backgrounds who shared their journeys into the male dominated world of tech.

I worked also on the new Ubele’s website and shared my Mailchimp and Canva experience with some young people involved at The Ubele Initiative.

Besides that I did research on work of DataKind and Data Shift by reading some of their resources and case studies on citizen-generated data initiatives. I look forward to explore more on the topic of effective data collection and its social impact. I did some reading also on Code First: Girls that runs community activities and trainings with young women who want to build careers in tech and entrepreneurship. This is a great initiative and they definitely deserve to be announced on Ones to Watch list for the third year.

Ubele projects support/Partnership development

I enjoyed a lot working for The Ubele Initiative. I not only learnt more about its work, but I also could use my skills and leave a small footprint by providing publicity, working on the new website and developing and implementing communications strategy.

The idea standing behind The Ubele Initiative, including intergenerational dialogue, building a new generation of leaders and providing innovative responses to the most concerning social issues, seems to be fitting well in London. The Ubele has an amazing potential to grow as an organisation. It has a great network of people involved in its projects and partnering organisations from all over the UK. But most of all The Ubele Initiative has strong leadership. From what I can say about Yvonne, after knowing her only for 2 months, is that she is one of the busiest people that I have ever met and even though she finds time to meet with people from different communities, listen to them and offer them help and support. She takes action and is not afraid of challenges. I consider The Ubele initiative as a valuable partner and I hope to run together more projects in the future.

Understanding African Diaspora Culture in London

During my first week, I attended a book launch of The Hate UGive by Angie Thomas. I liked the quote that was on the poster: “What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent”. It became a trigger for the discussion on becoming an activist in a making. Among the topics that appeared during this book launch were also controversy around Black Lives Matter black British role models. It was a great event and the author was funny and sharp and absolutely lovable. 

While I was staying in London, I had also an opportunity to learn about African heritage and culture by exploring Tottenham, Brixton and Ladbrooke Grove with great individuals as guides, who work and are passionate about these neighbourhoods and their history.

Last but not least

To all the incredible individuals I have met during my time in London, I would like to thank  each and every one of you for making me feel welcomed and for all the conversations we had.

I would like to thank Nefertiti for hosting me, for laughter and making me feel like home and Tommoy for being an amazing housemate.

Finally, I would like to thank Yvonne Field for introducing me to the work of The Ubele Initiative and to all who are involved in its growth and development. I appreciate all the time we spent together. You are a true inspiration for all the young women.

Roy Edgeworth