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Social Enterprise Start-up Support

From mid January to March 2012 we worked intensely with a group of young, enthusiastic and highly talented social entrepreneurs to support them in realising their dream ‘to build resilient, sustainable and thriving communities and organisations through supporting young adults to be resourceful and build meaningful livelihoods’. A dream that would eventually develop into an innovative new educational program and social business called Edventure Frome.

We were originally invited to help design a stakeholder meeting where the core-team wanted to present their idea and get input from potential supporters and future participants.

It soon became clear from our conversations that what the core-team needed was first  team retreat for themselves to get clearer about who they were, what exactly they wanted to do as a team and how.

From this weekend long team retreat we established a ‘heartbeat’ of weekly meetings, which helped the team – being without office and based in different cities – to get into a flow of working together. The purpose of these meetings was also to start right now and to be the prototype they wanted to create. Each of the team meetings contained elements of the learning programme they wanted to create: a check-in to share personally where everyone was at, learning together about something that was useful for the project and that we were excited about, for example empowered fund-raising. And of course to create focused time to work on the project.

Our main role in the team was to witness and to hold space. To listen deeply and support a team and its individual members to grow into their potential and become who they want to be. It wasn’t always easy because at some point it meant letting go one of the team members who realised that she really wanted to sail around the world rather than start this new project.

Another big learning was about the care it takes for an idea to move from one person’s heart and mind into the hands of a team. And to witness the process of transformation of that idea is like a constant silent negotiation: Can we really count on each other? Will you trust me to do it my way? Can I trust you to do it right?

Sometimes this is a beautiful flow, sometimes a difficult rocky path. When we give birth to an idea we meet our own shadows in ourselves and each other. It’s such an opportunity to learn and so easy to overlook this part of creation: the tending of the invisible interior and spaces in between. In our many contacts with different start-up social enterprises we learned the importance of paying attention to the founding energy of an organisation. It will set the tone. Like the source of a river, it’s quality will determine the quality of life it will be able to nurture downstream. In other words, when we start a new project we often forget to pay attention to our own intentions, the place inside of us we create from. And we often don’t take enough care of our relationships and how we treat each other. Over 90% of projects and businesses fail because of relational issues.

In February 2012 we co-hosted the first community design meeting – check out the pictures and audio. Our team coaching ended in the beginning of April when the team were in the process of deciding on a location and did their first scouting trips. The team secured their first funding in this period. In June the team moved to a small progressive town in the UK called Frome where the local council was very supportive of the project. In August they recruited their first participants and started their activities.

Edventure Frome is constituted as a community interest company – a new opportunity for young adults to gain valuable skills and experience for creating a livelihood in tough economic times. They learn by working on real challenges and assignments that benefit Frome, creating a community hub, and get support to achieve their life and job aspirations, or start their own business. It was an honor and a joy to witness the beginning of it!

Simone PoutnikSocial Enterprise Start-up Support