Connecting Social Enterprises to Smart Ideas

7th August 2015

A partnership that has seen young people tackle business challenges at a range of social enterprises across the city, from working with skate parks to charities that tackle homelessness, has celebrated its first year.

Led by Sheffield Hallam University, Connecting Communities has paired children as young as nine with college and university students to tackle projects at some of Sheffield's key social enterprises. Armed with project plans, Connecting Communities has then recruited summer placement students for the social enterprises to put the schemes into action. Projects that have benefitted include ones at Whirlow Hall Farm, the Cathedral Archer Project, Sheffield Futures, St Wilfrid's Centre and Onboard Skatepark. Tracy Viner from Cathedral Archer Project said: "This project helped identify a very real issue at the charity, to help educate schools about the work we do and why it is so relevant today."I "We've found the input truly supportive and developed a suite of educational materials directly inspired by young people's ideas." Students are presented with real business challenges to address through project-based learning, and local organisations benefit from innovative and fresh ideas to address the challenges they face. The first phase introduces business challenges to secondary and primary school students while the second brings in university and college students to take the ideas generated in phase one, and turn them into strategic plans. In the final phase, a university student takes on a summer placement with one of the social enterprises, to implement the project and bring everything full cycle. Lindsey Coombs, who worked as the placement student at Whirlow Hall Farm, said: "I want to work in the third sector or in charity work so being given the opportunity to manage a project was a fairly unique one - it has been really rewarding." Project co-ordinator Francesca Rolle said: "We've loved bringing this project to fruition to create lasting change and legacy at social enterprises across the city. The final results will have increased enterprise and employability skills for the older students, and given them an insight into a social enterprise career path. And from a school's point of view, pupils are learning by applying classroom lessons to real-life scenarios, through project based learning." The project has won the national UnLtd SEE Change Recognition Award for 'Innovation in Delivery of Support to Social Entrepreneurs' and worked with four secondary schools and five primary schools - with a total of around 340 young people involved, and 30 college and university students. Connecting Communities is a Sheffield Enterprise Pipeline project funded through UnLtd and HEFCE. The partners are Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield Hallam Students' Union, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield City Council, The City College, and Sero Consulting Ltd.

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