Resource pack brings social enterprise into the classroom

The British Council, Real Ideas Organisation (RIO) and Social Enterprise Academy (SEA) have teamed up to launch Social Enterprise in Schools, a resource pack helping teachers to deliver activities and lessons on social enterprise.

Written in clear English and aimed at students aged 7-14, the resource pack is suitable for any educator – no previous experience of social enterprise is needed – and is designed to help achieve key teaching objectives, promote valuable skills and enrich the quality of education in schools. It is available for free download from the British Council’s Schools Online website (see link below).

Students as agents of change

The pack contains six principal lesson plans as well as suggestions for activities in the classroom and community. The activities spur students to think about social problems in their localities and further afield and the role that businesses and social enterprises can play in addressing them. As the lessons progress, students working in groups develop a business plan for their own social enterprise and the most promising of these plans is turned into a real social enterprise. 

In Birmingham, for example, students, staff and parents at the Victoria Park Primary Academy run Ballot Street Spice, a social enterprise that roasts, grinds and blends spices by hand and sells original spice products and cooked foods. The social enterprise draws on the rich cultural and culinary heritage of the local area - whose residents speak over 40 different languages - in order to build community cohesion and offer real learning for young people. Ballot Street Spice is recognised by Ashoka as one of the most successful school based social enterprises in the UK and is credited by the school’s executive head as offering a strong model to promote social mobility in a disadvantaged community.

The pack draws on RIO and SEA’s previous experience of developing social enterprise teaching resources in the UK and internationally and is designed for students and educators worldwide. It also offers advice on how to use the content in an international school partnership and how to find a partner school (see link below).

For instance, the Devonport High School for Boys in England has partnered with the Zhejiang Sci-Tech Engineering School in China and students in the two schools are jointly developing and marketing products to help young people overcome addictions to online gaming.

And Bishopbriggs Academy in Scotland has partnered with the Karma Project in India whose privately funded school provides free education for 70 children who would not otherwise receive it. The Scottish students have set up a social enterprise called Unicorn Trading which imports and sells fairtrade jewellery, bags and other craft products made by student and women’s group in the city of Bodhgaya, where the Karma Project is based. The sales’ revenue provides a principal source of funding for the Karma Project.

Beneficial outcomes

According to the Social Enterprise Academy, “establishing a social enterprise engages young people in the practical and creative skills required to run a viable business, develops their skills for learning, life and work and enriches their sense of social justice.”

In the UK, social enterprise school programmes are linked to improved attendance, behaviour, and enthusiasm among students. The resource pack provides links to a number of curriculum and core skill development areas including creativity and leadership, enterprise and communication skills as well as problem solving and team work.

Paula Woodman, the British Council’s senior adviser social enterprise, outlines several other benefits. She notes that many young people find money and the economy to be abstract concepts and this means they may not be interested in completing entrepreneur training. She adds, “This resource pack provides a useful induction into entrepreneurship because it starts with the young people’s concerns – whether this is bullying in school, road accidents, or global climate change – and then motivates them to find entrepreneurial solutions, showing them that they can be agents of change wherever they are.”

The teaching of social enterprise also conforms with evolving social attitudes among young people. According to a surveyof millennials conducted by Deloitte, 50% of young people want to work for a business with ethical practices and 60% choose their workplace based on its purpose.

Social enterprise education can provide the inspiration and skills to achieve such workplace ambitions, notes Woodman, and inspire more talented graduates to consider a career in social enterprise, thereby expanding the talent pool in the sector and making it easier for social enterprises to compete with big multinationals at career fairs or with dedicated graduate trainee programmes.