Homeslessness organisations get a boost from Poached

by Yousif Farah

It’s been a busy year for Poached in 2014, not least because we’ve been able to work with a number of homelessness organisations through our collaborative projects.

Our latest collaboration will see us join forces with the Pavement magazine. The Pavement was founded in 2005 as a registered charity in response to the increasing need of a publication focused on homelessness and directed at those affected by it.

The magazine is concise and informative. It could be described as a rough sleeper’s A to Z, providing the reader with a list of day centres, soup kitchens and places to gather advice and assistance regarding housing.  It also has features on health, legal advice and an insider’s view of life in hostels. It also covers the journalistic aspects of homelessness through comprehensive coverage of the news from the streets, often dealing with topics neglected by the mainstream press.

Even though the publication relies on volunteers, they are highly trained and experienced journalists and homeless sector professionals, also among the volunteers are some of the country’s best cartoonists (many of them Private Eye contributors). Some of our own Big Issue online journalism trainees have contributed articles to The Pavement in recent months.

The Pavement is well established in London, Scotland and the West Midlands, with over 4,000 copies distributed to over 70 hostels, day centres, homeless surgeries, soup-runs and libraries in London alone.

Its sole purpose is to support people at times of crisis, aiming to make life that bit easier for homeless people through providing them with information that can both help reduce short-term hardship, as well as enable them to guide their own future. The Pavement relies entirely on donations by public, to donate or read more visit The Pavement.

As well as working with the Pavement, we got a welcome and rather unusual offer of support from the world of music.

When blues artists Mete Ege got in touch with Poached offering to donate the proceeds of his new single Ghosts of London to support our Big Issue online journalism training programme, we were thrilled to accept this unexpected yet generous offer! The song draws from Mete’s own experience of sleeping rough in the capital: “Knowing that the money from the sales will be used to train homeless people feels right. Everyone deserves a chance to break the vicious cycle.”

Finally, in October, we helped to promote a comedy gig to raise funds for the Hackney Winter Night Shelter, which provides rough sleepers in the borough with a bed for the night, a hot meal and a warm smile.  Headlined by Stewart Lee and compered by Daniel Kitson, A Belter for the Shelter was a huge success and our writer Martin was there to review it. 

Human Rights Day: a history

By Yousif Farah

Image from 

As many countries mark a century since the start of World War I, we are all too aware that conflict comes at a cost. Not only in terms of the grave loss of human lives and the prolonged agony and suffering inflicted indiscriminately upon entire nations, but also the level of depravity shown by distorted human nature and the atrocities and cruelties committed against innocent people was on a different scale.

They were shocking enough to urge a world leaders meeting in Washington DC and a follow-up summit in San Francisco. The UN Charter included seven references to human rights and the significance of reserving these rights. This evolved into what we know today as the UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights). The declaration was conceived on 10 December 1948, and from 1950, Human Rights Day was marked to commemorate this milestone.

UDHR played a persuasive role by inspiring more than 60 human rights instruments, constituting an international standard of human rights. The declaration is also accredited for the modern approach of codifying human rights ideas down into laws, including the European Convention on Human Rights.

This is mirrored in the UK through the Human Rights Act, which came into force on 2 October 2002. With all the infringements of human rights and the violations of liberties taking place around us, it has become increasingly important to recognise that day and the events which led to it, as from history one draws lessons for the present and the future.

The day is normally marked both by high-level political conferences and meetings and by cultural events and exhibitions dealing with human rights issues. In addition, it is traditionally on 10 December that the five-yearly United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights and Nobel Peace Prize are awarded.

Locally, at Poached Creative we have worked with charities and social enterprises assisting victims of social injustice. One of our first projects over five years ago involved work on a website for a healing community in north London – Room to Heal – for refugees who had suffered trauma through conflict and torture.

In an ideal world, we would have no need for Human Rights Day, but through exposing the atrocities and righting human wrongs, we slowly build a path for peace and understanding and recognising human rights will become part of our moral identity.

Hackney residents seek a new era for affordable rent

By John Watts

Residents of the New Era Estate in Hoxton held a family-led demonstration with their supporters on 1 December, calling on Westbrook Partners to keep rents affordable, following their recent purchase of the property. Families living on the estate say that are at risk of being made homeless by the proposed treble rent increases.

The protest began outside the Westbrook Partners offices in Berkley Square, Mayfair where they held a rally, before walking to Downing Street to hand in a 300,000 signature petition.

The New Era Estate in Hoxton has a history of affordable housing and is home to 93 families, many of whom have lives there for generations. Linsey Garett, chairwoman of the New Era residents association and a young mother who works for the NHS, said: “My parents live on this estate too. There are families like mine who have this area in their blood.”

The treatment of the New Era Estate residents by Westbrook Partners has again raised the issue of gentrification in the capital. Jules Pipe, the Mayor of Hackney recently said that the treatment of the New Era Estate tenants is unfair and that the proposed rent increases are ‘tearing the heart out of Hoxton’.

Their story has come to represent the plight of low-income Londoners in the face of huge rent hikes, cuts to housing benefit and the insatiable appetite of foreign investors for London properties, pushing house prices well out of reach for local families.

The steep rise in house prices in London has seen rapid social and economic change over the last decade. Property prices this year alone have risen by 20%, whilst wages have drastically failed to keep pace. The National Housing Federation has warned that you’ll now need to earn more than £100,000 a year to afford a typical 80% mortgage in London.

Long-standing communities are being torn apart in what many people at the protest said was an outrage. An elderly lady attending the protest, who didn’t wish to be named, said that she had two daughters and their families living on the estate who were not able to come because they were working on zero hours contracts in low paid jobs and couldn’t afford to take the time off, so she had come in their place.

Russell Brand, who has been campaigning passionately on behalf of the residents and seemed to have been the focus of the massive media presence rather than the petition or the New Era Estate residents, again reiterated his support and the ‘awful way’ Westbrook was treating them.

The issue is no longer just something affecting the low paid. Key workers and those on an average income are also being forced out of their local areas.

When the petition was being handed in a chant went up of, “HOMES FOR PLEBS! HOMES FOR PLEBS!” which brought smiles to the Downing Street Protection squad. Even the police know that key workers like themselves need affordable housing if they are to continue to live and work in London.

As a Hackney-based business and social enterprise that works with long-term unemployed and marginalised people, Poached Creative and our writers are closely following the New Era Housing saga. Read former trainee Sam Hooper's recent guest post on In My Shoes and look out for our forthcoming feature in the next issue of The Pavement.

We were all born to shine

Jeanette Rourke

Nobody knows the importance of inclusion for marginalised people in the arts more than actress and creative Jeanette Rourke. Her life took her from living on the streets to making an acceptance speech at the BAFTA Awards for the short film she starred in:

“I never had any less value as a human being from being homeless to going up on that stage. I was still the same person with the same worth. We were all born to shine.”

Her personal experiences and long working history with St. Mungo’s Broadway inspired her to approach them in January to set up a weekly Wellbeing Day, to give people with experiences of homelessness the opportunity to get involved in the performing arts.  She spent six months promoting the idea to organisations like the young Vic, the old Vic, and Streetwise opera to them on board.

Her persistence and dedication paid off, and now each week the Wellbeing Centre in Clapham hosts Wellbeing day which includes creative workshops, ranging from creative writing, poetry and music, to drama, costume and set design, by organisations like Streetwise Opera:

“Everyone is welcome here, you don’t have to be referred, it’s a drop-in creative space. We share challenges and achievements by increasing confidence and motivation.“ says Jeanette.

As part of Wellbeing Day, Jeanette will be putting on a show called ‘The Universe is Shutting Down’, completely produced by and starring people attending the centre.

The show will run this Christmas at the Clapham Omnibus Theatre, and performances will be free and open to all.

One of our own Big Issue trainees – John Watts - will be starring in a leading role! So head on down to the theatre this Christmas and support social inclusion in the arts.

5 tips for marketing your social enterprise

By Michelle Stannard

On Social Enterprise Day our Director, Jessica Smith, reveals the five steps to marketing success for social enterprise.

Make no mistake, marketing is hard work. It's time consuming, it takes planning, and it takes tenacity. In the social sector, you've got twice as much to shout about but which do you put first, your products and services or your social value?

The answer is: it depends. The first step is to understand who your audiences are and what they most value. Only then will you be able to tailor your messages to hit the right note, with the right people.

1.   Involve your target audience
Work out who your key audiences are. For social enterprises it's most likely they'll be your paying customers, beneficiaries, funders and supporters. Ask yourself who you need to reach most and why? At Poached, we love to bring in the type of people who will receive the message to create the message. Co-creation provides insight and builds authenticity. You can also find out more about your target audience quickly and cheaply through online surveys, stakeholder telephone questionnaires or engaging with them on Twitter.

   Build compelling stories
People are touched by other people’s stories. Behind every brand, project and organisation lies a story, and it’s the way you present this that is important. A powerful story told in the right way with the right link to your organisation will make for effective marketing. Think about the stories going on in your organisation every day and commit to finding some resource to capturing them in written case studies, photography and film.

   Flex your USP
How many times have you been told to find your USP? It's standard business advice but it's far from simple if you're social. The truth is, what's unique about you may not be a selling point! You're going to need to talk to a range of stakeholders to truly understand what they value that's unique about you - and it may or may not be your social value. Once you find it, use it. But be flexible - you may need different messages for different audiences and channels (see next point).

4.   Plan your communications channels
Jess is in Plymouth this week for Plymouth Enterprise Week, sharing the story of the #BuySocial campaign and expanding on these points in the  ‘Future Business: Marketing for the social sector’ on Friday 21 November.

It seems obvious but many organisations just aren't making the most of the various marketing channels available to them. Map out all the communications channels you have access to - these will include those you own, like your newsletter and website, and loads of channels owned by others that are open to you. Submit your news to Social Enterprise UK, Community Newswire and your local press and trade press. Use your networks and social networks to cross promote. Channel planning is an essential part of your communications and marketing plans.

5.   Empower people to spread your messages
The best advocates for your organisation will be your customers, beneficiaries and stakeholders. Give them the tools to promote you and watch your reach spread! You'll need to be prepared to relinquish some control, but if you make it easy for people to share your key messages, they will. Take a look at the recent snowballing effect of online campaigning tools and social media for the residents of New Era Housing Estate and how many people (and influencers) they have mobilised in their fight to keep their rents affordable. 

Big Issue Journalism Course starts!

Christopher. Photo by Gordon Chaston
We're thrilled that our Big Issue Online Journalism training course started last week, in its brand new home in the Deptford Lounge, South London.

The six-week course teaches journalism skills in writing and photography, and is aimed at people who are homeless, long-term unemployed or otherwise marginalised.

One of our new recruits - Christopher Ubsdell - is a regular contributor to online magazine the Pavement.

He shared his experience of the first week of the course with us:

"I came home after that first week with a sense of having completed something. A feeling of minor achievement. The next five weeks are going to be challenging but I'm looking forward to getting stuck in and learning how to improve my copy and other journalism skills. I think the course appeals to my inner need of story telling, which will only grow from here."

Read about his the rest of his experience on the Big Issue Online Journalists blog.

Inspiring libraries of today and tomorrow

By Catriona Kinney
Photo by Twechy

There’s a forest growing in Norway. But this is not just any forest – its trees will become the pages of a Future Library:  a special anthology of books to be printed in one hundred years from now. One writer a year will contribute a text – starting with Margaret Atwood - which will be secured and unpublished until 2114.

As a big fan of both libraries and Margaret Atwood these facts fill me with joy, but also despair that I will never get my hands on these great secret books (unless I’m alive and kicking at age 127!).

It might seem strange that Margaret Atwood’s book will already be a century out of date when it is published, and some have questioned whether the language change in that time will make it difficult to read. However many of the nations’ most-loved books have stood the test of time, like A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, published in 1843, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, published in 1813.

Pride and Prejudice and other books can be found in another new innovative library announced last month –and accessible to non-time travellers - Recovery College Library in Southwark, South London.

The library was opened for International Literacy Day by St.Mungo’s Broadway, a homeless charity, as part of their Reading Matters campaign. The campaign aims to improve homeless people's poor level of basic reading, writing and maths skills, as the charity found that 51% of homeless people they surveyed lack the basic literacy skills needed for everyday life.

Supporters of the campaign were asked to nominate which books meant the most to them, and the library is formed of over 100 of these nominations.

The best-loved books included The Lord of the Rings by J. R, R. Tolkien, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. Nineteen Eighty-Four was nominated by supporter Jack Davies because it's "a brilliantly detailed satire of our lives today, yet written some 65 years ago. More poignant today than any piece of literature or comment written now."

This goes to show that even books written long ago still have the power to inspire the hearts and minds of people today and in the future.

Here’s hoping that when the future library opens a hundred years’ time, everyone will have a roof over their head and the literacy skills to read the books.

Poached Creative provides journalism training to homeless and other disadvantaged people.

Food poverty in one of the world’s wealthiest countries

Image by
By Yousif Farah

According to the UN World Food Programme, hunger is a major killer, with more fatalities than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. One might assume that food shortages and hunger are confined to developing countries in Africa or Asia. However, the reality is much closer to home. Increasingly, scores of people across the UK go to bed without having a decent meal.

October 16 is World Food Day. Set up by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations in 1945, World Food Day sets out to raise awareness of the problem of hunger across the world, and bring about solutions to tackle it on a global, national and local scale.

In the UK, most of us take food for granted. However, following an unsteady period in our nation’s economy, the use of food banks has increased exponentially in recent years.

According to the Trussel Trust, the body responsible for running most food banks in the country, in 2013-14 food banks fed 913,138 people nationwide. These figures are just a snapshot of hunger in the UK as it does not include people who are too ashamed to use food banks and others who are cutting the size of meals.

Some 83% of food banks reported that benefits sanctions - when payments are temporarily stopped - had resulted in more people being referred for emergency food.  More than 30% of visits were put down to a delay in welfare payments. The second biggest reason, given by 20% of food bank users, was low income.

"We're often surprised by the length of sanctions people get," said Liza Cucco, the manager of the Hackney Foodbank.

Andy, a 47 year-old local unemployed electrician, visited the Hackney Food Bank when his benefits were stopped he says:

"If I didn't come here, there wouldn't be any food for me tonight. It's the system. But I don't understand why there's a gap," Andy was sent away with two shopping bags of pasta, rice, vegetables, biscuits and juice.

But food banks are not the only organisations tackling hunger in London. The London Food Board has interviewed hundreds of parents and children across London to assess the impact of hunger on their lives. Mayor of London Boris Johnson has set out to make London a Zero Hunger city by 2020. There is also a web tool – The London Food Map – to help those experiencing food poverty to find out where and how to access free or low-cost food.

Poached Creative is a London-based social enterprise that provides journalism training to homeless and marginalised people.

Tackling homelessness through ETE

Research has shown that over a third of people who use homeless services don’t have the formal qualifications they need to find employment or to participate in and enjoy full and active lives.  Numerous reports have highlighted the need for coordinated and specialist education, training and employment support for homeless people.

Housing support services have long recognised that housing in itself will not provide a complete answer to the risks and consequences of homelessness.  There is a general consensus that the availability of specialist education, training and employment (ETE) services has improved over the last ten years and have played a key role at local level, usually being seen as flexible and supportive by other agencies and people.

Homeless people often experience significant barriers in engaging formal education; the advantages are clear and include greater social integration, confidence and self-esteem. This would give a boost to homeless people who have a strong academic background but need to update their qualifications or to re-familiarise with them. Successive governments have also taken the view that paid work is beneficial in a number of ways; it provides a route out of poverty and it can address the sense of purposelessness, lack of direction and poor self-image that may be present among people who have not worked for sustained periods.

However, many studies have emphasised the need to tackle the problems and barriers single homeless people face in securing training and employment. Some of these problems and barriers include low education attainment, little or no work experience which puts homeless people at a disadvantage, problematic drug use and poor physical and mental health which renders them unemployable.

There are also homeless people that have a history of employment, have qualifications and can perhaps with help, make a move back into paid work relatively simply. In some cases they have complex needs and need a great deal of support before the transition to seeking paid work is a viable option. This means that there are unmet support needs, low levels of self assurance, a lack of interpersonal skills and also an inability to structure their time means they cannot immediately use mainstream services designed to help with job seeking, let alone secure paid work for themselves.

Research carried out by St Mungo’s Broadway suggests that people in this group may benefit from activities that allow them to develop interpersonal skills; emotional literacy, assertiveness and self-esteem, as well from programmes designed to deliver meaningful activity or ‘sheltered’ forms of employment prior to acquiring more formal qualifications.

From experience, front-line housing support workers have frequently voiced concerns that recent legislative changes have failed to recognise adequately the vulnerability of young homeless people and that individuals with particularly traumatic histories were at risk of being pushed out into mainstream programmes before they were ready.

That put aside, there is clear evidence that education, training and employment (ETE) services are beneficial to homeless people. The ETE sector has grown very significantly over the years and is characterised by innovation, diversification and experimentation with many different forms of service being developed.

Poached Creative has been working with The Big Issue to provide practical training in communications and journalism for people who are homeless and long­-term unemployed or facing significant barriers to employment. The training has been really successful and has seen some of the trainees regain confidence to pursue recognised journalism qualifications, write articles for print media such as The Pavement, The Telegraph, and E9 magazine. Some have found work as photographers.

There is a very strong need for coordinated and specialist education for training and employment support for homeless people by service providers. This is imperative as resources might be subject to constraint in future. There is a need for caution, in that it is logical to expect that wider labour market conditions will have an effect on ETE effectiveness.  Realism is needed when considering the scale of barriers that a minority of homeless people face in relation to securing paid work. With appropriate ETE and support paid work can be secured, it can help a person overcome the material and psychological effects of being homeless. 

Steering toward a better life

John at Pirates Castle
John Watts shares how social enterprises and charities working together has made a positive difference in his life.

The motto of the Pirates Castle - 'activities boating community' pretty much sums up what this charity is all about. I started volunteering there a while back and quickly became aware of the importance social enterprises and charities have in working together. So, for my first blog for Poached Creative, let me take you on a little voyage…

Situated in the heart of Camden, the Pirates have been going since 1966. Starting out with just a few kids messing about in boats along the Regents Canal, it has grown into a local landmark offering everything from kayaking to canal trips, youth clubs to dog yoga.

Living around the corner in Arlington House, a homeless hostel, I was invited by homelessness charity St. Mungo's Broadway to attend a weekly training scheme at the Pirates Castle.

Through the Pirates, I also worked with Access Adventure, a government scheme for helping disabled youngsters into outdoor activities such as rock climbing, cycling, and orienteering. They aided me to get my disability sports trainer and paediatric paramedic certificates through their collaboration with Disability in Camden and the Westway organisation.

Later, Broadway steered me towards the Poached Creative BigIssue Online Journalist training programme, after I did some English tutoring with Somalian residents in Arlington House through One Housing Group’s support wing.

John interviews now>press>play
Photo by Declan Slattery
Through this training I got to meet and interview representatives of numerous charities and social enterprises like now>press>play’ who provide interactive teaching for kids, and Hackney Laces, a young women’s football team. The training stressed their important role in the local community and our duty as journalists to report this.

Meanwhile I had got involved in the Two Boroughs’ theatrical project the Sound of Yellow for the homeless and disadvantaged at the Young Vic, because I had been attending Cardboard Citizens drama sessions at Crisis Education.

I think it is because of this experience with other charities and social enterprises, and the collaboration and networking of these organisations in offering me these opportunities, that I am now writing this blog for Poached Creative. It has been the hard work and dedication of these organisations that has taken me on this adventurous voyage over the last two years.

Volunteering has driven away that awful despondency coupled with a feeling of helplessness that comes from suffering homelessness. The irony is that by being helpful to others has been empowering in helping myself to recover a degree of self worth and as a value to my community.    

On the horizon the future looks bright. I will continue my volunteering with the Pirate Castle, attend a series of workshops with Two Boroughs with the aim of doing a Christmas show, and will be involved with St Mungo’s Broadway Recovery College’s drama and film ‘skool’ courses.

So, ‘Ahoy shipmates!’ climb aboard and get involved in your local charities and social enterprises, you never know what ports of call you might end up making. 

Social Saturday: celebrating social enterprises

By Yousif Farah 
Saturday 13th September is Social Saturday, the first ever nationwide day dedicated to promoting social enterprises that trade with the public. It’s being launched by Social Enterprise UK, to encourage people to buy products and services from social enterprises.

For those new to the concept, a social enterprise is a business model that prioritises its social mission over financial gain. Investing in people, most of its profits are usually reinvested in the business and the local community. When a new social enterprise emerges, entire communities reap the benefits. Varying in size, purpose and industry, the range from small social enterprises like us to nation-wide enterprises like the Big Issue.

Today there are more than 70,000 social enterprises nationwide, contributing £18.5 million to the UK economy, and employing almost a million people.

When you buy from a social enterprise, you buy social. Buying social means you provide an unemployed person with a career opportunity, or provide a homeless person with a bed for the night, or help the environment, as well as saving money and challenging only profit-driven businesses through competition.

Over the years we have had many partnerships with Social Enterprises across the country, including the Big Issue and Social Enterprise UK – who we proudly created the Social Saturday marketing materials for. We buy social whenever we can. Here are some of our favourite social enterprises:

Dalston Eastern Curve Garden
By Craig Temperly

This beautiful community garden and events space was built on derelict land in Dalston, East London, by architectural collective EXYZT in 2010. Since then it has become a vibrant community hub for holding workshops and events, as well as place for locals to relax and take in the peaceful garden greenery. It's good for the community and the environment, with local residents growing their own food and herbs in parts of the garden. We liked it so much we had our 5th birthday there.

Clarity and The Soap Co
Surely one of the oldest social enterprises in the UK, Clarity has been employing blind and disabled people since 1854 to create and sell beautifully scented hand-soaps and other toiletries. Clarity is also responsible for The Soap Co, which has a local shop in Keswick and a national online brand launching this year. With a 30% employment gap for disabled people in the UK, they create important employment opportunities for blind and disabled people, which make up over 70% of their workforce. 

Access Print
Access Print sells print, copy and design services. They are part of the Working Well Trust, a charity that helps support and train people who have experienced mental health problems get back into employment. All of the income from Access Print is reinvested into the charity which allows the trust to provide training and opportunities.

Access Print provides employment for two people in the shop who are ex-trainees and training opportunities for up to 24 others. Trainees are also given opportunities to move into employment or further education through another part of the charity called Rework, with high success rates. We buy from them and we always find their staff so helpful, polite and willing to accommodate our needs, as well as providing a great service. 

Main article by Yousif Farah, profiles by Grant Kingsnorth and Catriona Kinney.

Poached trainee launches own bike hire business

Anil, founder of Buzz Bikes

By Yousif Farah

2010 saw the launch of the Barclays bike hire scheme in London, developed by previous Mayor of London Ken Livingstone. Now colloquially known as ‘Boris Bikes’ after Livingstone’s successor, the bikes have gained popularity among cyclists old and new in the capital.

Anil, one of our former trainees at Poached Creative and The Big Issue Online Journalism Course, contemplated the idea of bike hire long before Boris Johnson was even elected as Mayor.

However, not equipped with pockets as deep as those of the City of London, and lacking the necessary resources, while also struggling to find his own way in life, it took Anil some time to put the pieces together.

In November 2013, Anil applied for a grant, and less than a year later, the application for a loan was approved by Start Up Loans, a charity operating in partnership with the Government.

Despite the current climate of adversity, and despite the Financing Start-Up Enterprise reducing the grant initially applied for, Anil has hit the ground running. The idea progressed steadily from a plan to becoming another new aspiring small business – which is no mean feat in today’s economic climate.

Anil said “It’s been daunting going into business because it’s something that I've never done before and you don’t know how it’s going to be received. It’s also difficult to set up a business with as little money as possible but I appreciate all the help that I have been given.”

It has taken him less than one year from applying for a grant to launching his new service. Today, Anil proudly runs Buzz Bike Hire.

The business comprises of high quality bicycles run by Lithium Ion Polymer or LifePo4 Phosphate Batteries. The bicycles are environmentally friendly, lowering the carbon footprint of the rider. The bikes are power assisted: you can peddle or let the bike do the pedalling for you.

He launched the business at the recent RideLondon FreeCycle event in the city, London.

The future looks promising for Anil, if his business runs parallel to his personal success and triumph, we could hear more about Anil’s Buzz Bikes. Looks like Boris Johnson has some competition on his hands! 

Good eats: the best social cafes in the UK

Photo by Sacha Fernandez 
Social enterprise is emerging as the new business model of choice for many cafés and eateries popping up in the UK. These enterprises centre around helping others, using their profits to tackle social or environmental issues, like helping homeless people into work or supporting people with disabilities in gaining catering qualifications.  

I tracked down three of the best socially conscientious cafes in the UK for an in-depth look at their amazing work, and tasty treats!

The Brigade
Set up in a large 19th century fire station in the London Bridge area, The Brigade was established to help the homeless, vulnerable or disadvantaged, to develop skills and find work. A collaboration between a number of companies and organisations, the profits go towards supporting and training provided by Beyond Food Foundation’s Freshlife training scheme.

The Hive café
Established in 2011, The Hive café on Hill Holt Wood, Lincolnshire offers an alternative education for children excluded from school, training for the unemployed, courses on countryside management, country and rural crafts and leadership skills. The café is based on 14 hectares of sustainably managed ancient woodland on the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire border. Apart from the excellent tea, it is a wonderful and enriching place to visit with facilities ranging from permaculture gardens, environmental sculpture, woodland walks and computer facilities and workshops. 

Unity Kitchen
Established in 2009 Unity Kitchen has a strong social and environmental purpose. The organisation operates eight cafes across London.  The organisation spends every pound of profit to directly support people with disabilities to get opportunities, build a career and plan for a great future by providing apprenticeships in its cafes. People with learning disabilities are the furthest away from the employment market with only 7% in employment - a statistic that shows the importance of the work Unity Kitchen does.

Around the UK we can now see a budding collection of places to eat and drink where profits benefit those most in need. From helping ex-addicts, prisoners, troubled young people, those with learning difficulties or anyone who is struggling to find work; these places give you good food and put the money you pay to good use. Happy eating!

By Martin Kitara, Poached Creative volunteer writer 

Big Issue online journalist training to re-start!

Anil launches his bike hire business
Our Big Issue online journalist training course, which trains marginalised people in writing or photography, has successfully secured funding for two more courses, thanks to the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund

Our volunteer Press Officer, Yousif Farah, reflects on how the training made a positive difference to his life and the lives of his fellow trainees:

"Since completing the course Anil has seen his dreams materialise into reality by launching a bike hire business; Danielle has regained her confidence to be a successful journalist once again, Chris is working as a successful freelance filmmaker and Sam has joined the NUJ and interviewed household names such as Russell Brand and Caroline Lucas MP. To name just a few of the great stories."

Check out the full article at the Big Issue online journalists blog.

Social problem: digital solution?

Google Impact Challenge Awards
Can tech be the answer to the UK’s social problems?

Google certainly thinks so –last week we saw Richard Branson announced the winners of their Google Impact Challenge, which asked UK charities to “change the world through innovative technology”.

The answers were impressive. The finalists included: smart glasses for people with sight loss (RNIB), data analytics to keep young people off the streets (Centrepoint) and an online hub helping ex-offenders transition back into the community (St. Giles Trust).

Other finalists helped young people through an online platform to help separating parents avoid disputes (Relate), and through digital games to help young people with their mental health (We Are What We Do).

The four winners received £500k and the six runner ups received £200k to respectively develop their tech solutions.

At Poached we’re excited by the potential of tech to meet the needs of a wide range of vulnerable people, especially young people. We recently held our own (much smaller!) search for digital solutions by hosting a mental health forum - in partnership with Mediorite - looking for digital solutions to help young people with their mental health.

The forum was inspired by the need for immediate help for young people with mental health problems without access to services, or needing services out of hours – an increasing problem due to government cuts in this area. Digital is naturally 24/7, and the domain of young people:

“Young people live in a digital world, and if we don’t engage with them on that level, we fail to engage with them.” said Billy Dann from Comic Relief UK and the Innovation Labs initiative, who attended the forum.

Other attendees included local youth charities Off Centre, Art Against Knives and Streets of Growth, as well as Prince's Trust and Childline.

What we lacked in £millions and Richard Branson we made up for in spirited discussion and local partnership building!

We discussed problems like the ‘postcode lottery’ of mental health services and the stigma of talking about mental health, and how digital solutions can help overcome these problems. Several organisations agreed to work together through ‘live partnership brokering’; helpful online resources like Mindfull and MindEd were shared, and new ideas like a website bringing together all mental health campaigns were put forward.

We made change by gathering over 100 petition signatures at the event alone for ‘properly funding children and young people’s mental health services’, and many more online.

Whether working nationally or in your own backyard, with young people or another vulnerable group; tech can help make the difference.

Why measure social impact?

Photo by Steve Harris
The majority (68%) of social enterprises now measure their social impact, according to Social Enterprise UK's State of Social Enterprise 2013 Survey.

Social enterprises Poached Creative and Iridescent Ideas recently teamed up to find out why:

“As a social enterprise providing communications services to the social enterprise sector, we wanted to understand the motivations for social impact reporting and identify the barriers for those social enterprises not already doing it.” said Jessica Smith, Director of Poached Creative.

Together they decided to run a campaign to discover the answers to these questions. They produced a white paper on social impact reporting - Why impact? – and ran a twitter social debate using the hashtag #whyimpact.

As part of the debate, social entrepreneur Liam Black shared his top two reasons for social impact reporting on twitter: first, you owe it to the taxpayers who subsidise you, and second, you find out vital data about your business.

Social impact reporting can also help prove your business is making an impact, define the need and market for your services, motivate your team, help publicise your work and secure future business.

But with all these benefits, why are over a third (32%) of social enterprises still not measuring their impact?

The Why Impact white paper identifies that social enterprises can find social impact reporting time-consuming, expensive and confusing.

One of the confusing aspects is that there is no single social impact measurement, but a variety available. The main two are social auditing or accounting and social return oninvestment (SROI), with other methods usually a variation on these approaches.

As for being time-consuming and expensive, proportionality is key (according to think tank Demos) –the amount of work needed for evaluation should be in line with and not outweigh the size of the organisation. Larger social enterprises may have the capacity to take on a fuller SROI type of assessment, whereas smaller enterprises may need a simpler approach.   

Social enterprise Iridescent Ideas has addressed this issue, by offering their ‘simple’ social impact report service:

“Monitoring and evaluation methods to prove impact need to be simple, commensurate with the outcomes expected and, critically, make it easy to collect meaningful data. This takes planning, of course, but thinking it through at the start will mean that what is valued gets measured and what is measured gets valued.” said Gareth Hart of Iridescent Ideas.

To find out more visit

Gaps in mental health services need urgent action

Mental health is big news at the moment and organisations that work with children and young people, in particular, are seeing first-hand the affect that funding cuts are having on waiting times and access to services.

Director of creative agency Mediorite, Lucy Ferguson, works with creative young people and shares an office with Poached Creative. She has been frustrated at the gaps in mental health services and recognised that colleagues in other organisations are experiencing the same problems.

She said: "I've got young people working with me who are in crisis, who need help now. I'm not a mental health professional. What are we supposed to do while they wait for mental health services?"

Outgoing president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Sue Bailey, last month described services in England as a 'car crash'. Her comments have drawn attention to a funding crisis that the British Medical Association's annual meeting was told would lead to "avoidable deaths and suicides".

At least 1,700 mental health beds have been closed since 2011 and this is putting pressure on in-patient teams to discharge patients as early as possible, in turn increasing the strain on underfunded community mental health teams.

Despite a Government commitment to make mental health as important as physical health, an April 2014 Budget decision has resulted in a cut to mental health services that's 20 per cent greater than the cuts to acute services, according to a letter from six leading mental health organisations.

And it's young people's services that are being hit the hardest.

Young Minds reports that more than half of councils have cut or frozen budgets for child and adolescent mental health.

The number of teenagers who have self-harmed has tripled in England over the last decade, according to a Health Behaviour in School Age Children report.

Early intervention when young people first experience mental health issues has proved to be the most effective, and cost effective, way to tackle the issues.

A report from mental health charity Rethink shows that early intervention that treats young people swiftly when they first experience psychosis, can save the NHS £15 for every £1 spent.

Yet 50% of early intervention teams have faced cuts in the last year.

All this leads me to the conclusion that the current approach to funding mental health services in England is fundamentally flawed. The Government needs to address funding for mental health services now, before more damage is done.

That's why at Poached Creative and Mediorite we're supporting Ben Jolly's petition calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to intervene and properly fund mental health services for children and young people. Sign the petition now.

A Young Minds young people's manifesto in 2012 tells in young people's own words why this is so important. The issues haven't changed. Take a look...

Volunteering, free labour or a lifeline?

Picture by: Anil Parmer, Poached
Creative's fifth birthday party
It is often argued that volunteers are the backbone of the charity sector, according to the Guardian 91% of charities are entirely run by unpaid staff. However, volunteering is mutually beneficial to volunteers as well as employers, it is a two way stream, and based on my brief experience as a volunteer with Poached Creative I could argue that it is more rewarding to the volunteer than to the company itself.

I would not be exaggerating if I say that volunteering is transforming my life by the minute. 
Looking back at my life one year ago, I was in turmoil; depressed, experiencing all sorts of family conflicts, having to drop out of University, losing my flat, being imprisoned twice in the space of one year. My life was a mortifying chapter from a horror book. I was in an utter state of despair; I woke up every day thinking the End of the world is past noon. I would never have envisaged digging myself out of that hole.

However, I was very fortunate to learn about Poached Creative through The Big Issue on line journalism course. A course provided by Poached Creative in conjunction with the Big Issue; at the time I lacked the drive, and the motivation to start something new. I missed two initial induction interviews.  And when I thought that I messed it up for myself. The managing director of Poached Creative Jessica Smith contacted me again, and we scheduled another interview which this time I attended. I am ever indebted to her patience.

I then attended the six week Journalism course, which was a turning point in my life. Not only did I acquire new skills.   The whole experience profoundly impacted the way I perceived my future, it instilled a sense of optimism and hope towards the future, which incentivised  me to work harder and improve myself. The depression and helplessness I was feeling began to fade away by the week.

I successfully completed the course and progressed to a volunteering role within Poached Creative, which is a design and writing social enterprise.

Having something to wake up to makes all the difference, it drives you to work harder and open your eyes to opportunities you would otherwise have missed. It enriches your experience and boosts your morale.