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.