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.