Interns Insights: Remote-working for a social enterprise

Marketing for a social enterprise

Interning for a company with such a diverse portfolio of social franchises means you are engaged with a variety of social issues on a daily basis. It was a great experience working with an organisation who are providing sustainable solutions to social issues. One who is quite deliberately contributing to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Working as Marketing and Communications Officer I learnt more about social media strategies, writing press releases, speaking to journalists, brand design, nudge theory, and marketing to developing communities. I made first links with contacts using elevator pitches, and gained expertise in simplifying the business model explanation. The fact I was remote-working for all of this provided an extra challenge in ensuring I stayed in constant communication with my team.

With WSV there is the added advantage of being able to network with both the business community, as well as charities- and knowing that you have something to offer to both. All of this was made all the more valuable because, when sharing the message of a social enterprise, you know that you are doing social good. It felt incredibly positive to know WSV are not providing aid, which can make developing communities dependent on this support, instead they are providing people with a business which they can use to support their families and communities.

The Royal Society of Arts

For 4 weeks I worked part-time at the Royal Society of Arts in London. I used the open working space, met interesting people and helpful staff, and used the library space and facilities. During my internship I became a fellow of the RSA due to my work so far in social enterprise at university. Becoming a fellow connects you to a network of 28,000 people across the world whom you can contact for collaboration/guidance. I would recommend it if you are interested in social progress.

Start-up-life

Working for a start up was a dynamic and fast paced experience. There are very few obstacles slowing you down. Processes are streamlined, and meetings are efficient. As a small team, we socialised at lunchtimes, got to know each other, recognised each other’s strengths, collaborated on ideas and projects, and shared expertise and knowledge. Working as a team in this way made the experience so much more useful, as six minds are always better than one!

Tips on remote-working

Remote-working teaches you to manage your time, maintain motivation, and reach out to colleagues for information whenever needed. Here are a few lessons I took from the experience:

  • Morning and afternoon goals- Set yourself a main goal for each morning and afternoon, and stick to them. Other things will come along, but you need to get your big ‘rocks’ in first.
  • Colour code progress- If you’re a visual learner, like me, use a traffic light system to keep track of your progress on goals.
  • Sync your deadlines– If one of your deadlines relies on someone else meeting theres, check in with them regularly so that you can adjust your workload accordingly.
  • Remember no question is silly. It’s always better to contact a colleague to check detail than to make a mistake. Especially in a marketing role.

 

Beckie Thomas FRSA

 

 

Interns Insights: Training in developing communities

Think outside the box

The role of training developer requires a ‘think outside the box’ approach in order to make the training interactive, easily digestible and effective. This is especially the case when writing training manuals for developing countries where messages, examples and activities don’t translate in the same way. For example, when thinking about how a social enterprise can promote their brand through marketing, it would be redundant to use examples of businesses well known in the western world. Instead, it is useful to find out what brands and businesses people from rural communities will be familiar with, and base examples around those instead. In my experience, this is often fizzy drinks labels and sim card providers!

Cultural differences

A training developer must also be aware of cultural differences when writing any manuals and be careful with how things are worded. A prime example, which I experienced during my time with WSV, is sexual health teaching. Petal, a social enterprise involving the making and selling of reusable sanitary towels, is marketed using menstrual health education which the entrepreneurs learn and then teach to others in their community. There are many myths and stigmas around menstruation which is something that training developer should be sensitive towards. Therefore, it is important to find a way to dispel these myths and promote the importance of this kind of health education for the empowerment of women.

 

 6 Top Tips for developing training material:

1. Know your audience: Who will receive the training? Is the message translatable? Are there any cultural barriers that need to be crossed?

2. Keep it visual: A fun and exciting page will attract the reader and help them to remember the information.

3. Use interactive, energetic games frequently: The training manual contains games and activities that get the entrepreneurs up on their feet, role playing and even some friendly competition.

4. Don’t be afraid of leaving white space on a page: The more packed a page of the manual is, the less likely the entrepreneur will read it because it is overwhelming.

5. Create a good line of communication between you and the illustrator: The illustrator is a huge asset to you as a training developer because they are the ones who bring your ideas to life and make the manuals look exciting.

6. Do the activities yourself: Creating activities from scratch that need to reinforce a message can be challenging. I find it helpful to do the activity myself to make sure the instructions make sense and that it gets the message across clearly.

 

Imogen Jacques

FRSA

 

 

 

 

Interns Insights: The power of networking

‘Wandering around a room full of strangers; trying to spark conversations and desperately hand out business cards. All this in the hope of meeting the perfect connection.’

This may be what comes to mind when you think of networking. Terrifying, right? As scary as it may initially seem, networking is your gateway to accessing a wealth of knowledge, experience and opportunities. Whatever sector you are in and whatever it is you do, building your network and making important connections has immeasurable value. You never know where a connection will lead you!

The Power of Networking

In just 4 short weeks working for WSV, I have written hundreds of emails, attempted to master the art of cold calling and attended some truly inspirational conferences! From meeting a consultant neurosurgeon from Bahrain to the founder of the Africa Technology Business Network… you never know who you might come across! And whilst connections may not always be directly relevant, you never know how they could help you out in the future. Or more importantly, what you could offer them!

Last week, I atended the Planet Earth Institute’s ‘Scientific Independence for Africa’ conference. I was sat at a table with academics, policy makers, scientists and doctors, all working in the field of international development. As you can imagine, I was feeling pretty under-qualified, and was thinking ‘what on earth do I have to offer them?’ The man I was sat next to turned out to be a lecturer in global challenges who was seeking people with links to universities. I was able to share with him some key contacts from Environmental Sciences at the University of Southampton, to which he was incredibly grateful. It is these chance collaborations which can lead to the mutual exchanges of contacts, knowledge and skills that make networking so rewarding.

My top tips

Whilst after 4 weeks I am not claiming to be a networking genius, I have learnt a few things I want to share:

  1. Never overlook a contact as irrelevant – you don’t know who they might be able to put you in touch with!
  2. Think about how you can help others as well as what they can offer you  – the more you can help someone out, the more willing they’ll be to return the favour!
  3. Bring and collect enough business cards! The worst thing is running out halfway through or relying on others to email you – get those contacts to remember you and send a follow up email ASAP!

 

Amelia Gullett FRSA

Network Development Internship

Interns Insights: Illustrations for developing communities

Design and illustration can be a way to make connections to people who are of completely different backgrounds, and creativity is essential to any brand that is looking to grow and be part of a global movement. Design is also in every part of daily life, from the signs on a tube, to the poster you sit next to at a bus stop, to the design of a website telling you key information. When used correctly, it can make things more clear, when used incorrectly, it can completely confuse the matter.

Illustration, and the arts in general, are a way to overcome cultural and language barriers. Most companies in today’s society will use icons to represent themselves because they are devoid of any text and, therefore, can be understood in any language. They can also be used to show a brand’s values or ethos. In my time at WSV, I have helped to illustrate training manuals, how-to guides and even helped to develop a new brand logo (spoiler alert). Each of these tasks requires me to think about how my illustrations will be understood by someone who has no attachment to the company. If I were a stranger, walking past one of my illustrations in a part of the world I haven’t yet been, would it make sense?

These tasks also came with a responsibility, I had to make sure that people would be able to fully understand what we were teaching them and that they would understand how to use the products. If used incorrectly, it could effect them in any number of ways. Obviously, these illustrations are accompanied by text, but the illustration should not be reliant on that text to make sense, especially when it could be used in a community where not many people can read.

Tips for illustrating for developing communities:

  1. Make sure your illustration style is cohesive, so it can be clearly understood.
  2. Make sure your illustrations make sense without any text.
  3. Be mindful of cultural differences, what might be used to symbolise one thing in a culture, may not make sense for another e.g. a piggybank to represent money.
  4. Think laterally. Some of the best ideas may come from being experimental and creative in your thinking. Generate lots of ideas fast. If it doesn’t feel right straight away, don’t try and fix it, move on to another. At the end of the day, you could end up back at one of your first ideas anyway.

 

Alice Clark FRSA

Illustrator Internship

       

 

 

Bringing it all together

Day 6 & 7 of the training and it is all coming together! The Organisation for Community Action (OCA) team have absorbed the training like a sponge! Huge credit must go to the Step Up programme, for which there is so much complementary content.

On one side of the room we have the team practicing the entrepreneur selection interviews. On another side, people are making towels to show the Step Up communities tomorrow. And on yet another, the team are practicing the training for the entrepreneurs. The room is buzzing!

One of my favourite moments from the whole trip so far, was Ken, a senior consultant working with the OCA team, overlocking a towel. Concentration etched across his face trying to make the perfect towel by going all the way around in one go (no simple task!). All of sudden the normal quiet hum of conversation is disturbed by this massive whoop and dance, as Ken  smashes the task. The whole room, burst out cheering.

It is great to see how the OCA team are using the training they received throughout the past week and bringing it all together in these practice sessions. Taking it a step further, the OCA team are applying some of the training and thought processes to their Step-Up programme; always looking to improve. The exact mentality we look for in partners.

We are all eager to test and experience. So, not content on waiting for the Roots EcoSan toilets to be built, we instead decided to build a Roots urinal for the OCA team during the lunch break. The first thing the OCA team did (after trying it of course) was to start thinking how to make one for the girls…


Tomorrow, we travel into the field to excite the community with these businesses and start the entrepreneur selection process. And somehow, Bradley has got a bit lost and has ended up in Kenya…

Training small, community based social franchises is unique

After 4 intense days of training on how to set up each of our three social franchises; Petal, Roots and Right Light, today was all about the new partners Organisation for Community Action (OCA). All about preparing them for the exciting and unique challenges of training a micro-enterprise.

OCA are already experts in training. Their Step Up programme trains subsistence farmers on 132 topics over 6 years; on all things from keeping your home clean, to domestic violence and why you shouldn’t be afraid of the police. What’s even more impressive, and just shows the patience and commitment of OCA, is that each topic is taught through ‘participatory development’ i.e. the farmers set the pace, uncover the problems and find the solutions mostly by themselves.

Training a micro-enterprise is similar, but there are two key differences. With our model, you are training people to run a business as a team; whereas the norm is solo, and you are setting up a franchise with most of the rules and procedures already established. It is businesses to the core… and a new way of thinking of business.

On day 1 of training we delved into the business experience of each of the 15 OCA team members. Many had tried once or several times to start a personal business of their own with only a couple still continuing. The key element of failure they all recognised by day 5 of training (today) was that in Uganda (and many other cultures) small businesses and the owners are one and the same. Meaning, my businesses debt comes from my income, my expenses are paid by my business and the businesses depends on me being there to succeed. In WSV, all of our entrepreneurs are trained to and understand that they must consider their business as a separate entity. One that pays its expenses, its employees and sustains itself through the social and practical value created for community members. A social enterprise to the core.

Each social franchise needs a focused team, to train them. OCA dived themselves into three groups, one for each business and dove into the training, practicing by teaching each other.

The role play, was hilarious! Quite a few people in the team were downright stubborn, conservative and easily confused ‘entrepreneurs’. But, at the same time they were passionate, energetic and rewarded when things were well put.

Tomorrow is the last official day of training… a day of “Bringing it all together”.

M&E – Magic & Excitement

Monitoring and Evaluation is a subject of fundamental importance to development organisations, but one that people so often find boring. So how to make it Magical & Exciting?

Our training starts with a dive into bias, one of our favourite topics and probably the most important in M&E (for a delve into bias, check out our blog). We use an activity based on the current work of those being trained for them to look at the different biases at play, from both the assessor and interviewee. It was great to see the International Refugee Trust (IRT) and Organsiation for Community Action (OCA) team considering so many different factors, and to see the interest and realisation of the biases at play grow as they looked at their work from different angles.

Due to the stigma around Petal and Roots, some of the questions in the assessment can be very personal. As such, it is important for the assessor to understand what it is like to be asked difficult questions and build an empathy towards the interviewee. Working in pairs, the team had to ask each other the most personal questions they could think of and answer with 100% honesty. An exercise that starts with a lot of laughs but quickly becomes more serious as they realise how difficult it can be to be asked, and even to ask, really personal questions.

The area that most interested the team was our multi-layered M&E approach that measures the impact on multiple areas of the community; customers, the school, the wider community. And, that uses the entrepreneurs themselves to gather large amounts of information about the outputs, and even some outcomes, they are generating.

To finish the section, we allowed the team to see the behemoth spreadsheets that were the business financial models and the M&E review, which both automatically analyse the information put into them to hopefully say “Yes” this business will work; allowing the OCA team to see how the M&E affects everything else.

We ended an amazing day of laughs and high emotions, with selecting the entrepreneurs. It was captivating to see how OCA intends to integrate our social franchises into their Step Up programme, having the Step Up communities suggest potential entrepreneurs before interviews.

We are getting close to finishing the training! Next week starts with training the entrepreneurs. We are looking forward to pretending to be a very slow learning, hard of hearing, short attention span entrepreneur whilst the OCA team trains us!

Sanitation is more logistics than health and safety

Most of us take toilets for granted, and sewage systems are something we don’t even think about! Yet, 2.4 billion people around the world lack access to a hygienic toilet.
The most common solution is a pit latrine. A hole in the ground with a cover and, sometimes, a structure built around it. Pit latrines are extremely smelly and unhygienic, and play a huge part in contaminating water sources and soil. They simply aren’t sustainable. Many collapse or fill quickly, meaning new toilets have to be dug or old ones emptied.
This sanitation crisis is one of the main reasons for girls dropping out of school, the lack of privacy and discretion; particularly where there are no facilities at all. This is also why we spent 4 years in the Enactus Southampton SanEco project finding a business solution to this problem. And so Roots was born.
Roots entrepreneurs build EcoSan toilets in local schools, allowing them to separate, collect and convert human waste into highly effective, 100% natural, liquid and solid fertilisers. The sale of the fertilisers helps to fund the construction of more toilets as the business grows.

This implementation in Uganda marks the start of the Million, Million, Million plan where Roots businesses will provide 1 million school children with advanced sanitation.

Building a sanitation and fertiliser business

 

Making human waste fertiliser was a new skill for our new partners (International Refugee Trust (IRT) & Organisation for Community Acton (OCA). Though they were clear on one thing… the accessible market was enormous.

OCA are experts in the daily life and struggle of a subsistence farmer. With the 132 topics covered in their Step Up programme, they leave the farmers self-sufficient and resilient within 6 years. Their knowledge of both the land and needs of the farmers is second to none. Needless to say, OCA, the farmers and the schools were excited by the potential.

 

Many people mistakenly assume waste disposal businesses are businesses of construction or chemistry, prioritising the conversion process above all. That is the easy part. Waste disposal businesses are logistics businesses. The one question is always: “How can we get more waste to our site; faster, easier and cheaper?”

The team quickly came to realise this, and when they did you could see the cogs in their brains turning as they considered and discussed everything. Geography, physical exertion, distance, time, conversion locations, transport methods, number of entrepreneurs, agreements with schools, the list goes on.

 

The result, one Roots business with 4 entrepreneurs, 2 toilets in 2 schools (with schools paying half the construction costs), removing 30 tonnes of human waste every year, and providing clean, permanent facilities to over 500 students while supplying highly effective fertilisers to feed thousands.

Little known fact: 10% of the world’s population eats food grown from human waste fertilisers – W.H.O.

The begining of the end of menstrual stigma in Lira

We take having 4 weeks in a month for granted. But, imagine getting to 12 years old and all of a sudden there are only 3 weeks in a month.

In too many communities, menstruation is a taboo subject. There is little to no advice available for girls and no access to affordable sanitary pads; forcing many to use rags or leaves which can cause the contraction of menstrual diseases. The lack of understanding results in girls feeling like they have to stay at home, missing out on as much as 25% of their education or dropping out altogether.

From Enactus’ phenomenal SanEco sanitary towel project, Petal was born. Creating entrepreneurs who make and sell reusable sanitary towels and deliver menstrual health education to everyone in the community.

Using the learnings from 4 years of implementation, we are now in Uganda training 3 organisations how to set up Petal businesses in their communities. The start of the Million, Million, Million plan where Petal businesses with support 1 million women and girls.

So the Petal training begins

The start of the day was a bit of a mad rush, preparing the sewing machines and conducting the morning Introduction to Petal session.
We had a beautiful overlock machine just back from refurbishing… and it doesn’t work. After an hour of fighting with it I jump in a jeep and set off to see the expert, expecting for a quick 10min fix, tightening or fixing some nuts. An hour later and the machine is in parts on the table in front of us… but we get it all working!

I returning to the team in full flow, adapting the Petal business to the local culture. The excitement in the room is tangible, everyone is talking about each little improvement to the business and the impact that it will create.

The second half of the day ended with the menstrual health education. It was shocking to hear some of the stigmas and stories that affect the community: Women on their menstrual cycle not allowed to carry other people’s babies… Sitting in a hole in the ground to contain the blood… and girls at school being bullied when they start menstruating; “The cow has given birth” the boys say.

Despite this, we left feeling inspired by the amazing positivity in the reaction of the men in the team and the drive to not only educate the other men but to recruit men as entrepreneurs to work alongside the women.

The result: One Petal business with 5 mixed sex entrepreneurs who will provide over 2000 women and girls with sanitary towels in its first year.

Tomorrow, we design the final enterprise in Lira. Our Roots social franchise addressing sanitation and fertiliser access.

We stand before an eager, excited crowd

Imagine…A lamp producing horrible flickering light, which produces a dark acrid smoke. You cough, but you have to finish your work, knowing that a knock of the elbow could mean the end of your home… you never use the mosquito net the local government and charities gave you from fear it will catch fire. You lived with this for years and now have dermatitis, respiratory infections and the slightest thing irritates you.

6 years ago a group of Enactus students at the University of Southampton, UK, learned that over 1 billion people in the world without access to electricity used kerosene, paraffin and other fuels for light. Kerosene is jet fuel. A Jet fuel that even the airline industry is moving away from because it is too toxic, and that’s 30,000ft up let alone in your windowless home.

This is why Right Light was born.

Blog day 4 2

Fast forward 6 years, from failure to learning, Right Light evolved. A solar lamp rental businesses undercutting the price of kerosene and providing access to solar lighting for even those living in extreme poverty (under $1.25). The Right Light final evolution created 98 entrepreneurs, most with no prior business experience, with over 1500 lamps in circulation.

Now we are here in Uganda starting the Million, Million, Million Plan with Right Light, Petal and Roots. Where Right Light businesses will provide 1 million people with clean lighting in the next 5 years.

The first day of training – Right Light

3

We are in Uganda training International Refugee Trust and Organisation for Community Action on our three social enterprise models. 7 days of intense training where we will design each business.

The team were so excited for the training, it filled us with humility. They are the real experts on their community, we are here to support their work and leave sustainable, independent businesses behind.

The training went amazingly well. It worried us slightly when nobody would break from one of the activities to eat lunch. Come on guys, its 36 degrees, we have 5 hours of training left today… eat!

The day was very good fun and the result was two Right Light businesses each with 35 initial lamps with added mobile phone charging capability. This means over 460 people with access to clean lighting and over 400 people with improved and cheaper connectivity.

2

Tomorrow, we design the Petal business. Which means, we make sanitary towels. It will be incredibly fun, particularly for the men… trust me.