At The Young Foundation, we believe that tackling disadvantage in the education system is key to addressing inequality.
Our contribution in this area is the Young Academy – a programme for social ventures that work to improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged young people. The Young Academy supports ventures in developing their ideas and business models and works to increase their social impact.
Part of the Young Academy is Demo Day – an opportunity at the end of the programme for our cohort of social ventures to pitch to a room full of investors and grant-makers. If successful in securing investment, the funding they receive can help them to grow and do more social good.
This summer, I attended the first Demo Day of the Young Academy. All ventures were united in their mission to improve outcomes in the education space, and the range of approaches on display was a testament to the innovative thinking of the entrepreneurs behind them. Here are few examples:
Edukit: An online platform founded by Nathalie Richards that matches schools looking to tackle specific issues (e.g. attainment, behaviour, life skills) with the most appropriate social enterprise out there. Schools buying the services can rate them, which rewards successful interventions and encourages informed decision making. Think Trip-Advisor for education social ventures.
Box Up Crime: Founded and managed by Stephen Addison, this venture uses boxing to steer young people away from criminal activities and exclusion in schools, and towards a positive community activity.
Class Careers: A growing trend for recruiters to offer opportunities directly to school leavers coupled with a tendency for inadequate careers advice in schools led entrepreneur Chris Orthodoxou to set up Class Careers – a service that delivers Q&A sessions with employers directly to students in their classrooms.
(For a full list of ventures on the 2014 London cohort of the Young Academy, please click here.)
What’s the value of Demo Days?
Firstly, it was an effective way of introducing ventures to funders that could provide the all-important capital to enable the ventures to grow, whilst giving the audience of funders a perspective on new ways of meeting social needs.
Secondly, it gave the ventures practice at articulating their vision, strategy and financial needs: Throughout the Young Academy programme it gave our cohort a target date and tanglible reason for reassembling their business models, theories of change, approaches to impact measurement.
Finally – what a great way to for people across the social sector to meet, exchange ideas and make friends. Events like these foster connection and collaboration, which is the very lifeblood of social change.
The next Young Academy programme will run Winter-Spring 2014/15 and will be based in Nottingham. Social enterprises working to tackle inequality in education in that area are encouraged to apply by 1st October on our website.