A key part of our programmes are ‘Witness sessions’ when students hear from inspirational speakers (witnesses) who have first-hand experience of the issues our students are facing. Like witnesses in a law court they give testimony about what it’s really like to start and grow social organisations. Our Witnesses are some of the most inspirational entrepreneurs around who take time out of their very busy lives to help our social entrepreneurs. We’d like you to meet them and be inspired!
Meet: Mary Murphy, Project Leader, The Human Touch
What does your organisation do?
The Human Touch project reaches people in the local community and beyond to provide them with a range of affordable therapies delivered by a team of experienced practitioners in an open shared community space (except for massage which is screened).
How did you get involved with your organisation / What was your motivation for founding your organisation?
My motivation for founding my organisation originated in my personal history. 20 years ago, due to lack of finances and knowledge I believed I could not have any complementary therapies. During that period of time I went to college to study reflexology and I was required to receive treatments as part of the course experience. This made me realise about the many potential health benefits to be gained from receiving reflexology and it gave me an insight that by spending time for myself and trusting in another human being to touch me I was improving the quality of my life too. I had to provide clients for evidence for the course and drew most of them from the run down housing estate where I lived. Treating these people enabled me to see that there was a significant lack of affordable therapies. I promised myself that when I was in the position to, I would open an affordable weekly clinic.
What’s the hardest decision you’ve ever made as a social entrepreneur?
Running a social enterprise has exactly the same issues as every other commercial business. When times are economically difficult, you have to make difficult decisions in order that the long term viability of the project remains true. During 2012/13 we had to make cuts which involved losing staff members. Although you can be more efficient coming out of this process, and we were, we lost some very good people and someone has to make those calls.
Are you ever tempted to stop being a social entrepreneur and get a “normal job”? What keeps you going?
I am often tempted to stop being a social entrepreneur and get a “normal job”. However so many things keep me going, including the great feedback from clients whose lives are improving as a direct result of therapies received in the project, great feedback from practitioners who work for the project and in particular their confidence in me and appreciation of me as their project leader, being able to take time away when I need to knowing I can delegate to any of the practitioner team, seeing the project evolve and grow, knowing there are already so many people who have benefitted and that certainty of knowing we will reach many more.
What’s your top tip(s) for social entrepreneur’s on measuring impact?
My top tip on measuring impact is to record the evidence and translate that evidence into the language understood by for example potential funders.
Who is your (social) entrepreneurial idol and why?
My Social Entrepreneurial idol is Lord Young because in particular of the story about how he founded Which magazine, also for the many other enterprises he founded and for his role in the labour manifesto that led to the first social housing, because he failed as many times as he succeeded and kept going.
What would you say to your 18 year old self?
I would tell my 18 year old self that you have a great future ahead, you can do anything you put your mind to, and you are an amazing, intelligent, compassionate, empathetic, witty, beautiful human being. Go out there and show the world what you are made of, face your fears head on, don’t be afraid of failure, that’s one way to learn, celebrate success.
If you could only go to one more music concert, which artist would you see (living or dead)?
What do you get out of witnessing for the SSE?
I love witnessing for the SSE. It reminds me of how far I have come, of how much I have grown, of what a great entrepreneur I am and that I am a good role model for potential entrepreneurs. It gives me a great boost to my confidence and it inspires me to keep going.