I was privileged to attend the first ever graduation of the Cornwall School for Social Entrepreneurs last Friday. And what a venue the Eden Project provided, thanks to Tim Smit + his team, for the first 15 social entrepreneurs from the county to become SSE Fellows.
Tim is Patron to the Cornwall SSE, and opened proceedings in rousing fashion, saying that "social enterprise is the most important business model" and that none of the Fellows should underestimate what can be achieved when you "get a group of people who believe in something" together. He talked of Grameen Bank and Grameen Phone as examples to demonstrate ambition and vision; and of the need for an investment in leadership.
I loved what he had to say about the need for social entrepreneurs to "take gambles based on knowledge, gambles worth taking", and on having support systems in place for when you fail (which is to be encouraged). He emphasised that the (support) networks and relationships from going through the SSE programme will be the "people you need who will catch you if you fall".
Finally, he said that he was proud to be a patron, wished them the best of luck, to be brave, bold, aggressive and ambitious, to demand mentorship and, characteristically, to not "believe the hippy shit that you can't make profit".
It's a tough gig to follow Tim at the best of times, but this day was really about the 15 social entrepreneurs completing the first ever Cornwall programme. You can see their details online via the SSE Cornwall website, or download the pdf of the great graduation booklet to learn more about each of their projects and organisations. They cover a huge breadth and diversity of areas, as ever: claims management, fuel poverty, positive news, circus courses, menopause self-care, mental health, sustainable clothing, fair trade, and more.
It would be wrong to pick out any individual, but massive congratulations to them all: they all gave fabulous presentations, and have made tremendous progress since I facilitated a session with them in Penzance last year. And nice for those who've worked tirelessly behind the scenes (Sally, Charlotte, Carolyn, Suzanne, Carleen and many more) to make this happen to hear some of the quotes during the day from these new Fellows:
"SSE has enabled me to be the person I want to be"
"As my tutor said, 'imperfect action is better than perfect inaction' "
"SSE has helped me get real"
"I have faced down the dreaded business plan!"
"With the guidance and advice I've had, I know I will set it up"
"SSE opened up a lot of doors for me"
"SSE has been fantastic, enjoyable and emotional"
"SSE has allowed me to learn from others, and have a network of people who believe in me"
As Tim said, the true success of Cornwall SSE will be judged by what it, and those it has supported, have achieved in 10 years' time. And, as he says, "The School is a vital addition to the capacity of Cornwall and we at Eden are proud to be supporters". It's certainly off to a great beginning, as are these Cornwall social entrepreneurs, and we look forward to carrying on supporting them on their journeys. And we'll work on the exchange programme with your 'twin' franchise in Sydney…. :0)
[P.S. If you're interested in being part of the next Cornwall group, check out recruitment details + info (pdf). They are recruiting now!]