Trade with Purpose: How a business can drive meaningful change

11 Jul 2024

Helene Virolan and Avye Couloute Girls into Coding working on circuitsWritten by Hélène Virolan, Director at Girls Into Coding CIC .

In today’s world, aligning one’s values and work has become increasingly important. This shift has given rise to social enterprises, organisations committed not only to profit but also to addressing social and environmental concerns. As Director of Girls Into Coding (GIC), I’ve seen how a mission-driven venture can substantially impact a community.

GIC is on a mission to bridge the gender gap in technology. Through this journey, several essential pillars have been crucial in creating impact.

Here is an essential guide for those embarking on a social enterprise journey, enriched by the Girls Into Coding story.

If you’re looking for support for your social enterprise or community business, check out our new Trading for Good programmes.

Purpose-Driven Decisions

Our purpose is to empower girls in STEM. This mission shapes every strategic decision we make. For example, our 3-day bootcamp at the Central Research Laboratory introduced girls to advanced topics like CAD/CAM, robotics, and sustainability projects. These sessions didn’t just teach technical skills but significantly boosted participants’ confidence. Emily, a shy participant, shared, “I have learned a lot about coding, especially Python. This has helped my confidence at my new secondary school.”

Hands-On Engagement

Over the past year, GIC reached over 5,000 girls through hands-on tech and engineering workshops alongside our lightning talks, Q&A sessions, resources & inspirational tech articles & content. We’ve hosted 100+ workshops covering coding, engineering, robotics, 3D design, and physical computing. These sessions are designed to be inclusive and accessible, encouraging girls aged 10-14 to explore STEM fields. Collaborations with schools like Whitefield High School have allowed us to bring these resources directly to students who might not otherwise have access to them.

Girls Into Coding founder Avye builds a robot at her desk

Empowerment Through Role Models

We feature talks from women in tech who share their journeys, challenges, and successes. These stories inspire our attendees to envision their own paths in STEM. For example, Shruti decided to study computer science at GCSE after attending our sessions. Zoe mentioned, “Expert speakers give us a taste of what it is to work as a geophysicist, a product manager, a programmer, an AI expert, or a biomedical engineer. This is incredibly beneficial for girls who are unsure of their future career paths.”

Peer Learning and Community Leadership

Peer learning is a cornerstone of our program. Young leaders within our community, such as Mariah and Ayesha have co-delivered workshops to other girls. This model fosters a supportive environment where girls learn from and inspire each other. Surveys conducted post-workshops indicate that over 85% of participants reported an increased interest in pursuing STEM careers, highlighting the effectiveness of our approach.

The Power of Collaboration

Collaboration is paramount for social enterprises aiming to maximise impact. At Girls Into Coding, we collaborate with technology companies and community groups, amplifying our ability to engage more girls and broaden their exposure to STEM fields. Through partnership, we can leverage diverse resources and expertise, leading to more substantial outcomes and broader community involvement.

Empowering Communities and Individuals

Social enterprises empower underserved or underrepresented groups. By providing relevant programmes, like our tech & engineering workshops we equip young people with the skills needed for financial independence and personal development.

Environmental Impact and Sustainability

Our environmental-themed tech projects have had significant success & impact. For instance, participants built an automated Air Quality Pavilion to monitor CO2 levels, learning about environmental monitoring and data-driven solutions. In another workshop focused on renewable energy, girls explored generating renewable energy and integrating it into a power grid. Over 70% of participants expressed a desire to work on future tech projects with an environmental focus.

Support for Success

Starting and running a social enterprise is both rewarding and challenging. Key support in our early stages was crucial. We benefited from grants, mentorship and training programs on business strategy and operations. Access to a peer community also provided us with often-needed emotional support and collaboration opportunities, as well as being able to tap into a wealth of knowledge in areas such as legal advice.

The support from the SSE program was transformative for us, offering financial assistance through the Match Trading grant, mentorship, and a peer network facing similar challenges. The program’s cohort-based format and expert-led sessions provided a comprehensive educational experience, enhancing my confidence and leadership skills.

The journey of Girls Into Coding demonstrates that by focusing on purpose, hands-on engagement, empowerment through role models, peer learning, community engagement, and environmental impact, social enterprises can drive meaningful change. Girls Into Coding continues to bridge the gender gap in technology, empowering the next generation of girls to thrive in STEM fields.

Trading for Good: funded programmes for people who want to improve our world

Gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence to develop and grow projects that tackle social and environmental challenges through strong trading income streams.

Trading for Good provides funding, education and support for social entrepreneurs and community businesses across England. It consists of three programmes aimed at different types of projects at differing stages of their journey.

Each programme has the following specialised support:

  • Learning and development programme.
  • Match Trading Grant.
  • Ready-made network of people like you. 
  • Expert insights. 
  • Peer-to-peer learning. 
  • Join our community of 3k+ SSE fellows.

Find out more