Rebecca White, Your Own Place

What does your social enterprise do?

We support young people making the transition to adult life with the independent living skills and confidence to succeed and avoid future homelessness. Most of our young people have been in the care system and/or experienced homelessness.  We have worked with over 200 young people so far.

Why are you passionate about this cause?

I have worked with young people for 20 years, who have come from all backgrounds and in all situations. Every day a young person surprises me or makes the day a better one due to their optimism and faith in the future.  With the right support they can achieve so much and can be trusted with the decisions that most affect their lives.

Norfolk young people have been short-changed by poor services, resulting in low levels of social mobility for years. Care-leavers and homeless young people are among those most affected due to the lack of support.  We wanted to set something up that raised standards and tackled prejudice.

“Care-leavers and homeless young people are among those most affected due to the lack of support.”

Homelessness is a manifestation of inequality and it was our belief that through high quality preventative services it could be overcome.  Everyone is born equal and has the right to a fulfilling and prosperous life where they feel they have the right to be a part of society – this desire for equality of opportunity is our motivation.

By giving second chances, providing opportunities and treating young people as equals they find their voice and repay with commitment and aspirations.  They are all inspiring!

What was your biggest challenge in starting your social enterprise?

Finding my own answers from models that are similar.  Times are tight in the public sector so we have had to be creative in finding what our customers need and want and how we can make their lives easier.  Building a reputation takes time and patience and tenacity are key.  We have repeatedly re-shaped our offer and found new and engaging ways of having the same conversation with customers in order to build our income.  We have become clearer on what we offer and making a sale that is a win-win.

How has the School for Social Entrepreneurs supported you?

By taking the time to listen, ask, reflect and build relationships. It provides an amazing mirror in which to understand, progress, and learn from challenges of your own and your peers.  This in turn mirrors the approach we take with our young people.  Meeting so many social entrepreneurs enables not just comparison, but opportunities to weigh up and consider different models of delivery, management style, revenue etc.

The Expert Witnesses are of particular value, as they provide so much insight and broaden your horizons. Action Learning also enables solutions to be found not just through your own presentation, but that of peers, too.

Having completed both the Start Up and Scale Up courses, do you have any reflections of your time at SSE?

Scale-up flowed perfectly for me from Start-up.  I certainly wasn’t ready to end my SSE journey there!  It felt right to be having those conversations at that time, having begun them on Start-up.  I’d recommend anyone to do both, as my learning in the last three years has been greater than at any time in my life.  The possibilities are endless with horizons receding as you learn just how much you don’t know!

“…my learning in the last three years has been greater than at any time in my life.”

What are your plans for the future?

With more Tenancy Trainers we will reach more young people, increase our impact and inform local and national policy and strategy in so doing.  Impact will be through numbers, but also proving a case for homelessness prevention and high quality services in times of austerity.  We want to see Tenancy Training Flats all over the UK!

What would your advice be to a social entrepreneur looking to scale up?

Put systems in place.  It’s not good enough (or healthy!) having everything in your head.  It needs to be fit to be passed on so that someone else can adopt the work easily whilst maintaining quality and outcomes

You can watch a video about Your Own Place’s Training Flat here.

If you have been inspired and want to take the next step in either starting or scaling a social enterprise, you can find out what courses we are running here.