We’re delighted to share this guest blog by our member Charles Rapson, CEO of School for Social Entrepreneurs Midlands, packed with reflections on how we learn and a number of forthcoming support opportunities for budding entrepreneurs and community businesses.

The comments my Head Teacher wrote on my final school report where not the most encouraging you will ever see. He said “Charles’ time at (delete name for legal reasons) was essentially a waste of taxpayers’ money.” I kid you not! But, despite this, I started an apprenticeship at British Leyland (MG Rover to you younger folk. Really young? Cars). Each year (there were 3) was divided into 6 months at college and 6 months industrial experience. Reports on my time at college weren’t as bad as my old headmaster’s, but they were close. Reports on my industrial experience however were very different – glowing testimonials to my ability to learn quickly, take responsibility, achieve goals, etc. The thing was, I just learnt in a different way to the conventional approach. I leant by doing stuff rather than sitting in a classroom. I mean, who is going to remember anything about contract law from a lecture at 9:00am on a Monday morning? That’s a stupid way of teaching surely!

Fast forward 30 years or so and I’m running a school (my old head teacher rotating rapidly in his grave). But this is no ordinary school. This is the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE for short). We don’t teach, lecture or dictate. We don’t even give advice. It’s a process of learning. It’s peer learning; it’s experiential learning; it’s Action Learning; it’s mentoring; it’s coaching; it’s fun. It’s everything my school and college weren’t.

I wonder if all entrepreneurs learn like this – Social or otherwise? SSE founder Lord Michael Young thought so which is why he set up SSE in this way. (He also created the Open University so he was not against more traditional teaching methods).

Learning at SSE means you will be with a group of like-minded people (your tribe) who will get why and what you are doing and will share the same challenges you do. It’s a brilliant place to be and our ‘students’ love it.

“The confidence I’ve gained from being on the SSE programme has been phenomenal.”
“The support has been fantastic.”
“I have learned so much.”
“I’ve made life-long friends.”
“My confidence has really grown.”
– are just a few of the typical comments. And it’s not just learning business skills, it’s the confidence to apply them and the ongoing support networks (our Fellowship) to push ahead with their missions.

We started in 2013 with 21 budding Social Entrepreneurs. In 2020 around 60 people will go through our programmes. Here are the first two. There are more on the way for Start Ups and Youth Engagement, Built Environment and Place Based enterprises. Watch out for details via our twitter @ssemidlands / @SchSocEnt or join our mailing list.










Environmental Activists & Entrepreneurs

We are looking to support 15 leaders of community organisations with an environmental focus working specifically in the West Midlands and North England. The programme is funded by the Co-operative Foundation. It’s free to attend.

It is aimed at early stage community led, environmentally focused organisation looking to move from a start-up phase where they may be dependent upon grant income but want to grow their impact and income from trading.

They will need to be prepared to participate in a learning and development programme which will take place in various locations across the West Midlands and North of England.

Applications are open now and the deadline is 1:00PM on Thursday 31st October.

Apply here.

Community Business Growing Income

Our Community Business Trade Up Programme is run in partnership with Power to Change and the National Lottery Community Fund; this is a free programme and comes with a Match Trading grant of up to £10,000. It’s also free.
Applicants must be leading organisations that are:

  • Locally rooted – your organisation exists to benefit your local neighbourhood, village or town; your
    local area is at the heart of what you do.
  • Accountable to the local community – you consult local people about what you do, and
    communicate with them.
  • Trading for the benefit of the local community – you want to increase your income from trading by
    at least £10,000 in the next year, with profits re-invested to benefit your local community.
  • Making a broad community impact – what you do engages different groups of people from your
    local area.The deadline for applications is 1:00PM on 27th November 2019.

Apply here.

Anyone interested to know more can join an online webinar on Monday 7th October 12:00 to 1:00PM. Tune in here.

For more on both of these or to compare notes on head teachers contact: charles@ssemidlands.org