Community Enterprise activities at the University of Bradford are designed to empower and build the capacity of its local communities through the range of enterprise development programme. The activities act as a vehicle for meaningful university-community interactions and are excellent examples of how a University can contribute to the social well being and economic development of a locality, and in turn offer high quality skills and knowledge provision that engages and stimulates its local communities.
AmazeYourself (AY) is a free community enterprise programme which began in 2006 with the objectives to:
- Raise aspirations of local unemployed people to become more entrepreneurial and take control of their own future
- Decrease long term unemployment within Bradford and the District
- Give unemployed individuals the opportunity to explore and firm up their business ideas and learn how to set up a business in a supportive and motivating environment
- Develop and strengthen core entrepreneurial and employability skills as well as confidence and self efficacy
The programme is specifically designed to appeal to the diverse communities that reside in Bradford District and as such we put strategies in place to ensure the programme met the needs of these different target audiences. For example, the team spend time connecting with other community based business support organisations, projects and programmes across Bradford. The aim of which is to make connections and networks with community based organisations and build lasting partnerships for programme recruitment, delivery and follow on support. This has resulted in a diverse range of referrals from partners, alliances and informed others.
AY has been praised by partners for its ability to impact on ‘hard to reach’ clients. The mechanism through which this happens is the skilful embedding of AY within a support community with great relationship management skills. For example, AY run enterprise taster sessions embedded in local job and training fairs targeting unemployed or those seeking for non-accredited training options.
Contribution and Impact
The contribution to the local economy is unquestionable, so too is the impact it has on clients commitment to make changes in their lives and that of their families and communities. AY unpacks problems and builds solutions using the strength of the peer learning group. These solutions can often be very revealing and innovative. Alongside this AY provides a fun environment allowing participants to make new associates and focuses on the client from a holistic perspective with the peer learning group being a major source of encouragement and support. AY have some clear qualitative and quantitative measures of impact:
Between 2006 and 2012 AmazeYourself has delivered intensive interventions (training programme and one –to – one support) to over 1444 unemployed individuals.
This has resulted in:
- 176 setting up their own businesses
- 107 securing sustainable employment
- 32 pursuing further education and higher education
Testimonials and Engagement
Below are a number of testimonials from AY clients:
“It has helped me make contacts with key people who have made me go from if I start a business to when”.
“Getting this support has really inspired me…I met some great entrepreneurs…it’s been a life changing experience”.
“We all broadened our knowledge and gained more confidence in exploring our ideas and looking at alternatives.”
“I have already booked a number of weeks at a local community centre to run and test my idea and gather necessary data to move to the next step.”
AY deliver interventions in the most deprived areas of Bradford to its most hard to reach and vulnerable unemployed residents. Engaging such clients is challenging especially when they often reject mainstream provision available to them. Using innovative and creative outreach activities has been a critical factor leading to the success of the programmes. For example, pre-programme taster sessions have been offered to engage clients so that they could test out their idea and understand their strengths before starting the course. Another mechanism has been use AY champions (existing clients who have successfully set up their own businesses) to act as role model and mentors for new clients. AY champions bring their personal experience as well as their newly acquired business know-how to support new clients in a grounded yet inspirational way.
AY originally started as publically funded project; however throughout its development it has continually explored ways to ensure its long term sustainability. It is now core business within the University’s Public and Community Engagement work. It has also become an accredited module within the University and therefore attracts new forms of income through tuition fees for students wishing to obtain a higher education level qualification. AY also draws on the expertise of the local business community as well as brokering business support available across the district, therefore increasing business support option for client on completion of the AY programme. This trusted partnership approach has also led to joint funding proposals. Finally, AY staff has learned how to implement the social practice agenda which provides further opportunities for revenue services across University’s Knowledge Transfer work.