I don’t just sit here on my laptop obsessively checking my blog (though my hub possibly might not agree, ho ho). This semester I have been teaching university classes on responsible management and social enterprise. Social enterprise is business that has a “double bottom line” in that it exists for a moral purpose as well as making a profit. Profits are usually re-distributed in order to expand the scope or reach of the social enterprise rather than enriching the founders, though accumulating personal wealth along the way is not excluded from the concept. End of mini-lecture.
So, I showed the seminar some YouTube videos of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant chain, a business that was established to train and life-coach young, unemployed men and women from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter careers in the catering industry. It has had some considerable successes and now the concept has its own TV channel on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/fifteentv
We had a really good discussion about impact and pay-offs. We talked about how the training programme, invented by Chef Jamie, had a huge impact on the individual lives of trainees, but that tangible impact was more difficult to measure within the communities from which the trainees hailed. Fifteen could not address wider social problems and the causes that led these young people into drugs, crime and hopelessness to begin with. My students generated by themselves that all the tv programmes and publicity do Chef Jamie and his books, supermarket endorsements, cookery equipment and restaurants no harm at all. He also has access to the brightest and best trainees to support his other food ventures. Not one student had a problem with this.
The point of blogging was to share an insight from one of my students. We had all agreed that Fifteen trainees, through the apprenticeship, built confidence, skills and self-esteem, they seemed to be able to better handle their problems at home and develop a new sense of who they could be.
One student then offered something different. Fifteen gave trainees a sense of place.
Restaurants are community hubs, gathering points for nourishing the weary traveller, for eating, sharing, for family and laughing. They are important venues indeed and Fifteen has added yet another dimension: a new kind of place in our society in which troubled young people can find their sense of place. Quite amazing really.
The website: www.fifteen.net