The Chron looks at why one scheme in Northamptonshire is looking for unique ideas to tackle social inequality

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PEOPLE in Northamptonshire have the chance to change something about society that they think is unfair with up to £20,000 worth of expert help and support... all they have to do is come up with a good idea.

It is part of the Big2 Bonanza, a scheme to tackle social inequality by helping people set up a social enterprise.

It is being organised by the University of Northampton and the Young Foundation and it follows a similar scheme last year called the Big Bonanza which generated more than 400 applications.

Wray Irwin, from the Young Foundation, who is social entrepreneur in residence at the university explained that the whole idea is to set up enterprises that address a social need.

He said: “We all carry those ideas round with us but it’s about providing a means so people can offload them. Things that annoy us, things that touch us about social inequality, if you think you have the answer tell us what that answer is.”

The scheme is open to anyone who lives in Northamptonshire, staff and students at the University of Northampton and people who work for the public sector and third sector (voluntary and community groups) in Northamptonshire.

But one of the most important things about any ideas people come up with is that they should be new and different so that when they are pitching for funds they are offering something unique.

Wray said: “They have to be innovative. The way the economy is going and Government is going and health services are developing, more of the same isn’t good enough any more. This is about doing things completely differently. That key element of innovation, it’s not about ‘doing good,’ it’s about developing business ventures that can go into the market and develop an income.”

Social Enterprises have a social purpose as their main goal, but they also need to run as a business. Wray said that they have been around for hundreds of years in one form or another but people are now beginning to see them differently. He said: “I think it’s moved from the perception that it’s a bunch of tree huggers.”

He explained that there are 62,000 social enterprises in the country providing employment for thousands of people.

Wray said: “It’s part of that narrative about redefining capitalism with a more grounded and responsible business model.”

He explained that although services are being cut, there are funds available to pay for them if people present an innovative business idea to do it. He said: “It’s not that there isn’t any money, but the money isn’t in grant form any more.”

The scheme wants ideas that tackle three areas of social inequality: improving the employability of unemployed people with an emphasis on job creation, improving the health and wellbeing of people in the community and preventing or reducing offending.

The deadline for applications is Friday, March 30. The people who make the best applications will be asked to attend workshops on April 21 and 28 to help develop and strengthen their idea. They will then prepare a pitch to be presented to the Big2 investment panel in May.

The panel will not just be looking at the idea in isolation though, they will be judging the person presenting the idea too.

Wray said: “We are looking at working with individuals for a period of time, producing new products and services that hit a social need that somebody will pay you to deliver.

“Its not just the idea, it’s the entrepreneur. Are they passionate and doing it for the right reasons? It comes down to passion really. You can have an idea but without the entrepreneur with passion you haven’t got anything.”

To find out more about Big2 Bonanza visit and download the application form.

one solution to the problem is close to hand

SARAH Kirkpatrick is the manager at Enterprise Solutions. The organisation, based on Kettering Road, Northampton, supports social enterprises that already exist and those that are just starting up as well as voluntary and community organisations.

They started 30 years ago when they were set up as the Northamptonshire Co-operative Development Agency.

She describes a social enterprise saying: “Essentially it’s an enterprise set up for a social or environmental purpose. It’s the reason behind it that’s important. There are certain criteria, one should be about the profit being reinvested back into the business to develop social benefits.

“They can be involved in all kinds of activities that we might think of as voluntary. Some can look like conventional businesses, but when you look at it you see it has a social benefit.”

The difficult economy and the cutbacks in the public sector have created a need which social enterprises are filling by setting up organisations to tackle the issues.

She said this has led to an increase in social enterprises, particularly those dealing with helping people who are long-term unemployed.

She said: “It’s on the increase. We are certainly getting more inquiries from people and there perhaps more inquiries including from voluntary organisations wanting to increase business activities, with public sector cuts a lot of people are looking to fill some of the gaps.

“There’s certainly a need, that’s where a lot of voluntary organisations are looking at ways of generating income.”

To contact Enterprise Solutions visit their website at www.

susanne’s story

THREE years ago, on her 23rd birthday Susanne Rees became deaf. It was devastating. She lost her confidence and lost her job and struggled to cope.

The turning point for her came when she had a go at rock climbing while at university. The experience changed her life and brought her new confidence and now she wants to give other disabled people the chance to experience the same thing.

She came up with an idea for a social enterprise called Independence and Diversity in Disability, or iDID for short, which would help improve the physical and mental health of people with disabilities by providing adventure activities.

Her idea was among those that were successful at the Big Bonanza scheme last year and now she is in the process of setting it up as a social enterprise.

Susanne has a condition called neurofibromatosis type two which causes tumours to grow throughout her central nervous system affecting her spinal cord and brain.

She said: “As a result of this I am profoundly deaf and also have balance and dexterity difficulties.

“My disability has had a huge influence on the inspiration of iDID as effectively it is my story.

“It’s a scary thing when you acquire a disability, there aren’t very many support networks out there and the ones I found didn’t really seem suitable for a young person like myself. I didn’t know any deaf people or sign language and felt a bit out of place in the support that was available. The people around me were extremely supportive but how could they ever know what I was experiencing? It was difficult.”

When she decided to try rock climbing on a climbing wall she was not convinced it was something she could do, particularly because of the need to communicate during a climb. But she said: “It was a real pinnacle moment in my life. I can’t describe the feeling you get when you go rock climbing but it is powerful. Achieving something I never thought possible had a profound effect on me. I met other disabled people who had similar experiences so I thought, hang on, I’m onto something here.”

Susanne, who is from Kettering, is in the process of setting up a website which will give users information about adventure sports and how they can be adapted to suit the needs of each disabled person. She is also developing a range of clothing and equipment for disabled people to use for adventure sports.

She recommends anyone thinking of entering an application for the Big2 Bonanza to give it a go. She said: “Don’t be scared if you think your idea hasn’t progressed enough or if you don’t already have a wealth of business experience. Through the workshops you will mould your idea and work on a pitch from the support you are given. And, massive advice, research, research, research your idea.

“You have nothing to lose by applying and everything to gain if you get through.”