A couple of months ago, the world met a six-year-old boy named Henry Marr. On his way home from school, he told his mum on camera of the serious worries he had about how people treated the environment and their lack of concern for the effect this had on “baby animals” in the wild.
“I wish I was an adult right now,” he said. “I just want to do my job right now.” His overwhelming passion for the environment and sense of urgency stirred people’s hearts. The video, naturally, went viral.
I’ve been lucky enough to witness the emergence of extraordinary young social entrepreneurs in Scottish schools, who have become empowered by new ways of turning ideas into action. They’ve made now their time – no waiting for adulthood.
Inverness High School has one such pupil-led social enterprise. With Europe’s refugee crisis so visible in the media, students were adamant that they wanted to help. Linking with humanitarian charity Blythswood Care, the team has been selling farm produce to support a Syrian baker who helps thousands of people to feed their families. In doing so, they’ve opened up understanding between very different lives.
The strength and sustainability of a school social enterprise also comes from adults acting as enablers for young people, opening doors for both them and their businesses. Take the Glasgow Schools Dragons’ Den contest, which started in 2012 with just four schools pitching to local social entrepreneurs. Now, the event has reached 18 schools across the city and is expanding into Fife and Inverness.
Guided by these pupils’ ambition and connection to their cause, the event’s success comes from a cross-sector partnership, including Glasgow Social Enterprise Network, Glasgow City Council and entrepreneurs. This offers access to wider networks of organisations and individuals, helping young people to have a greater impact than they would alone.
There is incredible value in sharing ideas with others on a similar path. And when schools create enterprises with an international focus, they’re also experiencing the benefits of connecting as part of a global community of learning.
This year, the British Council has helped to create a space for schools and facilitators in different countries to connect learning – at the same time, more than 450 pupils from primary and secondary schools are developing social enterprises in Australia.
In creating opportunities to link Scotland’s schools globally, at the Social Enterprise Academy, we hope that we, too, can empower young people to help others – and maybe even spark more micro-movements across the globe.
And there may be lots that we could learn from young people. They are reaching out and embracing the power of connection – taking a leaf out of their book may be exactly what the world needs.
Lianne Noy works for the Social Enterprise Academy, based in Edinburgh, which has helped 4,000 pupils to set up social enterprises