Dundee Social Enterprise Network (DSEN) recently celebrated its 10th anniversary by taking a stall at the Festive Market, which ran over a Friday and Saturday. Six DSEN members endured freezing temperatures to showcase their products, in the Slessor Gardens which is located beside the new V&A Museum.
This was the first time that DSEN had supported its members to take part in a city centre market. This was largely because the Social Enterprise Network in Dundee had been predominantly service based, with relatively few organisations producing or selling goods. There was also a view that some of the SE goods might not be of the same standard as those of experienced commercial organisations.
So it was with a wee bit of apprehension that we took our place on the stall as dusk fell on the Friday evening. We had no need to worry however, as the members had put a great deal of thought and effort into ensuring that their products were well produced and professionally branded and packaged. The SEs were also without doubt the most engaging stall holders, chatting with customers and letting them know about what their organisations were all about and the added value that their products offered.
We had a varied range of members present:
The Special Candles Trust design and make bespoke remembrance candles, which are given free to people who are experiencing loss or bereavement. They are produced by ex-service personnel who are facing a range of challenges, and being involved in this work has played a really important part in their recovery journey. SCT were however facing real challenges in terms of funding their work and so have embarked on creating a new commercialised arm, which will produce individualised candles for special occasions, such as retirements and christenings. This has involved working with DSEN to create new branding and packaging as well as creating a more engaging online presence.
Rock Solid is a youth club for young people in Douglas, some of whom are facing a range of challenges. RS run an entrepreneurial scheme, with the young people involved at every stage – from designing the products, to deciding how to distribute the profits. The young folk loved being involved in the market and were demon sales people.
How it Felt is a young social enterprise providing puppet building, drama and film making workshops, focusing mostly on mental and emotional well-being. This can include group workshops, one to one sessions and commissions. Debz and her puppet Little Debz proved really popular with young and old alike.
Dundee & Angus Wood Recycling take old pallets and other unused materials and turn them into a range of fantastic garden furniture, shop fittings and also offer a bespoke design service. They offer everyone the chance to learn new skills, but particularly for those with additional support needs. Richard and his colleagues have faced a lengthy development journey, but now have suitable premises, become incorporated (CIC), a burgeoning order book and an ever increasing range of volunteers wanting to take part. They have just been awarded a development grant from DSEN, which will enable them to buy a van and their next step is looking to finance their first paid member of staff.
Tin Roof is an organisation set up and run by artists in Dundee. They aim to support artists and the wider creative community by providing resources and a collaborative atmosphere. They have just overcome a major barrier this year when they lost their premises, but have co-located with other art initiatives and are back running fantastic pottery and ceramic sessions for the local community.
Uppertunity is a recently formed CIC that offers a skills development and self-determination service to people who might be considered vulnerable. Uppertunity looks at the individual’s strengths and possibilities, and then work with them to create long-term independence. DSEN has supported them with a feasibility grant that allowed them to run a series of trial sessions. Two of the people that take part in the Uppertunity programmes, were part of their sales team and clearly loved the experience.
DSEN has come along way since its inception in 2007, growing from a handful of enterprises, to a dynamic network with 76 members and offering a wide range of goods and services. This Festive Market felt like another step for the Network and it certainly was a success, with a collective sales total of over £1000, with additional orders still coming in. It also helped to spread the message and demonstrate to others what SE is all about.
My role is to support the DSEN team, engage with current and new members to promote their business.
Kirsty Scott, DSEN’s Operations Manager, visited Link up Whitfield Community Service Complex, 101 Whitfield Drive, Dundee, (Inspiring Scotland project hosted by DSEN member, Volunteer Dundee) to meet Sandra Stewart, Community Development Worker for Volunteer Dundee as part of the TSI Outreach programme. Sandra is on hand to provide information and support activities and groups in the Whtifield area every Wednesday 12-2pm and met at the Link Up Lunch Club which provides fresh home made food as part of the Dundee Healthy Living Initiative.
Local residents help run the Lunch Club led by Joe Thomson, Lunch Club Development Officer every Wednesday from 12pm – 1.30pm and it is proving very popular! They are looking for volunteers to help with their new community allotment project where they will be a gardening venture growing vegetables that they can use in the kitchen. If you don’t have green fingers there are other activities going on Monday to Friday that include Camera Club, Baking Group, Dance Group, Arts & Craft and a Cinema Club. They are looking for people to participate in these to get together and meet new people. If you live in the area, pop over and see whats on and if you have a group idea of your own, get in touch with Sandra – firstname.lastname@example.org
For information on the Whitfield Community Service visit www.volunteerdundee.org.uk/community/link-up-whitfield/ and the Outreach programme visit VG Outreach Programme Jan to Mar
The Long Road To Mandalay (via Hong Kong) Part 5
Thursday 29th Sep
It was an early trip on the Thursday morning to visit a rural social enterprise situated on the Ayeyawaddy River Delta. This was an area that was particularly devastated by Cyclone Nargis in 2008, which killed some 140,000 people and left almost 2.5 million homeless. This disaster was compounded by the fact that Myanmar’s isolation meant that initially no foreign aid or support could access the country. Local people and organisations tried valiantly to help, but undoubtedly this was still the worst natural disaster in the countries’ history.
Our bus driver was obviously experienced and skilled, but I eventually had to stop looking out the front window, as the road contained a diverse range of hazards – cows, cyclists teetering along carrying huge bundles, people walking and oncoming vehicles playing chicken on our side of the road.
We were being hosted by a SE, Proximity Designs who support rural communities; providing microfinance, providing farm advisory services and designing and selling farm equipment to improve growing conditions.
We were based in a township called Kyungyangone. It is mainly bamboo huts, surrounded by paddy fields. We spoke to one farmer who has seven acres of paddy, and who has received microfinance from Proximity to develop these fields. The microfinance is offered on a ‘group’ basis, where several smallholders come together to form a group. Although they borrow individual amounts, the group work together to ‘guarantee’ one another’s repayments. They have to attend regular meetings with Proximity, which teach them about farming methods and opportunities for development.
One of the particular farming innovations that people had adopted was to add salt to the water in the rice fields. This helped to kill pests and eliminate unproductive rice shoots. The salinity level was checked by placing an egg on the water – if it just floated, it was perfect.
Temperatures were soaring into the upper 30s, with high humidity and as we toured the paddy fields under the midday sun, I was sure I was about to keel over at any moment.
Villagers were so friendly and hospitable and welcomed us into their homes. I was struck in one of the houses by a picture of young boy in monk’s robes. Over 60% of all males will spend some time as a monk. I could tell that his parents were honoured that their son had taken up this calling, but also that they missed him so much. I could however see the benefits of sending my son to a monastery – occasionally.
This was in truth the closest I did actually get on my ‘Road to Mandalay’ – but maybe closer than Robbie Williams got? The return bus journey to Yangon was again ‘interesting’ – made even more so with a torrential downpour thrown in.
Friday 30th Sep
On the morning, we visited Phandeeyar in down town Yangon. It is an innovation lab who are trying to use technology to benefit society.
Technology is a nascent sector in Myanmar and most developers are self-taught. A smart phone costs on average $23, and data is 1kyat per MB (1,700 Kyats is £1). The result of this is that, even in the rural areas, mobile technology is advancing quickly, and while people don’t have a computer (so don’t use websites), they are more and more frequently using ‘apps’.
Phandeeyar have hosted a number of hackathons, including a highly successful ‘let’s vote’ hack challenge. 30 teams competed over two weeks, and the winning app, which was designed to provide unbiased information in the lead up to the general election had 200k downloads in 5 weeks – and it could be argued played a significant part in ensuring the countries first successful and fair election.
Phandeeyar have core funding from a number of sources but fundraise for individual projects. A recent accelerator programme attracted 80 applicants, and six successful candidates are working in the Phandeeyar office. They also provide co-working space for 30,000 kyat per month and have about 60 users of the space.
In the afternoon we participated in a SE Symposium that attracted delegates from the government and a wide range of national and international stakeholder organisations. This again gave fascinating insights into some of the challenges that SE faces, but also how it is so positively impacting in the redevelopment of Myanmar. There was a somewhat abrupt end to proceedings as we had overrun our time slot and wedding guests led by the very vocal and agitated groom, ‘invaded’ our conference room.
Saturday was our last day in Yangon and we had a tour around the famous Scott Market which is an incredible warren of stalls selling every product under the sun. Once again the temperature and humidity were oppressive and we decided to have a break at a small café. I ordered what was titled a ‘Strawberry Sherbet’ and was eagerly anticipating a long ice cold fruit drink to quench my thirst. A steaming bowl of hot sago soup, with spring onion and a large slice of submerged bread arrived. The owner hovered over me like a mother hen to ensure I finished every drop. Lost in Translation came to mind.
We then set off that evening on another marathon 24hr journey, back to Dundee.
It had been a wonderful, informative, emotional, tiring and inspirational trip and a few special mentions and thank yous: to Gerry, Johnny and Jo from CEIS who had organised it so wonderfully well. DSEN for giving me this fantastic opportunity. Those who organised and delivered the inspiring World Forum. All those who were involved in the life changing enterprises that we visited and to Tristan, Mae and Mimi and all their colleagues from the British Council who so expertly hosted and guided us in Myanmar. And of course to my fellow tour party colleagues from across the globe. A pleasure and a privilege to spend time with you all.
Next World Social Enterprise Forum is in Christchurch in 2017.
Thank You 谢谢 多謝
ကျေးဇူးတင်ပါတယ် Tapadh leat
The Long Road To Mandalay (via Hong Kong) Part 4
Tues 27th Sep 2016
Flight to Myanmar was thankfully uneventful after the excitement at Hong Kong Airport, other than witnessing the most spectacular lightning storm further north over Cambodia – which we fortunately kept well away from.
Although the drive from the airport to the hotel in Yangon (formerly called Rangoon) was at night we could see that it was quite different from the highly developed metropolis that we had experienced in Hong Kong, with areas of trees, greenery, and ‘normal’ scale buildings.
Wednesday 28th Sept 2016
The following morning looked out of the hotel window to see a quite different city scape, still busy with some modern developments but also with dilapidated buildings, overgrown areas and a general run down appearance.
We had a welcome meeting at the British Embassy, which was hosted by the British Council. Tristan gave us a really helpful run through of the turbulent history that the country had experienced in the last 70 years. It had just come out of some 50 odd years of military rule, appointing its first democratic government since the 2nd World War. During this time it had largely been cut off from the rest of the world and in fact Western countries had imposed trade embargoes which had had further hampered Myanmar’s development. This was now changing and western countries were becoming more actively involved in the country.
Myanmar sits in a pivotal location, between China and India, both of whom have had long associations with the country. The Chinese in particular have been investing huge sums of money in the country, including funding large scale infrastructure and transport projects – whilst encouraging growth within Myanmar this of course also meets Chinese needs and will allow them to open up the western inland area of China, which has thus far lagged well behind the economic development of their eastern coast. India has also looked to develop in underdeveloped east by investing in Myanmar and it will be fascinating to watch how these two rising giant powers vie for supremacy in the area.
We also got a really informative insight into the local economic and political landscape and how this offers advantages, but also barriers to the development of social enterprise. The British Council has been supporting the development of social enterprises by running a specific development programme in Myanmar and other Asian countries.
We then visited a number of social enterprises in Yangon.
Flame Tree Sewing and Helping Hands operate on the same site. Flame Tree Sewing trains disadvantaged women in embroidery and sewing, making beautifully ornate cushion covers, bags, purses, children’s clothing and jewellery. The women are trained centrally, but can then be given a machine so that they can work at home and look after their families for much of the time, coming together with others regularly to check quality etc. Helping Hands (top image) restores old teak furniture. Skilled craftsmen work alongside children who were previously living on the streets to train them to work with the wood, restoring furniture and making new kitchen equipment such as bread-boards, spoons and salad servers. The children are also given a basic education.
We had lunch at LinkAge, which is a small restaurant on the first floor. LinkAge trains street children to be waiters and chefs and the children sleep on a mezzanine floor within the restaurant. The food was really tasty and the enthusiasm and friendliness of the young staff was just a delight. As we entered the building I looked just above my head to see the fuse box, which was an absolute jumble of wires – this seemed to be a common feature of Yangon, with elements that looked modern and of decent quality, mixed with the most rudimentary and basic amenities and services.
In the afternoon, we took a heritage walk around some of the sights of Yangon with the Yangon Heritage Trust. Yangon still boasts some of the best examples of colonial architecture in the world, but most are in urgent need of major renovation. The fear is that much of that heritage may be lost with the drive to modernise and upgrade the city.
There were very real signs of poverty, e.g. small wooden shacks selling single cigarettes or street food, which also served as people’s homes. There was also examples of real ingenuity, where people overcame the lack of affordable office space and were running their offices from the back of a car – using old typewriters rather than lap tops.
In the evening, we visited the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, which is one the country’s most important Buddhist sites. Buddhism plays a huge part in daily life, with over 85% of the country being active followers. At one time the main ornate pagoda structure, was said to incorporate more gold leaf and plate than was housed in the vaults of the Bank of England.
I stopped and gave a small offering to one of the monks and he asked if I wanted to take a ‘selfie’ with him. He worked in a rural health centre and raised funds for the centre by giving organisational lectures and workshops. He was obviously skilled in promoting his work and offered me a coloured flyer detailing his services, including associated costs – social enterprise with a spiritual slant.
We rounded off a really full day with a visit to another restaurant, Shwe Sa Bwe, restaurant. They take young people from rural areas and train them to be chefs and waiters in the expanding 5* tourism market. There is a significant skills shortage in these industries and huge opportunities for young people. Once again we received high quality food and very friendly service.
Till the next blog!
See part five, The Finale HERE!
Important: Opinions expressed by bloggers are their own and don’t represent those of the Dundee Social Enterprise Network organisation,
The Long Road To Mandalay (via Hong Kong) Part 3
We then took the Star Ferry from Kowloon over to Central and had a candlelight dinner in a trendy roof top restaurant – not sure how that went down with the better halves back home.
Angus, 26th September
Sun 25th Sep 2016
So after lunch a short walk to the venue for the SE World Forum, the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre. This was stunning modern building and despite our event having over 1000 delegates, we were only one of a number of large events taking place there that day.
The Opening Ceremony was a series of introductions to various officials, lots of speeches and loads of clapping. I was struck. There was a rich ethnic mixture of people at the event, and found out later that they came from some 30 countries.
Our tour party then proceeded by bus to an evening reception and meal held by the British Council. As we drove along I was struck by the sheer density of living, with high rise blocks built so close to adjacent blocks that I’m sure neighbours could reach out to each other and shake hands. The meal was at a fantastic older building (40 years old, which is very old in HK terms) that housed a restaurant that was predominantly staffed by older people. This restaurant was again trying to give older people a valued role and to demonstrate more widely, the great service that they can offer.
Mon 26th Sep 2016
Another night of disturbed sleep and then early start for the first full day of the World Forum. We travelled on the underground and although everyone was very polite and orderly, the way folk were packed on was quite unnerving.
The SEWF is an international event for social enterprises all over the world, which allows them to come together, discuss policy, to learn from one another and share practice. The initial SEWF was held in Edinburgh in 2008 and has subsequently been hosted in different cities across the world and returns to Edinburgh in 2018.
We were straight into a wide variety of lectures, workshops and plenaries. It would be impossible to do justice to the range and variety of information on the ways that SE is changing lives across the planet – so thought it would be best to give a few observations or key messages that I picked up:
‘Social Enterprise is not a noun, it is a verb’ – i.e. It is a way of doing things. Despite the varying world wide interpretations of organisational structures or legal obligations that are associated with social enterprise, all shared the common belief that it is fantastic way of creating social and environmental impact. (However Kate you will still need an asset lock to join DSEN)
That afternoon Derek and myself decided to take a wee bit of time out, as the schedule and jet lag were really beginning to take its toll.
On our taxi journey back to the hotel I asked the driver about his views on where HK was at. He said that he appreciated things would be different when China took back the territory, but that he felt the influx of Chinese investment and people had for him adversely changed his way of life. We then took the Star Ferry from Kowloon over to Central and had a candlelight dinner in a trendy roof top restaurant – not sure how that went down with the better halves back home.
Tues 27th Sep
Day 3 of the SEWF and again a packed agenda, which included a wonderful presentation by Prof Kee from the HK Baptist University. In his 15 min presentation he packed in a stupefying amount of information/data, including some 30 slides with graphs, pie charts and statistics tables. He gave some insightful observations, including, that a customer will only buy once from a social enterprise – if the quality is not good. He also mentioned that inefficient SEs needed to “be eliminated” – as a SE development officer I winced at that thought of culling such organisations. He also highlighted that HK ranked 6th in the world wealth tables, but only 76th in the world happiness index – As he said “something is going wrong”. Money can’t buy you happiness ???
One other highlight from the Forum (out of many) was the presentation by Eriko Yamuguchi who was an accomplished designer who went to live and work in Bangladesh. She took people that had been hitherto working in really poor conditions and created the Motherhouse SE. She then worked closely with them to design and produce a range of clothing and accessories that used iconic local materials (mainly Jute). She replicated this model working in other neighbouring countries (utilising their key local materials) and now sells the products in high end stores in Tokyo, with further outlets planned for other top cities. Fantastic improvements to people’s everyday lives and facilitated via high quality enterprising.
We then returned to the hotel and left on the journey out to the airport for our flight to Myanmar. On the trip I checked my rucksack for my passport – not there – definitely would be in my suitcase – surely? When we got to HK airport I opened the case and started to hurriedly search for the passport, in full view of people waiting at check in. I couldn’t see it and felt the panic starting to rise, my mind racing to doomsday scenarios, whilst people looked away rather than watching a grown man in melt down. Fortunately an Australian guardian angel Anne appeared, calmed me down and found the missing passport within seconds – instant relief, but not quite the final moments I had expected in Hong Kong., but at least I would be able to move on to the next exciting part of the tour.
Till the next blog!
See part four HERE!
Important: Opinions expressed by bloggers are their own and don’t represent those of the Dundee Social Enterprise Network organisation,