In order to meet the growing interest expressed by our members and countless other community organisations, on 19th March, we launched our fellowship for Migrant and Refugee Social Entrepreneurs. The fellowship aims to provide an opportunity for embryonic, early stage and experienced social entrepreneurs to build their professional networks and access support.
In the current funding environment, voluntary organisations are being confronted with the need to diversify their income in order to keep on providing their vital services for members of our communities. Meanwhile, many MRCF members and other London-based migrant and refugee communities have admitted to feeling marginalised by the high cost of mainstream training and support. Many are actively exploring ways to adapt and build their resilience through social enterprise and varied income-generating activities. However, in the provision of assistance and capacity-building, there is a burgeoning divide between those who have the financial capital to access start-up or development support and those for whom a few hundred pounds for a day’s workshop (yes these really do exist) or for a 2 month introductory course is just too much.
But financial capital is not the only barrier. Social capital and bridging capital are perhaps even more important. The connections both within and between networks and communities are equally difficult to create and nurture. Knowing the right people can get you a long way, be it meeting a potential client or customer, someone successful who was once in your position…or someone who knows of one of the first two people. The purpose of the Fellowship is to provide the forum and opportunities for migrants and refugees to build these vital links. While it may be tempting to take the easy option and create an online forum, if it is to provide maximum benefit, this peer support and networking function must take place in the real, and not just the virtual world.
So on a Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, the first event of the Fellowship brought together a dozen individuals at the MRCF Community Hub to learn about marketing and publicity to the success of their projects. The workshop started with a thought-provoking and interactive presentation on the ways in which companies try to get us to but their products and services through targeting and influencing. Attendees then had the opportunity to listen to some of the key lessons learned and experiences of a successful entrepreneur and marketing professional. After a lively question and answer session, participants had the opportunity to discuss their ideas and projects with MRCF staff over lunch.
This is only the beginning of the Social Entrepreneurs Fellowship, so be in touch with your ideas and look out for more information and events in the near future.