I find it hard to believe that it is over a week ago that the Drivers for Change programme finished and my role as a Facilitator came to an end. Even before it started I knew that the journey was going to be a unique opportunity to meet new people and come across fresh ideas around social enterprise and how to make the world a better place. However, I did not fully realise just how inspired I would feel leaving the programme, having visited eight locations in England, Scotland and Wales across 11 days with 100 18-26 year olds from across the UK and various overseas countries.
Starting in Liverpool and then moving on to different locations like Sunderland and Edinburgh, at each stop the group of participants met various inspiring role models who are already working to make their communities thrive. These inspirational visits were undertaken alongside an intensive leadership and enterprise skills programme, which allowed participants to improve their understanding about the social enterprise model as a force for change and to work on a group project about this topic. This culminated in the groups presenting their findings on the last day at the House of Lords, a day which really highlighted the impact this incredible journey had had on each of the participants involved.
At the start of the programme in Liverpool it was apparent how trusting an environment the Drivers of Change team were keen to create. Participants were invited to get to know each other through different icebreakers and to really think about why they had decided to come on this unique programme. Such introspective activities were great at allowing Facilitators to understand the different expectations each participant had about the programme and to make sure they were given the opportunity, depending on their respective interests and background, to get the most out of it.
Aside from the external visits we did to different projects around the country which varied from visiting creative hubs designed to help young artists get started or visiting a walking tour company that helps homeless people become qualified tour guides, one of the most satisfying aspects of the trip was watching the participants interact and exchange ideas with each other during the entrepreneurial workshops we ran. My role was to guide the group during their discussions, making sure that everyone was able to voice their opinion and that decisions were being made democratically. Being able to witness a group of young people formulate an idea and use each other’s experiences and skills to help build and improve this idea over time was a process that I really enjoyed overseeing. Witnessing such effective collaboration between team members only helped reaffirm my belief that human beings are far more creative and innovative when we work together and unite our efforts – rather than attempting to achieve everything alone and without any support.
Another key highlight of the programme was the primary focus on making sure that all the participants integrated and got to know as many of each other as possible. Given that a considerable amount of time was spent on bus journeys between our destinations, these moments provided an excellent opportunity for organic conversations to take place between the participants. The Drivers for Change team was clearly keen to make sure that no cliques formed by offering participants the chance to sit next to as many different people as possible when travelling. Thus this conscientious move was certainly responsible for helping aid all sorts of varied exchanges between the participants. In a digital age where arguably we are losing the opportunity to have such deep and meaningful conversations with new people face to face on a regular basis, it was refreshing to see so many young people off of their phones and fully focused on the person next to them, ready to give them their attention and open to wherever their conversation together might lead.
There is no hiding that the Drivers for Change was an intense experience. With very little space for downtime and rest it was a testing programme for all those involved – facilitators included. However, the more I start to look back at my experience, the more I increasingly realise the opportunity that this at times chaotic schedule offered to me in terms of self-growth. Stressful moments (and at times there was an abundance) are where you learn the most about yourself. As a result, many people involved found themselves learning new ways to deal with the challenges they faced and this led them to try new activities such as meditation, running or journaling. These are things they had never tried before but which I’ve been informed all contributed to making sure their wellbeing was maintained over the course of the trip. Thus, these incremental changes in behaviour of the participants are just as important a by-product to come out of the experience as the learning about social enterprise, meeting new people and exploring new places in the UK. For many involved, the person they were when they started the programme is no longer the person they are a few weeks later.
Drivers for Change was an incredible journey. It cannot be underestimated the transformation such an initiative can generate in everyone involved and I am confident that all participants will have taken something away with them from the eleven days together. I feel very proud to have been part of this pilot programme and would encourage everyone I know to get involved in some way, shape or form in similar initiatives if they are able to in the near future.
Thank you to George for writing us this blog post and to PwC for letting him, Katie and John join us as volunteers for the whole journey – we couldn’t have done it with you!