Social Entrepreneur Index Nominee: City Year
Kevin Munday, Chief Executive of City Year, talks to us about youth unemployment and educational inequality inspired him to start his social enterprise and how they are impacting the lives of young people across the UK.
What does your social enterprise do?
City Year challenges 18 to 25-year-olds to tackle educational inequality through a year of full-time voluntary service. As mentors, tutors and role models in schools, they support pupils growing up in some of the most disadvantaged communities in London, Birmingham and Manchester. Over the course of their City Year, they have the opportunity to develop as leaders, with the passion, values, experience and skills to lead transformational change in their communities long after their year of social action. Whilst at the same time they make a massive impact on children’s lives, supporting them to attain long-term educational and life success.
What made you start your business up?
We started City Year in 2010/11 when youth unemployment was at its highest for a generation and we saw riots break out in London and then other cities across the UK. The time was ripe to develop a programme that skilled young people up ready for the world of work but also harnessed their passions to improve their communities. It then made sense to focus those young people on tackling educational inequality. There are an astonishing 3.7 million children growing up in poverty in the UK today - trapped not just by a lack of money, but also a lack of support, a lack of opportunity, a lack of self-belief. That poverty has long-lasting effects. By the age of 16, there is a 28 percent gap between children receiving free school meals and their wealthier peers in terms of the number achieving good qualifications. They also struggle without opportunities for social and emotional development, support from reliable role models and knowledge of different career paths. Our society is failing them - and this is where City Year aims to make a difference.
How do you measure your impact?
We measure the social impact on our pupils through improvements to their attendance, behaviour and curriculum attainment at school. We were delighted that last year we enabled 55% of the pupils we supported to improve their overall attendance, 73% of pupils to make progress in English and 71% in Mathematics.
We measure the social impact on the volunteer mentors through the development of their employability skills and their progress after the programme into higher education, employment or training. Again we were delighted that last year 88% of volunteers said that they felt positive about their future and either knew what career they wanted as a result of their City Year experience and almost 80% of volunteers said the experience helped them to build skills that they could use to apply to any job. But most importantly 93% of volunteers progressed into higher education, employment or training within three months of graduating from City Year UK.
What help did you have to start your social enterprise?
City Year was initially incubated by Impetus - The Private Equity Foundation and that helped us get off to a good start. We also benefited from lots of learning from similar organisations in the United States and South Africa.
How did you decide on what legal form would work best for your business?
We decided to become a charity, because of the tax relief benefits and to enable us to access philanthropic support on top of the income we generate.
What’s the best thing about being a social entrepreneur?
Every day I get to meet and work with amazing young people who remind me that together we can change the world. I love City Year because we have the double benefit of doing that in two practical ways – helping both pupils and the 18-25s who mentor them. I also love our team, which is made up of diverse people all united in wanting to help others achieve their full potential.
What has been your biggest challenge when setting up and running your social enterprise?
Scaling the programme whilst maintaining consistent quality is tough sometimes. Recently we have faced challenges in London recruiting enough volunteers (where the cost of living is higher) and challenges in Birmingham and Manchester selling to schools (where education budgets have been more reduced). We are just glad not to have had both challenges in the same place!
What advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs?
Be clear what you want to achieve and focus relentlessly on doing it. The biggest danger is getting distracted and spreading yourself too thin. Also, be careful not to scale too quickly. Take the time to get your product right and prove that it has an impact first.
What information sources would you recommend to help someone just starting their social enterprise journey?
Working Hard, Working Well by David Hunter had a profound effect on the way I think about social impact and how to design and manage programmes to achieve it. I get a lot of inspiration and support about impact improvement from the Centre for Youth Impact and Generation Change and more general organisational development from Social Enterprise UK and ACEVO.
What are your plans for the next 2-5 years?
For the next 18 months, we are focused on expanding the social impact within our current business. We are refining the delivery of the programme, growing organically in our existing sites and will be carrying out a thorough evaluation of our implementation. Later, we want to replicate that in spoke cities close to our existing hubs and then launch in further regions. In the longer term, we then want to secure the establishment of a national youth full-time social action programme, (like those that exist in the USA, France and Germany) so that more young people can help tackle society's biggest challenges and make a successful transition from education to employment.