How young people are embracing the power of connection

A week ago, the world met a six-year-old boy named Henry Marr. On his way home from school one day, he told his mum about the serious concerns he had for the way people treat the environment and their lack of care for its effect 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.”

There were many tears but it was his overwhelming passion for the environment and sense of urgency to champion the cause that stirred people’s hearts. The video went viral.

At the Social Enterprise Academy, we’ve been lucky enough to witness an emergence of extraordinary young social entrepreneurs in Scottish schools, who have become empowered by new ways of turning their ideas into action. They’ve developed confidence, self-esteem and phenomenal strength to allow their time to be now (no waiting for adulthood required).

We’re not just seeing young people develop critical skills for their future, we’re seeing an empowered movement of young people acting as catalysts for change – using the power of connection to create new opportunities for entrepreneurship, collaboration and shared learning.


Connecting with Social Entrepreneurs

In seeking out relationships with people and organisations that share their social aim, young people have been immersing themselves in a world they want to know more about - and ensuring their actions lead to change.

Inverness High School is one such pupil-led social enterprise. With the realities of Europe's refugee crisis so visible in the media, students were adamant they wanted to help those who were least connected to this society. Linking with humanitarian charity Blythswood to connect with people in Syria, the team have been selling their school’s farm produce to support a Syrian baker who helps thousands of people struggling to feed their families. These relationships have continued to grow and in doing so, have opened up understanding between very different lives.

Connecting with Partners

The strength and sustainability of a school social enterprise also comes from our role as ‘adults’ to be enablers for young people. By making connections across networks and partnerships, it can open doors for young people and their businesses.

Take the Glasgow Schools Dragons’ Den, which opened its doors in 2012 with just four schools pitching for seed funding to a panel of local social entrepreneurs. Now in its fourth year, the event reached eighteen schools across Glasgow and is expanding into Fife and Inverness.

Guided by these pupil’s ambition and connection to their cause, the event’s success comes from a cross-sector partnership, including Glasgow Social Enterprise Network (GSEN), Glasgow City Council and local entrepreneurs. Built on mutual learning and support, the partnership offers young people access to wider networks of people and organisations, which helps them tackle the issues. And collectively, they deliver greater impact than they would have done alone.

Connecting Internationally

There is incredible value in sharing ideas and experiences with others who are on a similar path. 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 is where there are growing opportunities.

This year, the British Council has helped to create a space for schools and facilitators in different countries to connect and share learning. At the same time, over 450 pupils from primary and secondary schools are developing social enterprises in Australia.

In creating opportunities to link Scotland’s schools internationally, we hope we can empower young people to help others begin their own journeys – and maybe even spark more micro-movements across the world.

So it seems there may be lots we could learn from young people. Focused on achieving their goals, they are reaching out and embracing the power of connection. Perhaps taking a leaf out of these young people’s book may be exactly what the world needs. 

PS. You can watch Henry Marr's (rather emotional) video right here.


Written by Lianne Noy  This year, Social Enterprise Academy supported 4000 pupils in setting up their own social enterprises. Of those, 54 social enterprises from 44 schools and colleges were recognised for their outstanding achievements at the annual Awards ceremony, hosted in both Inverness and Edinburgh.

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