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Back on the other side of the classroom

Alex Shapland-Howes is a 2016-17 Skoll Scholar and is leading the way for social mobility within the UK’s deprived communities.  After his early career as a teacher, he discovers what it’s like to be on the other side of the classroom again at Saïd Business School!

It’s been almost ten years since I was last a full-time student. Having worked in education ever since, it felt a bit odd to go back to the other side of the classroom in our first week.

We are working towards a day where a child’s background doesn’t limit their future options

I’ve spent the last five years leading the expansion of the education charity – Future First. We are working towards a day where a child’s background doesn’t limit their future options. In the UK, we have one of the lowest levels of social mobility in the developed world. The correlation between parents’ earnings and those of their children remains stubbornly close.

Alex being interviewed on UK channel, ITV News.

Alex being interviewed on UK channel, ITV News.

The problem is incredibly complex, but one key challenge is that young people from less advantaged backgrounds are less likely to have positive role models in the world of work. Half don’t know anyone with a job they’d like to do themselves and a quarter goes as far as to say that ‘people like them’ don’t succeed in life.

By helping state secondary schools reconnect with their alumni, Future First is changing those statistics.

Having grown up in the same place and had some of the same teachers, former students can have a transformative effect on the lives of today’s young people – volunteering to deliver careers talks, act as a mentor, or support the teaching of a lesson related to their job.

Over the last five years, we’ve expanded the organisation to work with more than 10% of all secondary schools across the country. Even more excitingly, we’re starting to see the growth of alumni networks beyond our own work.

Our aim is to lead the creation of a genuinely national culture of alumni engagement. Every young person deserves a role model they can relate to, regardless of their background.

I started to look for opportunities for professional development…I wanted to learn what the textbook says about leading teams, developing long-term strategies and running efficient organisations.

Whilst we’ve had great success in growing the organisation and its impact, I started to look for opportunities for professional development about 18 months ago. Perhaps inevitably, we didn’t get everything right, but having moved straight from being a secondary school teacher myself to leading an organisation like Future First, I wanted to learn what the textbook says about leading teams, developing long-term strategies and running efficient organisations.

I came across the Skoll Scholarship by luck, but as soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to apply. I feel incredibly privileged to have the chance to spend a year learning from the world-class experts, reflecting on my own leadership journey and working with amazing people from all over the world. (And they really have been amazing and from all over the world!). There’s not a chance I’d have had been able to do this without the support of the Skoll Centre.

It’s clear from the first few weeks that it’s going to be hard work, but I feel unbelievably lucky to have this opportunity and I can’t wait to carry on making the most of it.

For more information about the Skoll Scholarship, visit skollscholarship.org.

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Speaker Series: Patrick McDonald of Viva

Are entrepreneurial approaches to development bringing impacts to children fast enough?

At the latest Skoll Centre Speaker Series brownbag, viagra Patrick McDonald, CEO of Viva, led an intriguing discussion on social ventures working with vulnerable children.  He shared his experience (yes, the ups and the downs!) of over 20 years in the field, and then posed the question of how we can continue to move forward, faster.  Can a funding and incubation platform supporting child-focused social ventures be the answer?

What transpired was a brainstorming session on how to scale successful models, barriers to progress, and new insights on how to collaborate.  We broke down our assumptions (what is “scale”? what is “success”?) and shared ideas for redesigning the flow of support and funding from ideation to scale.

Have any ideas? Get in touch, as the conversation will be continuing among Patrick and the students as his new venture evolves.

Don’t miss your chance to be a part of the next Skoll Speaker Series event!  Albina Ruiz, Executive Director of Ciudad Saludable, will be here on the 25th November at 12:30-1:30.  Bring your lunch and appetite for all things related to social entrepreneurship!