On 28th August 2013, the graduating cohort of Year Here fellows took over the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club with a three fold mission: to showcase the breadth of work and relationships made and formed in the past months, to pitch for a prize package including a £5,000 Do It award from UnLtd for their social enterprise ideas, and to round off their fellowship with a bang.

An exhibition of fellow’s studio work was hung, from a modern day classroom simulation, to a physical pathway through the complex web of homelessness. A string of personal anecdotes were recounted, with fellows describing some of their stand out memories from their fellowship, including moments where they learnt something invaluable, times which touched the heart, and some which simply moved them to laughter. Guests pledged support to our fellows’ fledgling enterprises in exchange for delicious festival food cooked by The Bream Team.

Finally, with all the judges assembled within the crowd, the four teams were ready to pitch.

In response to the Educational Disadvantage brief set by Teach First, teams ReAct and The Excellerator presented their responses to the question ‘How might we redesign work experience to help children develop into adults with good jobs that they love?’.

ReAct – turbo charging students’ learning power to make the most of work experience

Conventional wisdom has it that the problem with work experience is poor work experience placements; admin-heavy, dull, unaspirational placements don’t do anything for anyone. But our first education team, consisting of Aurora, Rebecca and Andy, found that student attitude to learning was also a critical factor. Based on the insight that you can learn more from stapling and making the tea if your mind is alive to the learning opportunities, they presented ReAct.

ReAct is a work experience enhancement programme that challenges students to set goals, give and receive feedback and reflect on the lessons they’d learnt in their placements. ReAct ensures that vital employability lessons (from asking for more work to expressing gratitude for development opportunities) are really taken on board, and that students go away as active learners.

Bounce Back – fulfilling the aspirations of the ‘missing middle’ of homeless people on their way back to employment

The homelessness challenge, ‘how we might help homeless people move towards employment?’ was set by Centrepoint.

On discovering the social firm model (businesses that systematically employ people who are disadvantaged in the labour market) and some great examples like Skylight Cafe and the House of St Barnabus earlier in their fellowships, Shoaib, Stella and Vanessa thought they had struck gold – the panacea to low employment rates among homeless people. However, social firms only employ a tiny proportion of homeless people and to remain competitive with regular businesses, they often have to ‘cream off the top’ by recruiting homeless people who are the most ready to work and reintegrate into society. At the other end of the spectrum, specialist organisations like Centrepoint and South London YMCA provide services to those who have lots of complex needs – from drug abuse to family breakdown.

Bounce Back provides an opportunity for those lost in the middle.

The programme consists of a series of workshops and encouraging supporting materials, along with connections to development opportunities and part-time work.

Rootless Garden – bringing the outside in for isolated older people

The third challenge was set by Care UK, who asked ‘How might we get the public more involved in older people’s services?’.

Indie, Nadia and Louise pitched Rootless Garden, a travelling troupe of garden enthusiasts who transform care home spaces into interactive, indoor garden experiences. Using greenery, Rootless Garden encourage elderly people, many of whom are unable to leave their care home or even room, to experience the sensory, reminiscence, and wellbeing properties of nature.

The Excellerator – A fast-track to Design School for disadvantaged students with untapped creative potential.

There is rightly a big focus on getting kids from disadvantaged backgrounds into top universities, to follow a well-trodden academic route to career success. But what about those who might not want to study Economics or Engineering? What about those who have some creative flair? With 70% of UK creative industry employees male and 94% white British, the team felt that the pathway into these fascinating careers have too many obstacles for some parts of society.

The Excellerator, led by Lizzie, Mike and Flora, helps motivated and talented students from tough backgrounds to win places at top art and design schools. It’s a four stage programme that introduces students to the knowledge, networks and experiences they need to turn their creative aspirations into reality, partnering with a range of organisations from Glasgow School of Art to the Innovation Unit.

And the winner is…

With an inventive pitch which included audience members being challenged to plant window boxes in 10 minutes, exceptional demonstration of momentum (they had blagged a van and a storage shed by the time they pitched) and a really brilliant idea to tackle the isolation of older people, the winners were the Rootless Garden. The team are now in furious discussion about how to best use the money to take their idea to the next level, touching 100s of older people with the joy of nature.