Lindsey Hall, CEO of Real Ideas Organiastion

"When I received a phone call from the British Council asking if I would run a session at a conference on social enterprise in schools in a few weeks time…and by the way it’s in Jamaica, it didn’t take long to decide to do it. I always knew it would be fascinating but had no idea what to expect and certainly wasn’t prepared for the enthusiasm and energy, despite very little practical experience of social enterprise in education or community settings.

"When asked for the top 5 social issues social enterprise might tackle, a very familiar list emerged. Education fails too many boys; lifestyle choices, particularly around exercise and diet are causing major health problems; waste management is either ineffective or non existent; the public sector is longer providing the resources needed to fund everything schools and communities need. There were some that are less common in the UK – the need to grow fresh food in the city and attitudes to justice were both highlighted. These are big issues and although it is depressing to know they exist across the world, as we can see from UK examples, there is real potential for social enterprise to offer positive ways forward.

Excellent as the event was, the highlight of the trip was the opportunity to visit Holy Trinity secondary school and Jessie Ripoll primary school in Kingston and see at first hand how education works in practice. In both schools, the dedication of teachers, openness to try new approaches, and enthusiasm of some, if not all students to learn was very evident. There are significant challenges; 45 – 50 pupils per teacher in the primary school; rundown facilities in the secondary school which are constantly mended by other staff; and the universal difficulty of reputation amongst parents, resulting in the secondary school being the school of last resort for many.

Despite this, staff in both schools could see the potential for social enterprise. At Holy Trinity, many students undertake vocational programmes, including cookery, car mechanics, metal working and sewing. Why not go the next step and explore student led social enterprises that could generate income to buy much needed equipment? And yes please to links with UK schools, giving young people in both countries the chance to share experiences and build connections through social enterprise.

The British Council in Jamaica are hoping to develop an on going programme to support schools and community organisations with social enterprise, hopefully in partnership with local experts and with support from RIO. If it happens, it will be a great next step in building an international community of young social entrepreneurs across continents."

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