A passion for people and a love of education.
From Tiny Acorns Mighty Bat and Bird Covered Oaks Grow
In a recent post I wrote about the aims and objectives of running business and enterprise projects with students. The main thrust of the article was to highlight the cumulative effect of inspirational events; rather than looking for a lightning bolt moment in the audience, trying to light a spark that might need to be fed from many other sources before it becomes a burning passion.
One project that I am working on at the moment is a fabulous case study of how innocuous moments can turn into remarkable opportunities given the right ingredients, zeitgeist, effort and luck.
I’m sure that there are many articles covering the right ingredients for cooking up a successful venture, and most will repeat, ad nasueum, some iteration of ‘positive attitude, the right people and some good fortune’. As with most repetition it holds sway because it is essentially true; here are the ingredients list for this specific project (try to add the soft Irish tones of the M&S Food voice over if you can):
  • 2 dozen organic, extra enthusiastic, students (British grown, hand reared in one of England’s poorer Wards)
  • 175lbs of sun-ripened, smoke-house aged, grade A teacher
  • 200 boards of unstained, untreated ethically sourced wood
  • 1,000 two inch wood screws
  • 500 felt nails
  • 30 fluid ounces of traditional British savvy
  • One juicy black address book
  • 3 thick slices of luck
  • A sprinkling of scouse charm
This time a month ago I found myself standing in the stunning atrium of the Victoria & Albert Museum, looming over the Cromwell Road shoulder to shoulder with the Science Museum and the vaulted beauty of the Natural History Museum (in my opinion the single best place on the planet to get accidentally locked in).
Inside the soaring marble frame of the V&A atrium the surroundings looked like the ‘glamorous party’ scene from any Hollywood film or slick American TV series. The huge stark stone acreage and hard curved lines of the columns were softened with rich blue and pink lighting and a vast 40 foot stalactite of blue and green woven glass swirled down from the apex of the ceiling. The scene was backed with the buzz and hum of intense and important conversation delivered by snappily dressed media types, looking young, beautiful and every inch the competing front-runners of fashion and early-adopters. Ever smiling waiting staff zipped across the scene in their matching uniforms, a hive of industrious insects servicing the bright bloom of networkers; ensuring the gap at the top of everyone’s champagne glass and the canapés on offer were equally tiny.
Into this James Bond set of glamour and performance I lead two bewildered teenagers from Bootle, Liverpool and their equally excited teachers, one in the geekiest shoes money can’t buy. The students oscillated swiftly between energetic absorption of the scene in front of them and the repeated snipes at their chaperone’s terrible footwear. Later on that evening during the roll of presentations and back-slapping, only two events would draw the entire room together in silence with their focus on the stage and a momentary pause in the incessant chatter; one would be the chiselled charm and magnetic bashfulness of Colin Firth, the other was two scouse school kids and their beaming teacher collecting their award amidst a sea of glamorous and heart-felt applause.
The catalyst that lead to this unlikely meeting of Liverpool’s potential ‘under dogs’ and men whose fashionably tight trousers don’t reach their ankles was one of those innocuous events that I described at the start of this overly-verbose blog.
Last academic year our enthusiastic teacher was running a project with his students on British bats when one of his charges descended on the picture of a bat roosting box pleading to be able to construct one in class. To cut an already over-indulgent blog shorter the teacher decided to combine the bat box creation with an existing project where his year Duke of Edinburgh students were crafting bird boxes and so the patent pending Bat Or Bird (BoB) Box was born.
photo use kindly given by The Liverpool ECHO
At this point you already have a satisfactory conclusion to the story, an engaging school project using practical skills and hands-on learning to bring the curriculum to life and combining two usually unconnected groups from the school in peer-to-peer support. However something transformed an innovative school project into an award winning idea with potentially national and international development opportunities.
What is it?
I’ve been chewing over what this magic ingredient might be that takes a tiny project to the next level. The obvious answer is that it was the lead teacher, he took the BoB Box idea to the Bat Society to get their approval, he patented the design, he sent completed versions to Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg, he received signed letters of thanks from the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, he struck a favourable deal with a local timber merchant for the wood and he sold the first batch of BoB Boxes to Knowsley Safari Park but despite the huge effort he has put in he’d be the first to admit he hasn’t managed it alone.
photo use kindly given by The Liverpool ECHO
Potentially the magic ingredient could be SMT support and organisational drive but although school colleagues have been hugely supportive the early successes landed before they were really aware of what was happening in their midst.
My last, and somewhat egotistical, stab would be at the additional support of business experts, enterprise gurus and local champions that have added their seasoning to the project to give it a kick; but much as I’d like to claim “they were nothing before I met them” my influence has been minimal.
photo use kindly given by The Liverpool ECHO
Embarrassingly it has taken me far too long to hit on the correct answer. Given that it’s my ‘raison d’etre’ and even in the title of my Blog Space this is a little mortifying; the magic ingredient in turning ‘good’ into ‘outstanding’ is enterprise!
The skills that I regularly attempt, with varied success, to instil and inspire into young people are exactly the skills that have been utilised to make BoB Box an award winning, sustainable, student-lead social enterprise.
The ability to take calculated risks, to utilise networks, to be proactive and adaptable, to spot potential opportunities and to confidently communicate them ….but most of all turning an idea into action.
When discussing ‘enterprise’ projects with sceptics one can often feel like a crystal healer or a snake-oil salesman. Pointing to successes of increased communication and problem solving skills can easily be met with a frown and a sneer but the three targets of any enterprise project are SKILLSATTITUDE and BEHAVIOUR.
If we can develop the enterprise skills of the next generation, transform their attitude towards both themselves and their ideas and lastly change their behaviour to becoming positive, proactive and action orientated AND do the same for the teachers that work with them we’ll see amazing successes like BoB Box throughout the country.
Here is the video – Observer Ethical Awards



Richard Strudwick

e: richard[at]enterpriserich.co.uk

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