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Looking back at the Enterprise Development Programme - Our thoughts | Soizic Hagege


For this month’s ‘Our Thoughts’, Enterprise Development Programme Manager Soizic Hagege reflects on peer-to-peer learning, one of the defining features of the Enterprise Development Programme, as the EDP draws to a close.


As Youth Sector lead for the Enterprise Development Programme (EDP), a five-year £40m programme funded by Access - The Foundation for Social Investment, the Centre for Youth Impact provides support and guidance to youth organisations interested in establishing or furthering their social enterprise activities. As the EDP draws to a close at the end of its five-year programme, the Centre is currently overseeing the transition to a Youth Alumni Network, designing new approaches to cross-sector learning, bespoke training, and peer-to-peer sessions.

The EDP offers support in four key areas: organisations accepted onto the programme receive a grant to enable their Enterprise Development project; advice and guidance from expert financial consultants; access to learning programmes tailored to their needs; and, finally, peer-to-peer sessions for organisations that focus on the same type of business model – such as, selling to schools and local authorities, retail and venue hire, or training and consultancy. 

Peer-to-peer learning sessions are an opportunity for EDP organisations to come together to share learning, challenges and successes that have arisen from their individual enterprises, so that they may further their own understanding of good practice in how to build a successful business model.

In their last peer-to-peer sessions of the programme, organisations focusing on retail and venue hire projects identified several benefits of shared spaces for dialogue and learning. Firstly, no new enterprise is an island, and gathering as a community allowed participants to remember that they were not alone in facing the challenges they encounter. Youth organisations that are going through the process of enterprise development often feel like pioneers, but meeting in a peer-to-peer setting allows them to remember that they are not alone in their journey.

Secondly, these sessions are a space where organisations can learn from each other. When specific challenges arise, EDP managers will arrange for organisations to receive skilled external support, but we also know that EDP participants themselves have valuable knowledge, experience, and expertise to share too. Through engaging with the programme, participants can share learning about pitfalls to avoid, resources and how to access them, or practices and solutions that have worked for them. This was perhaps best illustrated when Mary Henes, Head of Income Generation and Sustainability (and EDP point of contact) at Abianda - an organisation that supports girls and young women affected by gang violence and county lines, who deliver training as part of their enterprise development project - headed a peer to peer session for a group of EDP organisations focusing on selling to schools and local authorities. Due to Mary’s extensive experience partnering with schools, she was able to provide peers with tangible suggestions and templates for success that they could replicate to solve issues, such as difficulty building relationships with key stakeholders within schools, increasing sales, and developing structures that allow them to streamline their processes and scale their project.

EDP participants aren’t the only ones who can enhance peer to peer learning – peer to peer can extend beyond the cohort too. In January, Dr Lucy Maynard, formerly Director of Projects here at the Centre, delivered a session to Abianda’s peer-to-peer learning group on impact measurement. Organisations were able to direct questions to an expert about obstacles that they have encountered around measuring their impact in a way that is suitable for them, taking into account capacity, experience and differences in their enterprise approach and, in return, receive practical advice and guidance on how they can embed tools into their work.

The peer-to-peer learning sessions have been one of the defining features of the EDP, and will continue to evolve as the programme now morphs into an Alumni Network. The sessions will feature successful social entrepreneurs whom participants can engage with and learn from, and there will also be a focus on peer-to-peer learning between the EDP sectors (Youth, Mental Health, Homelessness, Environment, Equality, and Black and Minoritised Communities), which we have already kickstarted at the EDP Cross-sector Learning Conference at the end of March. We will be sharing learning and insight that arises from the Alumni Network throughout the year, so please do watch this space!