Spotlight on Invisible Cities

Posted: 09 January 2018, in Member Spotlight

We’re delighted to be joined for our latest spotlight by Invisible Cities, a social enterprise that trains people who have experienced homelessness to become walking tour guides of their own city. We caught up with Zakia Moulaoui, Founder and CEO, to find out more about the work they do, plans for the year and tips for other social enterprises.

What’s your social and/or environmental mission? Invisible Cities is a social enterprise that trains people who have been affected by homelessness so they can become walking tour guides of their own city. We provide high quality training, in partnership with homelessness charity Crisis and each guide designs and delivers a tour that is tailored to them. We offer alternative tours of the city in that context and showcase local history, social enterprises and projects.

How do you do it? (Client group, practical daily work, customers)
 We recruit our guides from a range of partners: The Grassmarket Community Project, Social Bite and Crisis. After completing various modules focused on public speaking, self-confidence, customer service, etc guides build their own tour with the help of professional guides and practice. We organise an official launch for each tour that we offer.

What’s your personal motivation for being a social entrepreneur? I feel very strongly that all people are equal, regardless of their living situation. I want to change the negative stigma that exists around homeless people. It is important to have an enterprising approach so the people who try to help feel part of a process and are motivated.

What are your current projects? We run regular tours in Edinburgh with 3 tour guides and have more training coming up in January. Through the profits of our tours, we also organise the Street Barber (Edinburgh) where we give free haircuts to homeless men from the Leith Walk Police Box, every last Saturday of the month.

What exciting things do you have coming up? In 2018, we are branching out to another location! It will be basic set-up in this new city but a great way to test having tours in multiple locations. We are also planning on having a HOME for our activities.

Who do you want to work with more? More people and companies in the tourism industry. I feel we have a good, scalable model though we work with a difficult group. We need to be more visible as an alternative tour, so more tourists and locals alike can find out about us and come on our tours.

What’s your biggest challenge? Managing the consequences of our guides’ lives while running a professional tour company. They face various challenges still (though none of them are sleeping rough) so it is all about finding the right balance between the business and the social help. Breaking through the tourism industry is also a challenge considering how many other tour companies there are in Edinburgh.

What top tips would you give to other social enterprises? My advice would be invest in yourself and take care. If you are not strong and able to work on this, lead others, then you can’t achieve much. Sleep enough, eat and try to have fun in the process.

For more information about Invisible Cities, please visit their website and make sure to follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to keep updated with their work.

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