Spotlight on Space Unlimited and Identity Artworks

Posted: 02 June 2014, in Member Spotlight

In the spotlight for two weeks (5 May-18 May 2014) is Heather Sim and Space Unlimited, a social enterprise that helps public agencies and businesses collaborate directly with young people to design and take action together. Get in touch with Heather on / 0141 424 1403.

What’s your social and/or environmental mission? We want to help build resilience and capacity for making change happen, in communities and organisations across Scotland and beyond. We believe that young people in particular need confidence in their ability to create fulfilling lives.

How do you do it? First, we use an approach we call youth-led enquiry – where we support organisations to work directly alongside groups of young people to look afresh at current issues, challenges and opportunities. Young people are a powerful catalyst for change and our methods create new relationships, open up new dialogue and challenge embedded power structures. Most importantly, it results in a stronger sense of shared responsibility. We then support young people and adults to take promising ideas forward into action and to continue to share leadership beyond the initial enquiry. We call the whole process Changing Together. Basically, we are an unusual combination of facilitator, change coach and community developer.

What’s your personal motivation for being a social entrepreneur? I worked for 20 years in big public sector organisations and in hindsight I think I grew uncomfortable in that culture. I had been working on the ideas behind Space Unlimited and asked for the chance to spin it out as a standalone social enterprise. That experience, including all the scary moments, has convinced me that we must challenge settled notions about expertise and influence. A healthy society values ‘what emerges’ as much as “what is planned’, and trusts our innate qualities as humans at least as much as our acquired skills as employees and managers.

What are your current projects? Much of our recent work is within education and employability, community development, and health and well-being. Clients and funders include local authorities, individual schools, regeneration initiatives and development trusts, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Big Lottery, Esmee Fairbairn and Creative Scotland. We are completing a 2.5 year project supporting teachers and pupils in 18 secondary schools to change learning and teaching practices together. We have been working with young people, developers, planners and other creatives on our New Urban Voices project in Dundee and Forfar to give young people more influence over the places they live, learn and grow. Together with pupils and educators in Glasgow, we are exploring what kinds of experiences might improve employment outcomes for early school-leavers. In Haddington, we’ve been helping the new development trust to engage young people in bringing the vision for the town centre to life.

What exciting things do you have coming up? We will soon be starting work on a new project supporting young people to design new ways to tap into the wider resources of their communities in order to enhance their own learning and attainment. We will be working with pupils at the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh and others to enhance their experiences of music-making, and we’re working with young people on the scope for improving the youth justice system. We’ve also got some interesting work around pupil-led activity for more self-evaluation and pupil voice in secondary schools.

Who do you want to work with more? We’re keen to work with other schools and education departments in local authorities across Scotland. We’re also keen to work directly in towns and communities, especially those taking an ‘asset-based’ approach. Because we’re comfortable working with open change processes (and let’s face it, real change can be messy!), because we trust that leaders and skills will turn up and because we support young people to benefit directly, we think our approach can make a valuable and distinctive contribution to community development.

What’s your biggest challenge? Like any small organisation, we’re constantly juggling the twin demands of business development and project delivery. Our day-to-day work can be demanding, so we often end up feeling guilty that our website isn’t up-to-date, that we haven’t shared enough of the inspiring stories from the projects and that we haven’t done that marketing plan (again).

What top tip would you give to other social enterprises? Make sure you really understand the impact of your work and whether anyone truly values it. And listen carefully if they’re willing to explain why.

In the spotlight for two weeks (19 May-1 June 2014) is Billy Zima and Identity Artworks, a social enterprise based in Edinburgh and Fife that helps vulnerable young people, disabled people and others get involved in creative arts. Get in touch with Billy on 07824996944 /

What’s your social and/or environmental mission? Identity helps people change their mind.

How do you do it? Identity Artworks started in March 2011 delivering creative programmes to anti-social youth. With a focus on Issues of personal identity and self belief, I designed and delivered a creative learning experience. Strategic and sequential creative projects embracing the expressive arts are enjoyed by participants in which self-belief is realised. Comparisons of completed artwork with internationally exhibiting artists further improves self-confidence. Then individuals often begin to self-direct their own futures. It was recognised by Identity staff that a broader service offering was needed which focused on how the mind works and how we can further consciously change our mind. ‘The Identity Experience’ was born, designed for people to participate in various modules based on the individuals, groups and communities interest in growth potential. People have an additional opportunity to find out who they are and what they are capable of through Identity Experience programmes: Identity Creation, Discovery, Resilience, Values, Leadership and Happiness. A new version Identity Counselling service is being introduced.

What’s your personal motivation for being a social entrepreneur? As a youth my personal problems prevented me from realising my potential. When I matured and put my problems behind me I began to investigate the causes of my barriers. It was clear from my own experience of distrust with authority figures that if a person were to make a discovery for themselves by participating in an experience it would stick. Their ‘Aha’ moment would be much more effective in effecting personal change. If information based on solid and proven social science were “MTV’d” – if it were made dynamic and colourful it would be more accessible – the chance of it changing someone’s life would be exponentially increased. The discovery was theirs. They would take ownership of the lesson and embed it into their own way of being. It was more effective.

What are your current projects? Identity Discovery – Fife: Identity was contracted by BRAG Ltd. to deliver a personal development/job search programme for 36 former employees of Remploy, Cowdenbeath. Considered to be the most challenging factory as 100% of the employees have mental or physical disabilities the Connect programme has been able to place 25 people in jobs, work placement or volunteer opportunities. Identity Creation – Fife: Sponsored by the DWP this creative opportunity was designed for former Remploy employees not able to sustain long-term employment. Identity has premises at Crosshill Business Centre and programme includes Painting/drawing, Craft card making, Print making, Photography and Drama. Identity partnership – Positive Prisons? Positive Future. Identity is partnering with PP?PF to research and design behavioural change programmes for current inmates as well as to ex-criminals with the specific aim to reduce offending and reoffending in Scotland, to help build safer communities.

What exciting things do you have coming up? We’re in talks with numerous stakeholders across Fife regarding delivery of modules of The Identity Experience and are in the process for expanding our presence to reach specific vulnerable groups in Kirkcaldy with the aim of a Leven, Dunfermline and Glenrothes delivery to follow. Identity Creation – Fife Day Care Services – a partnership is being designed in which a former employee of Remploy will be supported by Identity to assist in the delivery of Identity Creation to elderly residents of Fife Day Care Services. Castlebrae Community High School – Edinburgh. Identity will be working closely with CCHS with all S1, S2 and S3 students over 3 years. It is understood there is an attrition rate with learning and with this in mind key learning aspects of soft skill development will be reinforced over time. Emotional intelligence and the development of personal standards of excellence will play a prominent role in this school Identity Experience.

Who do you want to work with more? Any person, group or community who say “I Can’t.”

What’s your biggest challenge? There is a significant body of evidence from neuroscience, neurobiology, psychology (evolutionary, developmental, positive, social, etc.) and other disciplines that the plasticity of the brain allow people to learn at any age. Combine this with the growing awareness and importance of emotional intelligence and mindfulness and the inherent value it has in all walks of life makes it frustrating these critical ideas have to be ‘SOLD’. The challenge of Identity is to raise local and national awareness as to the importance and value of developing thoughts, feelings, and behaviour in individuals, groups and communities across Scotland.

What top tip would you give to other social enterprises? The eminent Professor of Organizational Behavior Amy Wrzesniewski says there are three reasons why people work – Job, Career or Calling. Whilst Job and Career orientated people work as a means to an end or for a perceived sense of success/prestige, Calling Orientated individuals are characterised by Katherine Brooks as those who “describe their work as integral to their lives and their identity. They view their career as a form of self-expression and personal fulfillment. “ My tip for social enterprises – find your calling.