Project to help marginalised groups enter world of entrepreneurship

Participants using the Eliemental materials

28 June 2016

Would-be entrepreneurs from marginalised backgrounds are developing their skills and expanding their horizons thanks to a programme developed at Lancaster.

Nineteen organisations across the UK, Greece, Poland and Romania have picked up the Eliemental programme – a set of learning resources aimed at removing “barriers to enterprise”.

The unique, community-based programme, developed by Carolyn Downs and her European partner organisations, encourages entrepreneurship and helps participants to build the soft skills they need to set up a successful business.

It is aimed at groups such as minority groups (including Roma), the long-term unemployed, those with long-term health problems and, particularly in Greece, with older women who have never worked before.

The resources look at themes including confidence, problem solving, network building, creative thinking and mind-set.

In the UK, companies who are already implementing the programme include Phoenix Futures and the Work Company, while the team behind the programme are in discussion with many other organisations including Remploy.

The programme is the output of a three-year, EU-funded project which ended in December, following on from a previous project, the Elie Project, which worked with immigrant entrepreneurs and demonstrated that there are many social factors and barriers that can impede success.

Dr Downs said: “I am delighted that Eliemental is taking off amongst organisations with the capacity to roll-out our training programme. Already people who took part in the pilot programme are running businesses, have moved into work or have taken up educational opportunities.”

One graduate of the programme is Graham Buckley, who recently took over running Regent Park Café in Morecambe and has established a business training people with health problems to play Crown Green Bowls. He thanked the organisers of the programme, saying: “Being someone with a disability who thought I was on the scrap heap after 10 years... now I have a new outlook on life and goals to reach, all made possible by this fantastic project. Long may it continue to run and give people like myself and others, the chance of believing in themselves and reaching for something that is achievable and, that you don't have to have the wealth of Richard Branson or the brain power of Stephen Hawkins to achieve your goals.”

Christine Hayes from Phoenix Futures, who will be delivering the programme, said: “Once the programme is up and running, I believe our clients will benefit greatly from learning about communication, critical observation, adaptability, team work and collaboration as well as the soft skills and personal attributes that enable clients to interact effectively with others, and to build on the skills they already possess, maybe without being totally aware of them.  I believe it will also help to improve clients’ wellbeing through learning, being involved and connected.”

To find out more about the Eliemental Programme, contact Carolyn Downs.

Dr Carolyn Downs