So, three months into the Streetcraft Scholarship, my mind is buzzing. Buzzing with ideas, buzzing with contacts made and others recommended. Buzzing with more ideas. Buzzing with the possibilities. Buzzing with the challenges. Buzzing, buzzing, buzzing.
If Streetcraft scholarships are about broadening your horizons, and helping you to make connections with people who share your vision, mine is succeeding. Every conversation leads to several more. Every article, blog or website that I read leaves me with another page of scribbled notes, ideas, more papers to read and more potential contacts to follow up. At some point, I know I will need to begin to narrow my range, to focus and refine, but at this stage, I’m still harvesting information and ideas on a grand scale!
Accompanied by a business person and an accountant who volunteered to help identify opportunities, I have visited each of Northern Ireland’s prisons, where Governors and senior officers gave freely of their time to discuss ideas. The potential to create real employment opportunities, in real businesses, before and after release, is clear. I have had long conversations with Prison Service officials about the policy and procedural challenges and opportunities of running economic enterprises behind prison walls. Perhaps best of all, I have discovered a small army of social entrepreneurs, working to create and expand employment opportunities for a whole range of people who are disadvantaged in the job market, whether due to their history of offending or other factors. Their ideas, enthusiasm and successes inspire people like me to join their number.
I joined a small number of such people on the Accelerator programme, run by the Young Foundation, designed to help us develop new ideas into proposals that can be pitched to investors, policy makers and potential partners. While I don’t really know what will come out the other end of this process, I know I will end up with yet more contacts, more ideas, and yes, my mind still buzzing.