I love to read and recently had sight of a book from the library called Arabic Stories (Hezi Brosh and Lutfi Mansure); it is a collection of Arabic stories (both in English and Arabic) that were told orally and in writing from the pre Islamic period until the 15th century. It is an incredible book from many perspectives but the one area that drew me in was that the many fables touched on the valuable lessons we can take from others and their experiences and this is how my story has felt over the last year or so.
Last year we spent just short of 220 hours delivering various activities to a whole range of clients in Argyll, as we kicked off the Takeaway Creative business offering a portable service of an incredible group of professionals - from potters, weavers to carpenters and florists and Mahjong experts - to anyone needing or wanting an at home service. We are the go to people when you want to learn at your own pace, work with a professional, or you want some help to access something new.
The whole experience has been a seismic change for me personally; my professional roots are in the corporate world where I worked in and alongside many different geographies, in a team of 70 people, from 26 different countries and over 70% speaking English as a second language and where individuals were available to fix a printer or book a flight at the flick of a switch. It has been so very different to set up a business and the team at Vital Spark and Firstport are brilliant – they have always been on hand to offer specialist advice, coaching and reaching out to help overcome some of the challenges.
Picking out the best of last year's start up is tricky, but I'd probably have to share the carpentry session at a care home. Jackie, our super skilled carpenter and building advisor, coached and worked with a group of men, some with dementia, in a care home setting to make a coat rack out of local elm. The clients just got “flow” in their project and it transformed the day. And there was an interaction with an outreach worker at Marie Curie who just learned of what we do and described how many folk with a terminal diagnosis struggle to fulfil their dreams of a full end of life experience and how our at home service may be able to meet this need. And for this year? I sense it will be very much about collaboration and working together as an enterprise network to expand services into new geographical areas.
I just saw earlier today that the writer Ursula K Le Guin died last week. Known for writing science fiction and born in a man’s generation, Neil Gaiman in a documentary of her life summed her up by saying:
She is willing to change the landscape of your head with her ideas and there's such power in that. It is that power of, things could be different.
And I think that social enterprise supported by projects such as Vital Spark and organisations like Firstport can inspire and help draw the dots between folk starting up and running social enterprise who want things to be different, better and see the gaps in our community.
My favourite quote from Ursula K Le Guin (and I think that all the Vital Spark participants I know would relate to this):
Don't shove me into your damn pigeonhole, where I don't fit, because I'm all over. My tentacles are coming out of the pigeonhole in all directions.