When was the last time you thought of a barista serving you earthy aroma laden cup of freshly brewed coffee at your workplace or serving you a cup of hot exotic coffee while you take a walk on a cold afternoon down the street? Nah, I am not narrating you a piece from a novel depicting 1700s Europe, when the culture of coffee drinking was becoming a high street fashion. I got an opportunity to talk to Mat Corbett and Kieron Tilley, both Fellows of the RSA and Associate Fellows of the School for Social Entrepreneurs who have founded the social enterprise, “We Walk The Line”.
We Walk The Line is a start-up social enterprise which works with young people finding it difficult to get employment due various socio-economic reasons. These young people irrespective of being educated or not, are given hands-on training while running a coffee vending tricycle. On completion of their apprenticeship, beneficiaries are encouraged to apply for a franchise and will be offered a start-up bonus and ongoing support. It would best to quote the founder himself to understand what made the duo to start a social enterprise which aims at, Learning, Earning & Independence. Mat says, “I’ve been working in community regeneration and the employment and skills sector all my working life and have previously set up award winning projects for the hardest to reach” As responsible social entrepreneurs it shows the determination of the founders to reach the ones who are hardest to be reached and given back the confidence that they can do it too! The organisation We Walk The Line is doing the right way to get the young & creative people out of the vicious circle of thoughts of discouragement that they can’t overcome it. Getting them to learn while they earn is a well thought move by the founders to get the young inspired to work towards making the world free from the chronic illness of “unemployment” and be entrepreneurs. Been into the realm of Social Entrepreneurship, Mat & Kieron rightly points out the problem with the education system of modern times. They firmly say schools, colleges and training providers fail to provide real world learning and experience to help disadvantaged people to gain experience to run their own business in a supportive holistic environment. Therefore, many people leave college into a series of short-term jobs where their entrepreneurial spirit is successively dampened and they become more demotivated. Majority of them are young people so the crisis is even more alarming. Empowering the youth is as important as nurturing your crop for a better yield.
For a coffee connoisseur the taste and texture of coffee is important but am sure even he will be excited to see the bright red pedal powered tricycle which serves him a cup of a “perfectly brewed coffee”. The conscious decision of having a pedal powered tricycle makes it cost effective as well as helps to keep the environment green. Mind blowing to think how a cup of coffee can empower a youth and also helps to keep the environment clean & green. I can’t resist myself to second Mat, when he said, “the machine showed just cool”. The bright red body of the pedal powered tricycle also has enough space to convey the social message of We Walk The Line. While you sip your steaming cup of coffee you would also read about the initiative through the lines in white which looks sparkling on the red background.
The founders are very clear in laying down their future course of actions; Mat expressed his desire to work with organisations like Aroamaah, which helps coffee roasters & other organisations to source coffee ethically and benefitting the coffee growers. The determination of Mat & Kieron to have maximum social impact through We Walk The Line is highly praiseworthy. They further said that the future plan is also to have people with disability to be trained and supporting them to be economically empowered for a better life with dignity. My interaction gave a sense that they might not be against thinking of a social franchise model to spread the social enterprise to make more and more people financially independent and break the barriers of self-employment. But that is not coming too soon; the focus right now is to have all employees on board to make the business model work as the idea conceived by Mat & Kieron.
The duo says the journey so far has been a lot and lot of learning for them. The more they learn, the more pedal powered coffee we get to drink. Isn’t it exciting to drink a cup of coffee which changes so much around us for something good!! I am not concluding here, but it is a start of a wonderful journey of how Social Entrepreneurs do ordinary things extraordinarily and make earth the best planet to live.
If you are a Social Entrepreneur and want me hear your story for my social enterprise storytelling feel free to tweet me @rons1212.
I would like to thank Mat & Kieron for taking out time for the interaction and tolerating me for writing hundreds of questions about We Walk The Line.