By Robbie Norval
Social enterprise’s rise over the last decade has been remarkable, and has understandably created high expectations. Within the developing world it has been heralded as a new approach to overcoming poverty and social exclusion, whilst advocates within so-called developed countries have presented it as a mechanism for achieving sustainable economic growth, and as offering a promise for wider human and ecological fulfilment. Given this, there is perhaps no better time to reflect on social enterprise’s successes, limitations, and future than at present. What’s more, there is perhaps no better event to immerse oneself in the developments of the sector than SEWF 2018. SEWF will be a unique an unmissable opportunity for those looking to come together, build networks, share knowledge, and discuss how we can all contribute to a fairer, more prosperous society.
My personal journey into social entrepreneurship started whilst I was a student at University. I volunteered as a carer in a nursing home and witnessed a lot of isolation and passive activities for residents there. This experience really stuck with me. Later in life, I moved abroad and witnessed the impact that learning languages had on me. A family member was diagnosed with dementia and I started to look at non-pharmaceutical options for people living with dementia. It was at this point that I came across some really fantastic research that people who were bilingual could postpone the effects of dementia for between 4-5 years more than people with one language.
That is when the ‘light bulb moment’ happened and I founded Lingo Flamingo C.I.C. Although by no means would I have described myself as an entrepreneur, founding a social enterprise seemed the perfect combination to address a social issue in an innovative way and using a sustainable model.
Since founding Lingo Flamingo 3 years ago we have worked hard to make our classes as accessible, fun and as organic as possible. Our goals as an organisation are to offer fun and stimulating activities for older adults as a way of increasing and encouraging social inclusion, and at the same time an activity which has positive cognitive effects. We have now run over 800 classes across Scotland working with national care home chains and charities. We work closely with universities to convey both the cognitive and well-being benefits of our classes.
Like starting any new venture, the journey has been full of peaks and troughs and I intend to speak openly and candidly about my experiences. Although, the journey has not always been smooth, it is certainly one which I would not change. Finally, if I was to offer advice to any budding entrepreneurs out there I would echo the same information that we tell our students: “It is never to late to do something new.”
For more information about Lingo Flamingo, please visit www.lingoflamingo.co.uk or follow us on twitter @lingoflamingo1