'We can prove our system works'

Nick Temple of the School for Social Entrepreneurs on why his organisation was favoured by ministers with £500,000 worth of funding as part of the Government's third sector action plan

Nick Temple, policy and communications director, School for Social Entrepreneurs
Nick Temple, policy and communications director, School for Social Entrepreneurs

In the Government's £42.5m third sector action plan, only one organisation was selected to receive public money without having to apply for it - the School for Social Entrepreneurs, which will receive £500,000 of funding in the next year.

So what's so special about it? Nick Temple, the school's policy and communications director, has some theories about why it might have been singled out.

"We can prove our system works," he says. "We've been going for 10 years and, of the people we've helped, 85 per cent are still active in the sector, most of them running their own organisations."

Temple believes one of the school's strengths is that applicants require no paper qualifications and are judged instead on whether they have the right entrepreneurial personality.

"We work with all sorts of people, from the long-term unemployed to high-profile bankers considering a change of career - anyone aged 18 to 80," he says.

"And because we have franchised the system so that there are Schools of Social Entrepreneurs across the UK, we work with people from lots of different regions.

"The backgrounds are different, but the dream is the same."

The school focuses largely on confidence building and networking, with lectures from successful entrepreneurs and visits to working businesses - although it also provides more technical training if needed.

"We don't lecture people," Temple says. "We help them learn what they feel they need. A lot of what students learn, they often learn from each other. They have different skills that complement one another."

The school was founded in 1997 by the late Lord Young, the philanthropist who also helped set up the Open University and the charity Which? Since then it has expanded across the country.

This year, it will grow into a worldwide organisation, with the opening of its first franchise in Australia. More schools are planned in Canada and China.

Temple hopes the extra government money will allow it to expand faster, despite the fact that some funding from other sources is dropping off.

"This year we've got 40 or 50 students in London, and maybe 80 across the whole country," he says. "We'll aim to have 150 to 200 next year."

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