NickalaTorkington has spent the last 12 years developing infrastructure, organisations and enterprises where Social Entrepreneurs can thrive. A Social Entrepreneur herself, she has designed, resourced and operationally delivered a range of enterprises in North West England, including the first social enterprise health spa and a wellbeing centre, as part of the pioneering Blackburne Housing Group.
Nickala has coached, trained and supported over 500 social entrepreneurs and change makers across a broad range of sectors from idea generation through to resourcing start up, as well as developing established social enterprises to scale up and replicate.
Her current role as Partnership Support Manager at UnLtd, involves engaging with both the Higher Education and Further Education sectors in the UK and internationally, to capacity build institutions, unlock potential and build ecosystems of support and resources for social entrepreneurs. The groundbreaking programme delivering this is called ‘SEE Change’ – Social Entrepreneurship in Education. UnLtd are the leading provider of support to social entrepreneurs in the UK and offers the largest such network in the world.
UnLtd resources over 1,000 people each year, through its core work and partnership programmes. By way of example: UnLtd supports a diverse network of delivery partners alongside their core work, spanning universities, colleges, housing associations, corporates, healthcare specialists and community infrastructure agencies.
NickalaTorkingtonshares with Marie Banuher views about social entrepreneurship.
You have more than two decades of experience in social entrepreneurship. Who according to you is a social entrepreneur?
The passion of a person who wants to change the world for the bettercreates a social entrepreneur; also one who has an entrepreneurial solution to a social issue. It could also be somebody who is from the philanthropic spectrum. What binds them together are the values and ethics, the passion, and the ability to act and build a network to effect social change to happen.
There are many social change agents across the globe. Any inspiring social change ideas that you have come across?
There are loads of them!Once, there was a man, David Hines,whose daughter was murdered.It was an inspiring and harrowing experience which he shared with me.
After the incident, he was shocked by the way he was treated by the police; the way in which his family was trying to manage with their lives as they did not get support that they needed; the way in which his daughter was characterized; and by the memory of his lost child. He started an agency‘North East Victims Association’ that would support victims of murder and manslaughter. He was very much a campaigner and an activist at heart.
He launchednumerous ventures to create and deliver asocial mission. He organizes annual conferences and brings together families to vent, relax and feel warm amidst people who have gone through similar tragedy.
There was also a policy change element which he wanted to achieve. As a result of the work he has done, he has now created a new layer of policing called ‘Family Liaison Officer” which now exists.
That is what social entrepreneurs do! They start with one project, and expand further. The North East Victims Association was the first starting point.
There was a lady called Gill Green, a health professional, who establishedStorm Training Community Interest Community (CIC). She was once a nurse anddeveloped researchinto suicide prevention.She deliversvarious training programs for the public sector, health professionals, police, for people who may misunderstand issues of health, and on suicide prevention.
With a range of servicesand five to six staff, she has been deliveringtrainings during the last four years in seven different countries and her annual turnover has grown toaround £125,000.00this year.
What was your trigger to engage in social entrepreneurship?
I did my degree in product and furniture design and manufacture and went to work as a designer. After some years of work I got bored.I wanted to do something different!Wanting to earn a good living is important to me and having a meaningful job to bring social change is much more important.
I was 22 years old then. I started as an administrator at UnLtd. There was a Director for the North of England and myself when it first developed in 2002, now there are over 70 staff. I later got posted as a direct delivererofservices and now have a more strategic role as a Partnership Support Manager building our ecosystem of support for Social Entrepreneurs in the UK and overeas.
I always had an interest in getting things done and not taking a ‘No’ for an answer; or seeing a need and sorting it out. Whether it was for a group of university students or for people in a community—I fell into it like most social entrepreneurs do.
A proudest moment in your career?
One of my proudest moments was bringing together a group of 12 social entrepreneurs fromUK on a learning journey to India.Eight years ago we came to learn from the good practices in India.
Social entrepreneurship,certainly, isn’t a new phenomenon in this country as there are outstanding social entrepreneurs and change makers here. We brought 12 of our fledgling social entrepreneursto learn from the likes of Pratham, Child Line India, and Barefoot College in Rajasthan.
That first journey with Michael Norton, the Founding Trustee of UnLtd UK,along with theIndira Gandhi Foundation, British Council led to a consultation. Out of it, UnLtdIndia was born and I had great experiences.
Can you tell us some key points to be a successful social entrepreneur?
Don’t be put off if you are not having the impact as you expected.
Achieving a social goal takes many routes and takes many years. So, try and be patient with yourself.
Build fantastic networks to help you learn how the rest are doing.
Don’t give up! Think it through and find a way.
There is no such thing as failure.It is learning by doing and achieving social change incrementally.
What are your views about social enterprises in India and abroad?
From what I have seen in India, it has been mostly on the philanthropic model.I have not seen enough of them though, In UK, people look for inspiration and practice. People take some time to understand the business model.
Examples in Thailand of largescale social enterprises being set up by large institutions seeking to make a profit, ethically. Strong social missions exhibited but less of a focus on the agency of drive of ‘the person’, which UnLtd has a significant focus on. Inevitably these are less entrepreneurial as they become larger scale.
Your experience mentoring social entrepreneurs in the UK?
Social entrepreneurs come from all walks of life. Someone new to this sector could find it confusing and hard to gain a clear understanding of concepts and / or practice.. We provide our own personal experience mixed with a range of coaching and mentoring techniques. Most of all, helping people understand themselves and their own motivations and believe in themselves is always at the heart of what we do.