“I met a homeless man on the steps of my local train station next to a stack of newspapers. He told me what it felt like to be locked out from the world and not be able to read. I wanted to take a small amount of money and make a long term, investment in his future, but I needed an organisation that could combine my £2 with your £5, and help that individual thrive. That organisation didn’t exist so we started it. Beam is about making it safe and easy to help homeless people. The big vision is to unleash the talents of the more than 300,000 homeless in the UK, empowering them to ‘be amazing’, to make the best contribution to society and the economy. It's the collective responsibility of coming together to make a difference.”
Alex Stephany, founder of Beam, the world’s first crowdfunding platform that raises funds for employment training for homeless people.
Alex Stephany is one of 200 change-makers worldwide that I have interviewed for my forthcoming book, Generation Share. Published by Policy Press for Global Sharing Week 2019 (June 16th-22nd). Co-created with visual storyteller, Sophie Sheinwald Generation Share takes people on a much needed journey of hope to meet the change-makers who are building a society fuelled by Sharing.
Three years of research for Generation Share, has shown me that change-makers have 6 all-important character traits that make up the Anatomy of a Change-Maker.
Previously, I detailed the first characteristic, being a Sharer the second trait, bravery the third, adaptability the fourth love and last week I wrote about the fifth, positivity. In this final instalment of Anatomy of a Change-maker, I’m revealing the final all-important characteristic.
Change-Maker Characteristic Number Six:
FUTURE: Change-makers have the ability to see the bigger picture. They are future-conscious and future aware. They understand that short-termism and quick-fix approaches have led to our current global crises and that what’s needed now are future-proofed actions combined with solutions that consider the long run. When Alex Stephany met the homeless man at the train station, he didn’t want to give him a one-off hand-out, but rather to invest in his future. His vision was to share opportunities and the chance for a future with some of the most marginalised and excluded in society. He founded Beam to do just that.
For 34-year-old Guy, who was locked into a life of hard drug use and homelessness, Beam has supported him to complete a crowdfunding campaign to train as an electrician, offering him the chance of a future worth living.
“Three months ago, I’d never thought about becoming an electrician. I've gone from having no vision and no idea, just focussing on being clean and not using, to starting to look to the future. I've always lived in the day to day. Sharing through crowdfunding for me, has meant the opportunity to share my story and get support. It’s helped me to see a future for myself. I'm really grateful.”
Guy is one of the UK’s over 320,000 homeless people.
“I’ve been in and out of prison, never had a stable job. I first took drugs at home with my dad when I was 10 and left school at 14, with no qualification or prospects. Turning 30 and being in a prison cell, made me realise that something wasn’t right. I got into a rehab programme and that brought me to Beam.”
With the number of social businesses on the rise and the growth of crowdsourced, peer-to-peer production, distribution and a new type of conscious, caring consumption, the traditional approach to business as usual heralds the death knell for those unwilling to see the realities of the future. As Clare Kandola, a Sharing Economy consultant and expert at my charity, The People Who Share explains:
“We are at the end of cheap, easily available resources. The Sharing Economy is about sustainable futures and offers an opportunity for businesses and all organisations to rethink their structure, relationships with their workers, investors, partners and competitors to grow into the future. That means finding other definitions of value and business objectives. I question any organisation that does not have some interest in sustainability and social impact in a world of diminishing resources and greater inequality. This isn’t a CSR output, it’s about finding ways to stay relevant and survive. Organisations are increasingly impacted by the technological revolution, changing working practices and increased costs of core resources. It is no longer acceptable to create only economic value, they need to be creating social and environmental value to survive and the Sharing Economy is a way to do just that.”
For social impact entrepreneur, Alex Stephany, creating an innovative new business model to tackle homelessness systemically was fundamental.
“We’re not a typical crowdfunding platform, we provide two sources of value, financial and social. Donations are divided equally between members on a one-off or monthly basis. We also build a support network of people that come to the website, read someone’s story and want to help. For people who have been homeless for decades, with chronic lack of self-esteem, this is transformative.”
Of the 200 change-makers interviewed for Generation Share, all of them have the ability to create the sustainable long-term change that’s needed for the future. They understand that complex global problems need radical, systemic approaches, and a complete re-think of the top down, quick-win, winner-takes-all, profit-before-people tactics that have dominated at the expense of us all.
As Alex says: “We’re building scaffolding for people. If you have that scaffolding in place you are more likely to withstand some shocks. There are people who experience homelessness all over the world, what we are building here is globally applicable for the future.”
So what exactly makes up the anatomy of a change-maker? It’s the combination of 6 character-traits: the ability to share, be brave, adaptable, demonstrate a love for people and planet in all that we do, to be positive and create positive solutions and above all to consider the future. These characteristics in combination can transform our communities, organisations, businesses, schools, lives, our economy and society at large.
As Dan Wedderpohl, founder of goods-sharing platform Peerby says: “Owning is finite and sharing is infinite, but people in cities are isolated from each other, making it harder to share. The biggest direct result of Peerby, is that people are amazed at how trustworthy and loving people actually are. I have become a very optimistic pessimist. If we deal with resource scarcity through sharing and reduce our carbon emissions, we can solve the grave challenges that we face over the next 40-50 years.”
Generation Share will be published by Policy Press in June 2019 for Global Sharing Week. You can now pre-order your copy here.
If you are interested in change-making and want to take part in my #CHANGE! project email me firstname.lastname@example.org or join the conversation on Twitter #CHANGE! @benitamatofska