Exploring the themes

Having figured out the basics of what to focus on, the next step involved validating what they could mean for this project. I figured the simplest way to capture what was floating around my head was to brainstorm my thoughts into some kind of mind map as below. This really is first draft and early stage, so it would really help if you add your thoughts into the mix, but go easy on the criticism - there's more to come and it’s still very blue sky :)

Surviving Education

From the perspective of a young person, this to me is about getting help, tips and advice on getting past the hassles of studying, and help with moving on to Further Education or training when options are limited. We can probably safely assume the group we’re focusing on isn’t hugely academic or they probably wouldn’t need the support in the first place. Maybe we could even provide help and tips on essays, and some capability to ask academic questions and get them answered.

Experience of working as a tutor with kids in inner city schools suggests that the primary reasons behind academic apathy among this group is a combination of lack of support and poor understanding of how education can fit into a viable career path. Maybe we could find a way to produce some simple visuals around this. Maybe share posts on some of our own personal experiences. Volunteers could get involved as writers, helpers, tutors and mentors. All they’d need is a reasonable degree of higher education, and most of the young professional target group should already have this.

Surviving Jobs and Careers

Getting into jobs when you’ve left school with limited or sub standard education is always tricky. Options are limited and work on offer isn’t necessarily exciting. We’re possibly looking at apprenticeships and vocations, but there must be ways to help open up more options and raise awareness of the multitude of options out there.

There are plenty of services around CV writing, cover letters etc. but conversely there are challenges in wading through the information on offer alongside gaps in the quality of advice within that information. As a volunteer network we could do a lot more to distil out key points of note, draft tailored CVs for different types of jobs written in a language representative of the applying demographic, help proof cover letters and applications, run mock interviews, advise on employee rights, and highlight success factors. Most crucially though we could use our own working experiences to help motivate readers and outline progression paths, even if only to demonstrate how non-linear they often are.

Surviving Small Business

If exciting or fulfilling job options are limited when you’ve struggled through education, then entrepreneurial options open up a host of more interesting and challenging opportunities, but of course with significantly greater risk. There is a host of help and information available for people looking to set up their own enterprise, along with funding support from organisations including the excellent
Bright Ideas Trust, but the information available is generally aimed at high literacy audiences and funding needs applying for. I think there is a gap we can fill in between the stage where someone has an idea or dream and applies to make a go of it.

Essentially I’m envisaging providing free ‘consulting’ services in the form of advice and idea exploration. We could also provide information on how to manage ideas and creativity, plan and strategise so that the business doesn’t simply replace a job but instead grows into some scalable and profitable, basic accounting and IT, and articles on professionalism and key factors in making a success of things. Volunteers could make a difference through writing about their experiences or articles on some of these areas, provide help with exploring ideas, and develop funding applications and business plans. This area of support is probably going to need volunteers with fairly specific business skill-sets, but there are a lot of us out there who do this for a living, and the fundamental areas of helping with motivation and encouragement and creativity are open to anyone who’s willing to get involved.

Surviving Life

From a volunteer perspective this would probably require people with specialist skills or experience of social work. So realistically I see this area as being more of an information portal discussing and providing links to support available. Maybe some help with applying for available support or housing. There must be any number of people out there who’ve achieved against the odds and might be willing to share their experience as blogs or articles. This area needs work, so if you have any thoughts please help!!

Fig. - Brainstorm around Themes (click the picture to view it full size)

Themes Mind Map v0.2

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