Back to school with S4TP 2016/17

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It’s that time of the year again – back to school for pupils and teachers! Before those groans and post-summer blues set in, good news – it’s also the start of another new programme cycle for Solutions for the Planet. Which means back to the drawing boards for more big ideas!

We’re thrilled to be expanding our programmes in Yorkshire, the West Midlands and the South East. Currently we have 14 schools signed up across our regions, supported by our partners Tarmac, Brammer, Buck and Hickman, the Institute of Gas Engineers and Managers (IGEM) and SGN. Over the next twelve months we also hope to develop partnerships in new regions across the UK, so please get in touch if you’re a school or business keen to get involved.

To find out more about the impact of last year’s programme, please download our Impact Report.  We’d also like to introduce new members of the team: Jessica Mitchell, Razali Samsudin and Sarah Milburn who have joined Solutions for the Planet as Programme Coordinators and will be leading the delivery of the programme in Yorkshire, the South East and West Midlands respectively with support from Jen, recently appointed as CEO, and the Board.  You can read more about the team in the About Us section of our website.

It looks to be an exciting year ahead bringing together new perspectives and of course more of those fantastic Big Ideas!

Solutions for the Planet values …

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The Solutions for the Planet team host an open discussion to reflect on their values and how they sit in relation to the social enterprise and its vision. Sustainability, responsibility and integrity, communication, creativity and innovation, and partnership and collaboration – are the core values decided upon.

During an open discussion, the team reflected upon their own values and where they sit in relation to Solution for the Planet’s values, great insights were shared.

Here at Solutions for the Planet, our values not only guide us, but act as a barometer of whether we are doing more than talking the talk, but actually walking the walk.


Sustainability is a term with an array of meanings. Some said that when talking about sustainability there is no debate. It is so essential that it doesn’t fit within the fight or flight paradigm. It pushes us to consider how we use resources today. Is living without harming others, achieving financial sustainability and having zero negative impact merely an ideal or can it be realised?

Responsibility and Integrity

Being aware of our privileged position to focus our self towards trying to be a good person involve realisations that are empowering. We all make mistakes, however on this journey of self-improvement, having integrity goes deeper than the reputation you wear, it goes deep to our inner self.


Communication can build rapport, it can help us discover our cultural differences and make up, but communication can be done in a variety of ways. If the intention of communication hasn’t been fulfilled, then perhaps one hasn’t communicated effectively. In this digital age, and the growing layers of distance between each other despite our shrinking world, in a world with increasing complexity, uncertainty and paradoxes, our communication and the need to be clearly and correctly understood has never before been as important or under threat.

Creativity and Innovation

Creativity and innovation are very much linked to the freedom to be. Exploring solutions to a problem can sometimes require bravery and courage, and drive to challenge the status quo. Our tried and tested ways and engrained systemic and societal habits can sometimes inhibit creativity and beat it down. However, under the right conditions, our creative and innovative qualities can be enlivened and flourish, and what exists in the mind and beyond can be realised.

Partnership and Collaboration

The human species can’t exist alone. Some of the best moments are spent with others and with such partnership and collaboration, what you can get out of a shared experience is not necessarily what others get out. We all can remember a time when we have had to ask for help, given help, and received help from others. Such moments a testament of successful partnership and collaboration, and so long as our boundaries are understood and respected, healthy partnerships and collaborations can continue.

S4TP welcomes two new Coordinators

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A note from Jess

It’s been a fantastic few days really getting stuck into the solutions team and meeting Sarah for the first time.  We had two days with Jen soaking up all the admin and introductory information as well as squeezing in a meeting with the Yorkshire LEP which really put into perspective the schools we need to target.  On Thursday I had a birthday trip to the west midlands to sit in on their end of year partners meeting which was again very informative and interesting.  Although I am still trying to process a lot of the information I’ve received I feel like things have started to fall into place.  This has been helped a lot by the fact that the Yorkshire school recruitment is well underway with four schools already signed up and others in active contact.  I booked my first Big Ideas Day on Monday and have been chatting to two potential new schools this morning so I feel like everything is going in the right direction!  Looking forward to my first 1-2-1 with Jen later on and then hopefully I’ll be ready to start contacting schools and pushing the programme forward.

A note from Sarah

Has it really only been one week?!  When I saw the ad for the job, it sounded like everything I wanted to do, at a social enterprise I wanted to be a part of.  It combined my experience as a teacher trainer, as well as my work in the utilities industry, and focused on sustainability and community – it ticked everything on my list!  The day after that Skype interview I landed in the UK and I heard from Jen that she really needed to meet me face to face, to make her final decision.  So the next morning I was on a ferry to Portsmouth, and then a train to Bristol to meet her.  The meeting went well, and she offered me the job, which I happily accepted.  “When can you start?,” she asked me.  “As soon as you need me,” I replied.  12 days after leaving Canada, it was Monday morning, my first day with S4TP as Program Coordinator for the West Midlands.

Tuesday and Wednesday in Leeds involved a lot of information, but was a super introduction to the job and the company.  It was great to spend a few days getting to know Jess a little, and to meet the fantastic Project Rome team, as well as to meet the 4th member of the S4TP team, Razali, via Skype, in our first full team meeting.  Wednesday I also got to sit in on a meeting with Lindsey Johnson to find out more about S4TP’s relationship with the LEP (Local Enterprise Panel) in Leeds, which will be very useful for my own meetings with the WM (West Midlands) LEPs.  Wednesday afternoon Jen and I headed back to our respective homes.

On Thursday I worked from home in the morning, getting to grips with all the induction information, and also taking a look at the dates of upcoming events that S4TP may be interested in attending.  And then it was time to meet the WM partners.  Doug Brown from Brammaer, Jen, Jess and I all met at Portland House in Solihull, Tarmac’s Head Office.  The meeting included Jo Jones from Tarmac, and I took the minutes, which was a great way of not only seeing how a Partner Meeting should go (as I will be doing them in the future), but also finding out a lot of information about what has been going on in the WM area.

After the meeting, there was a small end-of-year mentor celebration to thank and recognise the Tarmac mentors from the 2015-16 program, as well as an overview for those who wanted to become or continue as mentors for this year’s program.  This was an invaluable experience for me to see how Jen explains and promotes the program, as well as to be able to mingle with the past and prospective mentors afterwards, putting names and faces together.

And today is Friday, the end of my first week on the job.  And my mind is buzzing with the things I have to get done, and the excitement of what’s to come!  I am so grateful to Jen and the board for giving me this opportunity, and I can’t wait to really get the ball rolling with the Big Ideas Days and all that they entail.  I knew I wanted to work with this company when I read about them, and after having spent a week with Jen, seeing her in action, and seeing and hearing about the positive things the partners and mentors have to say about the company and the program, I know I made the right choice in accepting the position with S4TP.  It is already achieving greatness, but I see more and more of that as we continue to grow.  These are exciting times and I am proud to be a part of this incredible team!

Introducing our new team member

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Razali Samsudin, our newly appointed Programme Coordinator in the South East shares his thoughts on his first week at Solutions for the Planet…

Walking from Waterloo station, through the hustle and bustle of London’s Monday morning crowd, I made my way to Southbank centre, my new office away from home, where I would be meeting Jen for my first day of work! We met under the bright, hot sun, and made our way up to the Southbank Centre’s 6th floor members area.

Amid the backdrop of the wonderful views of the river Thames and the London Eye, Jen began by offering me my induction pack and making sure I was well rested and asked if I had any questions. It was a very relaxed and interactive morning, and she told me that we would be going to our scheduled appointment with our business partners Tarmac and SGN, in Tarmac’s impressive office near Charing Cross station at 12pm.

Once at Tarmac’s office, we were welcomed into their meeting room, and we all introduced ourselves. I shared how I felt that having recently graduated from Imperial College with a Masters in Environmental Technology, this role seemed perfect for me in terms of joining a social enterprise with a vision and mission that I strongly believe in. It was very useful and inspiring to see how motivated and interested in the programme the partners all were, and the feedback given to us by the partners was particularly insightful, especially the thoughts of the young beneficiaries.

Following a fruitful meeting, Jen and I made our way back to the Southbank Centre, but along the way we checked into the dressing rooms of the Kinky Boots London Show at the Adelphi Theatre! Jamie, Jen’s brother, is an actor in the show, and was also holding onto two big Solutions for the Planet banners! We enjoyed a cool glass of water on a hot summers day and shared stories on life in London, and the perils of moving into a flat! After the quick pit stop, Jen and I made our way onwards to the Southbank, and went through the induction checklist covering matters such as health and safety and working conditions. All of my questions were patiently listened to and answered with compassion, and we agreed that I could go through the pack in the evening in preparation for the 2nd day of induction the next day.

That Monday evening, I read the development plan with great excitement as I learnt more about the amazing achievements that the team at Solutions have helped the businesses, schools and young people accomplish! Come Tuesday morning, I was back at the Southbank centre. I was introduced to Chloe, a consultant coordinating the project to create new website. Having looked at the audience mapping, it felt great to be involved so early on in my role, and to be able to contribute my thoughts as to how the site design looked.

Following Chloe’s meeting with us, Jen continued to go through the necessary introductory requirements to the role and made sure I fully understood my duties and responsibilities, and no question that I had was made to feel like a silly one! By the end of our agreed time together, I gratefully accepted my new role and was welcomed into the team with a hug and a selfie that was posted onto Twitter!

The rest of my week was spent working from home, where I put together my plan for the coming weeks, and busied myself with learning more about Solutions for the Planet and its media activity. On Friday, I was advised by Jen to have a look at some websites on Social Enterprise, and I wrote a short passage on ‘what social enterprise means to me?’ It was a particularly useful exercise in helping me to crystallise my understanding of where I actually work and my new sector, and what it is that makes a social enterprise different from a typical business.

Before I knew it, the first working week was drawing to a close. To have had such a warm and welcoming first week, involved with actions and activities of the team so early on is much appreciated. It definitely confirmed my thoughts that joining this close knit team as a Programme Coordinator for Solutions for the Planet would be a decision I wouldn’t regret, and I am enjoying every minute learning and working with such experienced, inspirational and motivated colleagues.

ThermoField team Do It For Real

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“ThermoField is a company based on induction technology.  The technology works by having two magnets; one being an electro magnet. When turned on, a magnetic field is created which moves atoms in the magnet above, to create heat. This heat can be used to cook, to heat water and for any other thing that requires heat. The design we are working on relies on electricity and therefore we will be utilizing solar power for this.  This will keep our design safe for the consumer and for the environment.”

Summary: Many people rely on gas stoves when they go camping, which is not only bad for the environment but also bad for their health. ThermoField’s product will save users time and money as they won’t need to buy gas canisters or other environmentally harmful fuels. The team are designing a portable induction hob that will be able to charge its batteries on solar panels installed at camp sites. The team haven’t limited themselves to UK markets; after success in the UK they hope to expand abroad, helping governments and charities reach those in isolated and deprived areas. The team understand that the first thing they must do before all of this, is design and build a working prototype. After coming third in the competition final, the team have already been in talks with University professors and SOLEC, a solar energy company, taking them one step closer to realising their dream.

School: Dixon City Academy, Bradford

Region: Yorkshire

Impact: National, International

Issues: Sustainable energy, Environment, CO Poisoning

Goodbye Michael… Our amazing Intern 2016

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My name is Michael Atkins and I have just spent the last 10 weeks interning at Solutions for the Planet. I am going into my final year of an Economics and Management (International) degree at the University of Leeds and am so grateful to have been given this opportunity.

I was in Australia just finishing up a study abroad year when I saw the Do It For Real Project Officer position on a Leeds University career website.  Having experience as a teaching assistant, studying social enterprises and a keen interest in sustainability I sent off my application immediately. Two skype interviews, a 24-hour flight and a car journey later I found myself starting the role of intern at Solutions for the Planet on the 28th of June.

The Do It For Real Awards (delivered through Solutions for the Planet) provide young social entrepreneurs with the opportunity to apply for a cash grant up to £500 and a fixed support package to help test out or set up their social venture. Based in an office in Leeds I made frequent trips to schools in Bradford to help teams through the application process and provided continued support after being awarded.

After making clear delivery plans with each team, detailing the support required once they have been awarded, I looked at how to track and review progress of different types of support provided. I thoroughly enjoyed doing research for the teams on what was achievable and carefully considering the best approach and strategy to each challenge.

Having the London Final at the Palace of Westminster so early on in my internship allowed me to see the great enthusiasm held by not only the young people but the business partners and MPs too. The day gave me insight into how hard the teams had worked to get to where they are and I felt proud to be part of the S4TP team.

Jen Baughan and Kathryn Luckock were so welcoming, making me feel part of the team, constantly asking if I thought the programme could be run in a better or differently. They were really genuinely concerned for my learning experience and personal development. When I mentioned I wanted to understand more about the business partner side of the company, they were only too happy to invite me to an annual business partner review meeting in Birmingham and make time to explain further any aspects of the company that I was interested in.

Perhaps the thing I enjoyed most about my time at S4TP was working for a small social enterprise where you know every bit of work you do has meaning and the chance to make big impacts on local communities. From learning about social enterprises and business plan development in lectures it has been a delight to work on real projects. The internship has really allowed me to grow and I will be able to take not only new skills and experiences but key values forward in my career.

Tea 4 U team Do It For Real

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“We want to put smiles back on the faces of our community and we genuinely believe our project can help our community be happy. Every person is struggling with their own issues and being able to have an escape to this is very important. Our tea and biscuits can provide an escape to everyone in our community from their issues and put a smile on their faces. T4U is very simple but extremely powerful – we want to spread happiness and joy through tea and biscuits.”

Tea 4 U is a community engagement project based in Bradford. It aims to bring different parts of the community together with pop up tea tents. The team wants to put a smile on people’s faces in their community by not only providing just tea and biscuits but a platform for individuals to come together for discussion. By holding their events in mosques, churches, parks and community centres Tea 4 U want to attract all members of the community. The idea has support from the general public having successfully run one pop up stand in the city centre already, the team is set to make a sizable impression on Bradford residents.

Award amount: £250

School: Dixon Academy, Bradford

Region: Yorkshire

Impact: Local

Issues: Loneliness, Isolation, Social Cohesion

Vitaliite team Do It For Real

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“Most importantly, with every Vitaliite water bottle you purchase, an amount of the profit is donated to WaterAid where they build a water pump on behalf of Vitalite for the less fortunate. At the bottom of the water bottle, there is a QR code which if scanned, takes you to the Vitaliite website which shows you water facts and has case studies of the people YOU have been helping. This clever and unique concept not only shows you how you have been helping others but also benefits yourself. It is the best of both worlds, we like to call it – the light at the end of the well!”

Summary: Going to schools in East London, the girls that make up the Vitaliite team, are all too familiar with the high numbers of cycling accidents that occur every year in the capital. They have developed a smart and innovative LED flashing sports bottle that will alert other road users of their presence by increasing their visibility. 40% of the profits will be donated to a water charity to build water pumps abroad for those who don’t have access to clean drinking water. Further still, there’s a QR code on the bottom of each water bottle, which can take you to their website with information on the communities you have helped by purchasing their bottle. When they arrived at the Solutions for the Planet national competition in July 2016, they already had 500 pre-orders! The team won first place in the national competition in 2016. After winning the national competition, they went on to successfully apply to Do It For Real.

Award amount: £500

School: Quwwat Ul Islam School, Newham, London

Region: South East

Impact: Regional, International

Issues: Cycling Safety, Community Development, Relieving Poverty, Access to Basic Utilities

Different and Proud team Do It For Real

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“Bullying is a serious problem that needs to be tackled and eradicated. At Different and Proud I’m aiming to raise awareness about bullying.  I think this should be initially focused at primary schools, targeting students at an early age can have a more immediate impact if they understand that this is not acceptable and can ruin lives.  The aim is to get the next generation of children to think and realise that it is a problem. As well as this I want to try persuade schools to look at the curriculum and include materials that will have a positive impact on students but tackling the problems and raising awareness for the cause.  And more importantly providing support for those who are on the receiving end of bullying.”

Summary: Different and Proud is a project centred around boosting the confidence levels of children in primary schools using creative arts. Through a series of interactive workshops including drama, dance, creative writing, music and art, children will confront ideas of bullying and identity. By sharing this experience, the team hopes that children will form strong bonds and lasting friendships with each other. Different and Proud will construct the lesson plans from scratch with help from local teachers and national experts. In 2016 Different and Proud’s potential was recognised when the project made it through to the semi-finals of the competition.

Award amount: £150

School: Dixon City Academy, Bradford

Region: Yorkshire

Impact: Local

Issues: Social Cohesion, Equality, Empowerment, Mental Health

Haiti Creative team Do It For Real

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“The main objective for our campaign is ultimately, to benefit the lives of children in Haiti. We believe that the creative aspect of education that we would bring, could greatly impact their lives. For example, forging a potential career in an ever – expanding industry of creative arts would be near impossible without the work that we are offering.  We believe henceforth, that well-educated children would make a well-educated society. If the children are having fun, it will reflect immensely on the happiness of the community.”

Summary: This team wants to provide the children of Haiti with the chance to experience the creative arts, as it is often excluded from their curriculum. The increase in creative arts will help the children of Haiti improve their self-esteem and instil confidence. Having already teamed up with the charity Hope for Haiti, the team have support in identifying the schools where this project is needed and will receive help in financing their idea. Costa Coffee have also been helping the team by providing food and ingredients for a fundraising bake sale at their school. First, the team want to raise money to send musical instruments to Haiti. Then, the team would like to implement lesson plans with facilitators in schools in Haiti. At the end of their project Haiti Creative will compile a fundraising pack to be used by other schools across the UK who also want to help children in Haiti experience more creative arts workshops. Haiti Creative want to set an example of how it’s possible to fundraise for a cause you believe in.

Award amount: £500

School: Dixon City Academy, Bradford

Region: Yorkshire

Impact: National, International

Issues: Access to Education, Developing Skills, Employability