Tuesday 17 November 2015
A social enterprise which has provided support for hundreds of people from black, dual heritage and migrant communities has a brighter future after its founder enrolled on a Master’s degree course at the University of Northampton.
Yemi Olowoyo set up Northampton’s New Ark Foundation seven years ago when she was made redundant from her social worker role.
Since then, the organisation has gone from strength to strength, delivering high-quality health, education and social welfare services absolutely free to those assessed to be in need, with others charged competitive affordable rates.
The Foundation helps around 150 individuals a year, which is an incredible feat considering it receives very little-to-no funding and has just two full-time staff members, complemented by an intern, an apprentice, volunteers and undergraduate and postgraduate student social workers on placement.
The sheer volume of work and lack of funds meant Yemi was beginning to question the Foundation’s future.
“I began to wonder what was keeping me going for so long, I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing anymore –I told myself ‘I’m not Mother Teresa’, and I’m sure even she had sponsors,” said Yemi. “I wondered whether I should go get a life outside of the Foundation.
“But if we didn’t exist, I would hate to think what would happen. Hundreds of people who use our services would be left high and dry – there are other charitable organisations out there, but none of them have the expertise of a qualified social worker devoting their entire professional time to those in our community. We are problem solvers, and without us, people’s problems would go unsolved.”
Instead of throwing in the towel, Yemi embarked on an MA in Social Innovation at the University – and hasn’t looked back since.
She said: “I realised I needed to address our income generation strategy so we aren’t relying so much on grants – which are few and far between – and to make us better at winning paid contacts from statutory services in health and social care.
“The course has been an incredible experience for me and will bring huge benefits to the Foundation. I’ve been able to look at different business strategies, identify new markets both nationally and internationally and find out more about pricing. I have also been guided on how to run an organisation ethically and still be a social venture with a strong agenda for self-reliance and sustainability.
“The expertise of the tutors on the course is world class, and so is the fact I am studying alongside other people who are running social enterprises. The course is very practical, with plenty of real-life learning – it’s not ‘just’ a degree course.”
Yemi is now confident the Foundation will go from strength to strength, continuing to help those in need, by offering services including counselling, advocacy, consultation, family support, community learning, mentoring and youth outreach.
In addition to helping the wellbeing of the community, the New Ark Foundation is also a learning organisation which plays a key role in providing industry training.
University of Northampton MSc Business student, Adeoye Adeyemi, is employed by the Foundation as an intern, which provides her with real-world experience, which in turn benefits the organisation. Half of her internship is funded by the University, and the other half by its partner Santander Universities.
Northampton College Health and Social Care apprentice, Bolu Adeleye, is also on the books, picking up industry experience of working alongside social worker Yemi and a number of volunteers.
Find out more about the University of Northampton’s Social Innovation Master’s degree.
Get more information about the New Ark Foundation.
Pictured from left are: Bolu Adeleye, health and social care apprentice, Richard Osei Bonsu, assistant manager and family advocate/support worker, Yemi Olowoyo, founder and executive manager and Adeoye Adeyemi, an MSc Business intern from the University of Northampton.