There’s a famous Mahatma Gandhi quote “Live as if you’ll die tomorrow, learn as if you’ll live forever.” I love it because it puts learning in its rightful place – at the heart of our lifelong journey.
This love of learning in its widest sense is exemplified by a social enterprise in Cambridgeshire – GAP Learning. The two creative sisters who run the enterprise sent me their newsletter some time ago and, with permission, I’ve reproduced it for this blog.
Austerity hits hard
Local authority budget cuts are visible everywhere. Brilliant organisations that provide meaningful social impact and community cohesion are lost. For example, more than 350 Sure Start children’s centres have closed in England since 2010; 45% of councils have cut provision for young people by around 30%. Public spaces are closing, social and essential services are experiencing crippling budget cuts. Closer to us, the Cambridge & District Volunteer Centre closes its doors tomorrow after 26 years; HOPE Social Enterprises in Huntingdon, a Craftworks venue, closed last month with the loss of their volunteer programme and shop. Everyone we partner within the training, advice and support world seems to be affected.
And Adult Learning (our world) will be doubly hit. Due to Brexit, the UK is losing the European Social Fund which part-funded almost all our free courses such as Fullspoon and Craftworks. What money there is, is increasingly difficult to secure with lengthy applications that, even if you have the fortune to win, have so many limitations attached the people you are trying to reach and support are knocked back by the sheer force of documentation and data gathering required for them to access the help. And if you’re a small charitable business, like GAP Learning, it’s tough out here with no credit rating or specialised departments. We’ll even have to say goodbye to our office in October.
But that’s what’s happening to us as a small business, it’s nothing compared to how some of our fellow humans are suffering and there will be no means to help them if things continue as they are: people facing cuts in welfare and benefits, people facing mental health challenges, people living with disabilities, people who are lonely and in need of a friend. There’s never been a better time for people to get together in their community to support one another. Teresa and I identified that people feel better when they make or create and that space to think is enough to see that changes can be good and necessary. We set about building a business that provided the means for people to get together to have fun, build passion and confidence and inspire hope in a future, whatever that may be.
Cambridgeshire County Council have been instrumental in enabling our work thus far and we will always be grateful for the opportunities they provided for us to support learners hardest to reach. We may have no contracts upcoming but we will not give up on our mission [see manifesto below]
GAP Learning Manifesto
We will make positive change for the vulnerable, the unheard, the overlooked to give those without voices a means to communicate
We will create a sustainable business that puts people first – not the profit. We don’t give two hoots if you ticked the financially unviable box. We all have value
We are the change-makers, activators and will enable others via non-threatening, empathic, loving and caring means to open new ways to breathe
We are not commercial – we are utilitarian. We use sustainable materials to make products that will last. That have meaning. A purpose. A beauty
We celebrate diversity. Not just recognise a random festival once in a while
We will not stand for racism, sexism and all other everyday isms that belittle, degrade or maintain control over others
We stand for Equal Opportunity for All. The same mirror for each reflection – full and bright and clear
We recognise, support and partner individuals and companies that want to make a positive change in society
We value sisterhood. Family; Love; following your dreams; the small, quiet voice in the corner, in the shadow; the darkness
We value the symbiotic, natural world around us
Our language is clear (for those over eight years old).
A hopeful future
Our idea is to become sustainable as quickly as possible by selling goods and services. We’ve been getting the Craftworks Rocks ready – with new branding and everything and are actively looking for venues to host a box for us.
We will develop more corporate and paid-for workshops but of course we will still look for small grant pots to run stand-alone projects. In fact, we’ve got a new project The Fixing Shop funded by Santander Foundation starting over the summer.
* * * * *
If you take a look at the Gap Learning website (http://gaplearning.co.uk) you’ll get a good idea at what’s at stake here. And while you’re there, check out ‘She Loves him tho’’ for another demonstration of the sisters’ creativity.
As Teresa and Amanda point out, what’s happening at GAP Learning is, sadly, nothing special. The current cuts have no respect for quality. But I’m sure they would love to hear your thoughts on possible ways out of their current sticky patch. I know the sisters won’t be giving up and you could be part of their fight!
STOP PRESS: A recent [ 7 July 2017] newspaper headline confirms how budget cuts are hitting local services for young people – Council plans to scrap four dedicated children’s centres in Cambridge and 15 others across county in bid to save £1million www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/cambridge-news/childrens-centres-cambridgeshire-county-council–13291759 and there’s a petition against the closures www.cambridgelibdems.org.uk/no_childrens_centre_cuts
Read more about Teresa and Amanda at: