‘RECLAIM began in October 2007 in Manchester with 13 year old boys from Moss Side; an area blighted in recent years by gang violence and lurid headlines. The project aimed to redress the negative representation of young men from this nationally infamous area after they complained of being adversely stereotyped in both the local and national media. The project was only possible due to the support of the local community and created a new model for effective youth engagement.’

Without further ado, we happily agreed we would join the project alongside the BBC, The Royal Bank of Scotland and Cisco CSR. The children (aged 13) would be briefed with a few tips about project management before coming into our office for our chosen challenge. Once they’d absorbed the requirements, they had just 24 hours until noon the next day to knuckle down, solve the challenge, and then present their hard work back to us as if we were a client and they were pitching it to us. Exciting!

As a team, we thought of two projects for the group of 6 youths. We weren’t quite sure of their personal skills, interests or what they would be excited by so we racked our brains to find something with the right mix of fun and challenge. The boys arrived, all very smartly dressed and polite, and told me they had picked a name for their team, ‘Open Gates’ – a name to express their openness of mind and inclusion. We enjoyed a tour around our office and I told them all about our company ethos to ensure we care for our staff and their needs and create a fun, relaxed, engaging environment.

Once the tour was done, they sat down as myself, Alex and Andrew briefed them with the projects. One project would be to work on an advertising campaign to market the Raspberry Pi to their age range, promoting self-education. The second was to design an in-house application for us to track and sign up to events internally. We left the room for a moment while they discussed their choices as a group. A few moments later they called me back in. The young boy that had been put in the post as Project Manager, Yousuf Sufi, told me that they had decided to work on the Raspberry Pi. The challenge was on!

Very politely, they all thanked us for our time, shook our hands and left the building. We were left excited, wondering what they would return with the following day. You should never underestimate the power of a young mind! The creativity, ingenuity and the ease of thinking outside the box, along with the assistance from volunteers in Re:Claim, left us confident we’d witness something special the next day…

Friday afternoon arrived in a heartbeat and the group once again reappeared at our doors, excited and raring to go. I walked them into the board room to present to a panel of myself and a few other colleagues here at Melbourne. They didn’t seem fazed at all by the added pressure of a business meeting.

The Project Leader, Yousuf, opened the presentation with some slick slides on our projector screen. One by one they approached the section that they had been assigned with. We heard words from Tyronne Hazel, Samuel Remi-Akinwale, Sayid Habib, Dylan Cragg and Louie Burnett of how they would market the Raspberry Pi to their age-range. Realising the challenges and overcoming them with ingenious ideas and creative thinking, even a few laughs.

We were happily impressed. As we didn’t give them much to go on, they managed to do some market research, they thought about the different social platforms and how to best use them as a promotion tool; they even managed to source a Raspberry Pi in a matter of hours! The boys also created a marketing play on the current obsession with food Instagramming. Watch out for the names above, there are some stars in the making!

“Somewhere in, I think, the back of the mind of some [education] policy makers is this idea that if we fine-tune it well enough, if we just get it right, it will all hum along perfectly into the future. It won’t, and it never did.” – Sir Ken Robinson

The local schools nominate the students that they feel will most benefit to be part of this project. I did ask and each of the boys were more than happy to be involved in the Re:Claim group. They felt it helped them grow and learn and that it interested and engaged them and their individual talents. I hope to see the Re:Claim group thrive and help young minds flourish in a new, alternative manner to mainstream education. I can certainly already see the benefits shining through.

Gabi

This is Part 2 of a 2-part blog post. Part 1 can be read here.