Author Archives: The Future Melting Pot

Women & Enterprise Hub’s International Women’s Day Event

Estella with panellists including Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, and friends of TFMP Imani Clough and Sarah Crawley

An event to celebrate International Women’s Day was organised at the Women’s Enterprise Hub in Sparkbrook last week, and Estella Edwards, our CEO, was fortunate enough to be able to attend. The stated purpose of this event was to ’empower women and to motivate them by invigorating their entrepreneurial spirit’, something which Estella, with her track record of seeking to empower young women in business, was happy to support.

What made the occasion even more joyful for Estella there was the fact that it enabled her to reconnect with some former colleagues from many years previously. Imani Clough, one of the panellists speaking at the event, had undertaken a placement at The Future Melting Pot (TFMP) back in 2013. Through her experience at TFMP, which had a focus at the time on youth entrepreneurship, Imani was able to develop key skills and build the confidence she needed to eventually start her own business focused on empowering young women.

The event organiser, Sarah Crawley, the director of the Women’s Enterprise Hub, also has a history with TFMP. A decade ago, back in 2009, Sarah helped Estella in the original formation of TFMP through the Birmingham-based Institute of Social Enterprise (ISE). Her help was invaluable in getting TFMP up and running, and helping Estella overcome some of the barriers faced by women in business.

It was appropriate then, given the personal connections of the attendees to TFMP, that the event itself was an empowering occasion that sought to celebrate female entrepreneurship.

Alongside the many successful female entrepreneurs in attendance was the West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, who contributed to a fascinating panel discussion. The panellists provided an illuminating insight into the challenges faced by women in business in 2019, with still less than 10% of the biggest companies in the UK having female CEOs. 

However, a hopeful note was also struck. The increase in the amount of support from organisations such as the Women’s Enterprise Hub was cited as an important agent for change. Imani agreed that there is now a lot of support for women entrepreneurs. Indeed, her story is an inspirational example of a young women not only starting a business, but starting a business with the specific purpose of empowering other young women.

Overall, this was a fantastic event, and Estella hopes that it, and the wider work of the Women’s Enterprise Hub, will help inspire other women to consider a career in business and to believe that they can be the CEOs of tomorrow.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day from The Future Melting Pot to everyone who’s reading this. Have you ever felt like even though you’re looking for love, love keeps running away from you? Well, this story which I am about to share, it´s completely the opposite of that and a real story of love.

Emmy Abrahamson, a Swedish writer went on a business trip to Amsterdam, Holland in 2006 and while she was seating on a bench, waiting for a friend, Vic Kocula, a homeless man sat down next to her and after that asked her simple question ‘What time it is?’

Kocula, who’s originally from America, became homeless as a result of a European backpacking trip gone wrong. As Vic said, ‘I’d run out of money earlier than I expected to, but I hadn’t done everything that I wanted to do during the trip, so I just said well, I’ll do it without any money.’

Nevertheless, he just realised days later he had become a homeless and an alcoholic.

She found it cheesy because there was a clock in front of them. However, not knowing how it began, they started chatting and he made her laugh. Emmy felt a ‘click’ from him despite realising instantly that he was homeless. Before she left, Vic Kocula turned around to tell her, ‘Saturday, 3 o’clock, same bench’.

The fact was that five days later she was there on time and he turn up 20 minutes late riding a child’s bike. They spent that day together, but then it came the moment that she had to go back to Vienna, Austria, where she was living at the time. Despite the fact he didn’t have a mobile phone, she gave him her number with hope that they’d meet again.

Three weeks later, she turned 30 and her phone rang, was him informing her that he was there, so they spent that day together. They’ve been together ever since.

This story shows that we don´t choose who we love, love doesn’t discriminate and proves that anyone can have a story with a happy ending. At The Future Melting Pot, we think this is a perfect message for Valentine’s Day.

For more information click here for the original article on which this piece is based.

By Gonçalo Grilo

The Future Melting Pot Bags £4,000 from Tesco’s Community Grant Scheme

The Future Melting Pot is pleased to announce it has bagged £4,000 from Tesco’s Bags of Help community grant scheme.

Bags of Help is run in partnership with environmental charity Groundwork, and sees grants awarded to thousands of local community projects every year. Since launching in 2015, it’s provided more than £67 million to over 21,000 local community projects.

Millions of shoppers have voted in Tesco stores up and down the country and it can now be revealed The Future Melting Pot has been awarded £4,000.

Work will now begin on bringing the project to life.

Halt Heartache is a campaign working alongside public services, such as West Midlands Police, West Midlands Fire Service, as well as members of our community such as Ghamkol Sharif Mosque and local schools.

It aims to reduce the number of young people killed or injured on our roads, by involving and upskilling the youth in designing their own preventative programmes, leading to better relationships between public services and the communities.

Estella Edwards, CEO of The Future Melting Pot, said ‘We are delighted to have received this grant from the Bags of Help fund, and we can’t wait to put the money to good use to make the young people in our community safer, healthier and happier’

Voting ran in stores throughout November and December 2018 with customers choosing which local project they would like to get the top award using a token given to them at the checkout.

Tesco customers get the chance to vote for three different groups each time they shop. Every other month, when votes are collected, three groups in each of Tesco’s regions are awarded funding.

Alec Brown, Tesco’s Head of Community, said: “Bags of Help contributes funds to community projects up and down the country and we’ve been overwhelmed by the response from customers voting in their local stores. We’re looking forward to seeing more projects brought to life.”

Groundwork’s National Chief Executive, Graham Duxbury, said:  “Bags of Help continues to enable local communities up and down Britain to improve the local spaces and places that matter to them. The diversity of projects that are being funded shows that local communities have a passion to create something great in their area. We are pleased to be able to be a part of the journey and provide support and encouragement to help local communities thrive.”

In addition, to mark Tesco’s 100th year, they have announced two special voting rounds, Tesco Bags of Help Centenary Grants, in summer and winter 2019 with larger grant amounts available over wider geographic regions. Please look online for more information on if they can support your group either through the normal Bags of Help vote or Tesco Bags of Help Centenary Grants.

Funding is available to community groups and charities looking to fund local projects that bring benefits to communities. Anyone can nominate a project and organisations can apply online. To find out more visit

Homeless Rooms Birmingham: A Collective Answer to Homelessness

Introduction- What is Homeless Rooms Birmingham?

Homeless Rooms Birmingham is a social enterprise set up by two social entrepreneurs, Mark Peters and Lee Blake, to help tackle homelessness in our city by matching homeless people with empty rooms in good-quality supported accommodation. Both have a vast amount of experience working with the displaced in society, particularly young people.

Homeless Rooms aims to provide a safe, secure online platform to match-up empty supported accommodation rooms with those who need them, as well as to improve living standards for those living in insecure accommodation by providing the opportunity to move on to better, more secure housing. 

This will help provide a sustainable solution to the problem of homelessness by ensuring long-term stability and support, assisting the council and other statutory bodies with all the hard work they do to help ensure Birmingham has as little homelessness as possible.

Since the start of 2018, more than 200 applicants have come through the platform, and Homeless Rooms have been able to help more than 50 individuals out of homelessness and sofa surfing and into safe and secure accommodation, with some staying in their new homes for more than 6 months. 

We have been working with Homeless Rooms Birmingham since November 2018, and are enthusiastic about the future of the platform and its potential as a change-making agent in people’s lives locally.

The Collective Response

At The Future Melting Pot, we believe homelessness is a problem that requires a collective response from our city. We have often sought to act as a bridge between different organisations that want to make a difference to an issue but have often lacked the knowledge or connections to know how.

That is why, alongside Homeless Rooms Birmingham, we are working with a wide variety of stakeholders from across the city, representing business, education, the charity sector, housing and local government. We are all united by our desire to make a real dent in homelessness in Birmingham.

We are working alongside various stakeholders, including:

Start Again CIC: a Birmingham-based CIC, Start Again provides housing and support to homeless young people and helps them move on in life.

South and City College Birmingham: Having recently hosted its first annual Homelessness Conference, South and City College Birmingham will be at the forefront of the tackling Homelessness Agenda in 2019, with events planned to include a Soup Kitchen, and students undergoing work placements with Homeless Rooms Birmingham.

Birmingham City Council: Birmingham City Council has provided Homeless Rooms Birmingham with over £5,000 of grants so far, and councillors Ian Ward and Sharon Thompson have backed the platform to form part of the council’s vision to eradicate homelessness in Birmingham.

Business for Birmingham: Business for Birmingham, a community of the city’s business leaders, have a strong track record in raising funds to help tackle homelessness, having recently supported The Future Melting Pot’s homelessness research.

Court Collaboration: Property developer Court Collaboration have a keen interest in homelessness and are supporting the platform with consultative advice and exposure.

Prospects Housing: One of the largest social landlords in the city, Prospects have provided financial support to the platform, and are hopeful that it will fulfil its potential to make a real impact on homelessness in Birmingham

What We Want to Achieve as a Collective

In order to be sustainable, Homeless Rooms Birmingham needs an initial helping hand to get off the ground. Then, it can provide a long-term and sustainable solution to the issues surrounding homelessness in Birmingham for years to come.

Homeless Rooms is good for homeless people, good for landlords, and good for wider society. Nobody wants to live in a society that allows its most vulnerable members to sleep on the street, or in unsuitable bed and breakfasts. Birmingham is better than that. We know that action is needed now, and we know that people from across our community, from government, charities and business, want to do what they can to help fight homelessness. We are passionate about partnership working and collaboration between all these stakeholders.

How we will achieve this

We are looking to use a Crowdfunder to raise the money needed to get the platform fully up and running. We are looking to receive assistance from our partners across Birmingham to raise the necessary funds, which we believe to be £150,000 (to run the platform for a full year). We are confident that if we can raise this money we will be able to house at least 500 homeless people.

Raising these funds will require a joint, collective effort from across the community. We have students from South and City College Birmingham helping with the marketing and promotion of Crowdfunder on social media. The content they create will be shared and promoted by our partners in the business community, Court Collaboration.

We would like all our partners to join in with this collective effort. We aim to create a social media thunderclap when we launch our Crowdfunder, to get the word out about Homeless Rooms across many different social media platforms and through many different networks, so it has as wide a scope as possible. Lets join together to fight homelessness.

Gonçalo Grilo

We have been very fortunate to have had a very talented intern with us on a work placement over the past few weeks. We asked him a few questions about his time working with us.

Who am I?

My name is Gonçalo Grilo and I am a 2nd year University College Birmingham Business Enterprise student, who is currently studying and working on a placement with The Future Melting Pot.

Why did I choose TFMP?

I have always been that type of person who loves helping others, especially when those people really need a hand. Here at the Future Melting Pot, we not only give a hand, but we also give an opportunity for life-changing assistance, with our collaboration with Homeless Rooms Birmingham, which aims to support the homeless with finding accommodation. This, alongside with all the events and campaigns launched by TFMP, made me decide to do a placement with them.

What did I expect before starting my placement?

To be honest, I was a bit nervous at first, thinking that I wouldn’t be able to learn much because it´s always difficult when you’re new at a new place, especially in a different country. I never been in a place like TFMP before, so the only thing that reminded me of them, was all the acts of kindness that I remember of doing through these last years. However, I was at the same time expecting good things about it, such as friendliness and open-minded people.

What did happen after I started my journey with them?

I am now halfway to completing my placement and let me be fully honest, I couldn’t be any happier due to a lot of reasons. Firstly, their friendliness and communication since the interview made me realise how nice, caring and sincere this company and its workers are. Secondly, they´re one of the most hardworking people I have ever worked with, and the curious thing is they can be hard working and at the same time funny, which means that when it is time to work, we work really hard, but when there is any break or any time to kill, they make me laugh and make me feel good. Thirdly but not least, I have still a few more weeks with TFMP but I can already say that I´ve been learning enormously with them.

What have I learnt from the Future Melting Pot?

As a Marketing Assistant, I have been taught how to manage social media marketing, how to create relevant content and schedule it, using online tools, such as Hootsuite publisher, Analytics. I also learnt how to use and promote properly a crowdfunding to incentive people finance our business, as well as formulating and developing marketing strategies, by designing, using tools like mood boards, infographics, charts, etc. The best part is that I still have a few more weeks to learn more things.

Meeting with WMFS Station Commanders on RTC Issue

On 24 January 2019 The Future Melting Pot were delighted to be able to arrange a meeting with several station commanders from WMFS including David Bromley of Ward End Fire Station, Jon Grimshaw of Sheldon Fire Station, Adrian Whitehouse of Hay Mills Fire Station, Dave Hodgkins of Perry Barr Fire Station and Andrew Shakespeare of Highate Fire Station

At the meeting, all the station commanders present agreed that RTCs
(Road Traffic Collisions) were a growing issue in their area that needed to be tackled. With the increasing congestion in the city centre this is an issue that will only become more relevant across 2019 as HS2 and other infrastructure projects accelerate. However away from the city centre and the high profile traffic problems, RTCs remain a real problem in other areas of Birmingham, remaining the leading cause of death among young people aged 16-25 worldwide. With Birmingham renowned as the youngest city in Europe, RTCs must be taken seriously as a real threat to the health and wellbeing of our city’s young people.

Enthusiasm was expressed among the station commanders for the idea for a joined-up preventative campaign across stations, albeit one that was tailored and targeted to each local area. It was agreed that working within communities in key areas, in locations such as colleges and local community groups, would be the best way forward, with The Future Melting Pot ideally placed to act as a bridge between all stakeholders and young people in these communities.

It was a very productive meeting, generating a hopeful feeling that 2019 can be the year in which we can build on the good work done in the past by The Future Melting Pot and West Midlands Fire Service on this vitally important issue. We will post updates on our RTC Prevention work here this year as they come in, and please continue to look out on our social media platforms for more information on our activities.

Our Youth Homelessness Work and Other Projects

As we move into November (with winter well and truly upon us this week), it seems like an ideal time to produce an update on the projects The Future Melting Pot have been working on over the past couple of months, and to look forward to what we can hope to announce in the lead-up to the New Year.

Our work around Youth Homelessness continues, as our team has begun engaging with young people and key workers in the homelessness sector. Through our partners, which include charities – such as Excell3 and St Basils – and statutory organisations such as the Birmingham SEMH Pathfinder, we can access the key testimonies of those who have experienced youth homelessness and the efforts to prevent it. 

We have already visited the King Solomon School’s Parents’ Conference and the Black History Month Cultural Market, to discuss our project with those affected by these issues. Alongside the Pathfinder, we are reaching out to school pastoral leads and young people to hear their stories. We expect to speak to many more people as the research gathers pace, particularly through our work with the SEMH Pathfinder, who we are also working with on an evaluation project looking at the service they provide.

Throughout Birmingham, homelessness is a major priority, whether that is for Andy Street’s West Midlands Combined Authority and its Homelessness Task Force, or Birmingham City Council and Councillor Sharon Thompson’s work on rough sleeping. We at TFMP are committed to continuing to support this agenda as we look to work towards eradicating all types of homelessness from Birmingham for good.

We will also be continuing to support West Midlands Fire Service this Winter, both with their Winter Campaign on Road Safety and in other areas, at all times working together to achieve our shared strategic goals of making the West Midlands a safer, and healthier place for young people. More information about new projects in this area, and our wider progress, will be posted soon.

Tesco Bags of Help Initiative

The Future Melting Pot is bidding to bag a massive cash boost from the Tesco Bags of Help initiative.

Tesco teamed up with Groundwork to launch its community funding scheme, which sees grants of £4,000, £2,000 and £1,000 raised from carrier bag sales in Tesco stores awarded to local community projects.
Three groups in every Tesco region have been shortlisted to receive the cash award and shoppers are being invited to head along to Tesco stores to vote for who they think should take away the top grant.

The Future Melting Pot is one of the groups on the shortlist. Our #HaltHeartache project is a campaign, working alongside communities and their champions, that aims to reduce the number of young people killed or seriously injured on our roads. Voting is open in Tesco stores in Birmingham in November-December and customers will cast their vote using a token given to them at the check-out in store each time they shop.

Tesco’s Bags of Help project has already delivered over £60 million to more than 18,000 projects across Britain. Tesco customers get the chance to vote for three different groups every time they shop. Every other month, when votes are collected, three groups in each of Tesco’s regions will be awarded funding.

Alec Brown, Head of Community at Tesco, said: “Bags of Help has been a fantastic success and we’ve been overwhelmed by the response from customers. It’s such a special scheme because it’s local people who decide how the money will be spent in their community. There are some fantastic projects on the shortlists and we can’t wait to see these come to life in hundreds of communities.”

Groundwork’s National Chief Executive, Graham Duxbury, said: “Bags of Help continues to enable local communities up and down Britain to improve the local spaces and places that matter to them. The diversity of projects that are being funded shows that local communities have a passion to create something great in their area. We are pleased to be able to be a part of the journey and provide support and encouragement to help local communities thrive.”

Funding is available to community groups and charities looking to fund local projects that bring benefits to communities. Anyone can nominate a project and organisations can apply online. To find out more visit

Black History Month: Frank Bailey, Britain’s First Black Firefighter

Frank Bailey was born in Guyana, and, like many other Caribbeans of his generation, came to the UK in the 1950s. Black History Month is rightly seen as a time to celebrate the contributions of Black British people to society, and Frank made a hugely positive contribution to his new country after his arrival. By the 1950s, many of the country’s key workers in vital sectors, such as on the London Transport Network and in nursing, were of Caribbean origin. Frank, however, is particularly remembered for his status as the UK’s first full-time Black Firefighter, a position he took up two years after his arrival in Britain, in 1955.

Despite, shockingly, being told that the fire brigades ‘were not hiring black men because they were not strong enough physically or well enough educated to do the job’, Frank decided to challenge this injustice by applying to join the service. He was accepted, and began working for the West Ham fire brigade in East London. A highly talented firefighter, Frank was also a dedicated trade unionist, and became the Fire Brigades Union’s (FBU) Branch Secretary in his station. However, despite breaking into a previously closed-off profession, Frank still faced discrimination, and left the brigade in 1965, citing the fact that he was consistently passed over for promotion.

While Frank’s subsequent career as a social worker was also very successful, as he broke new ground in becoming one of the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s first black mental welfare officers and psychiatric social workers, it is perhaps his status as a pioneer in the fire brigades that is his most enduring legacy. When he died in 2015, the FBU National Secretary for Black & Ethnic Minority Members Michael Nicholas said that Frank’s “knowledge and passion for black self-organisation and progression in our society remains an inspiration to us today and he is rightly thought of as the father of black firefighting in this country and should not be forgotten”. According to his obituary, until his death Frank had remained a committed follower of African and Caribbean politics and a consistent champion of equality and the rights of working people, particularly black people.

Nowadays, fire brigades such as West Midlands Fire Service, far from not hiring black men, are committed to “actively encourage applications from members of the West Midlands’ black, Asian and ethnic minority communities”, as part of their drive to make the brigade more representative of the area it serves. Since the West Midlands Fire Service changed its approach to recruitment in January 2018, 32% of successful candidates for firefighter roles have been from black or other ethnic minority backgrounds. While much more needs to be done, these are encouraging signs that the discrimination suffered by pioneers such as Frank Bailey was not in vain. The gains that have been made so far have been thanks to the tireless organising and campaigning of black men and women such as Frank, and that is why it is important that we should use the opportunity provided by Black History Month to remember and honour the vital contributions that these people have made to British life.


Frank Bailey: Remembering London’s First Black Firefighter

The Future of Corporate Social Responsibility

Last month, The Future Melting Pot attended a Corporate Social Responsibility summit held at Aston University (for a full report of what happened at the event please click here). The summit was focused on the future of Corporate Social Responsibility, and this is a question which is incredibly important to the whole of the third sector, particularly at a time when funding sources are under increasing strain.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has a mixed history. As was discussed at the summit, there has been a tendency in the past for big corporations to see CSR as merely a box to tick, something they felt they had to do but not something that was approach with real imagination. Lorna Gavin of Law Firm Gowling complained about the tendency to use highly-trained lawyers to paint fences for corporate fundraisers, not an efficient use of their skill-set. Worse, it could be argued that many big companies use CSR to cover up their wider unethical business practices. This is particularly prominent in the environmental sector, and has led to the coining of the term ‘Greenwashing’, meaning a form of corporate spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organisation’s products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.

Clearly, there is potential for CSR to be more than paying lip-service to the idea that company’s have a wider, social responsibility beyond providing large dividends for their shareholders, and more than a clever PR strategy to increase businesses’ marketability to a consuming public that is increasingly concerned to purchase more ethically. Some call for businesses to do much much more: Peter Holbrook, the CEO of Social Enterprise UK, believes that every business should be a social enterprise. This means an organisation that is constituted to operate not just for profit, and not just in a socially responsible way limiting their negative impact, but in such a way that they make an actively positive impact on their local community and the wider environment. Social enterprises have been found to have productivity benefits, alongside recruitment and other positives.

Not everyone would argue that it is possible for all businesses to be social enterprises, however, it is clear that more and more companies are choosing this way of operating, while private businesses are coming under increasing pressure to ensure that their CSR is genuine, effective and not just another box to tick. Summits such as that held at Aston University last month, which bring together people from all sides of the debate across all three sectors, can only be a good thing.