In Your Network: Jack Graham FRSA

Jack GrahamJack Graham FRSA runs a social enterprise called Year Here, which places students into local area initiatives in the UK as part of a gap year project. Find out what drives him:

1) Please give a brief explanation of what it is you do and why?
I run a social enterprise called Year Here. It's a new gap year 'fellowship' that challenges ambitious and entrepreneurial young people to a year of tackling social issues in their own backyard. We've got some brilliant partners – including Citizens UK, Centrepoint, O2 and the RSA itself – and we're launching at Number 10 Downing St. in March.

2) What did you join the Fellowship for?
It's always nice to share ideas with other thinkers and doers and the RSA offers lots of those kinds of opportunities. The breadth of the RSA's interests, and the speakers and partners it attracts, mean that fellows are never short of a chance to have their assumptions challenged, or to be enlightened about new topics.

3) In what capacity do you think you could contribute to society/the Fellowship?
I see my contribution as being in nurturing and enthusing the people we work with, who bring new energy and creativity to frontline services that support the most vulnerable people in society. Once they have built relationships with marginalised people of all backgrounds, tried their hand at developing entrepreneurial solutions to society’s toughest challenges and begun to develop sophisticated professional skills, we believe they will go on to lead social change from all parts of society.

4) What would you change in society given the chance?
I would like to see a different kind of education system where students are encouraged to get out of the classroom to work in business and on social projects. The fear of the traditionalists is that this kind of education would be less rigorous. But I think that grounding education in the realities of life, work and society would give learning new relevance and direction – and become a more powerful and transformative experience as a result.

5) What recent bit of news have you heard which inspires you?
I heard that Teach First, who are one of Year Here's partners, have just become Britain's biggest graduate employer. I think this is a manifestation of a really exciting shift in the attitudes and aspirations of ambitious young people. Purpose, rather than money or security, is becoming the primary driver in the career decisions of so many. That's brilliant news for Britain but we still need to do more to ensure that the highest-potential young people choose to care about the society they live in, and are equipped with the serious skills and insight needed to turn their passion into real social change.

6) What did you learn last week?
Last week we were out and about in Bow for a 'backyard bootcamp' – an immersive event we run for young people who are interested in Year Here. Through conducting street interviews, we learnt about the history of the St Clements Mental Hospital, and former Victorian workhouse, which has become Britain's first urban Community Land Trust. Lots of the people we spoke with had pretty horrible memories of the place but they also seemed to share an optimism for its future use: providing affordable housing and employment opportunities to locals.

7) Tell us about another interesting Fellow you have spoken to.
I've had the pleasure of working with Cynthia Shanmugalingam, who runs London's first kitchen incubator, Kitchenette, for some years. We worked together to run a social enterprise incubator at the Young Foundation and to write Growing Social Ventures. By working with her and some incredible social entrepreneurs like Sandy Campbell and Tom Ravenscroft, I was given a very privileged position to learn from some of the smartest people in social enterprise in Britain.

8) What would you like to connect with Fellows about? Please tell us if there is anything you would like from other Fellows
I would love to connect with Fellows that want to support what we're doing – by offering placements or mentoring opportunities, for example.

You can contact Jack:

By following him on Twitter
On Facebook
Via the Year Here website