The Big Idea: Fluency is a learning platform and crowd work marketplace that gets young people into work and connects them with small businesses who need their skills. Sinead Mac Manus FRSA is the CEO and co-founder of Fluency.
I founded the company to solve two big problems: the fact that there are limited work opportunities at the moment for young people, both here in the UK and across Europe, and the lack of digital expertise in small businesses in the UK.
We teach our young people in-demand skills such as how to build a website, how to market a company on social media or how to optimise content for Google. Our learners complete digital challenges and collect badges to demonstrate their learning. But what’s really unique about our platform is that as our learners get mastery in a subject, they become eligible for work on the crowd work platform. In this way they can ‘learn and earn’ at the same time.
The story so far
My background is a digital coach and trainer to small businesses. For the past four years I have been working with them to overcome stresses about engaging in digital and showing them the potential that the web and social media can have for their business. But many of my clients were just too busy to implement much of my advice so I back in 2011 I saw a gap in the market for providing outsourced digital services and, with help from UnLtd and then the Nominet Trust, started training low income women in east London with these skills.
To be honest I never had a passion for working with young people specifically - as a feminist, creating economic opportunities for women and girls was always more my thing. But as I developed this work, I couldn’t ignore that youth unemployment remains stubbornly high here in the UK and is catastrophic in many European countries such as Greece. Spain and Italy. I realised if we don’t provide work opportunities for this generation of young people, then we run the risk of a ‘lost generation’ with knock-on effects in communities for decades. Since starting to work exclusively with young people last year, I have been amazed at their talents and ambition to make a better life for themselves and feel proud if we can help even one young person succeed.
Fluency was accepted onto Bethnal Green Ventures social technology incubator in July and have been building the platform and piloting our work with young people over the last six months. The Catalyst grant from the RSA was amazing and it allowed us to work with a great bunch of young people over the summer - one of whom is now working in our company, one is doing a technology apprenticeship, and the others are interning or in education.
What does the future bring
We are a very young startup but have received lots of recognition from industry and the press. We were finalists in Vator Splash, one of the most prestigious pitching competitions in the US and we won The Challenge Cup in November last year and were voted Best Education Startup in the UK. We have made strategic partnerships with some of the biggest youth charities in the UK such as The Prince’s Trust and are just about to start working with our first 100 young people getting them trained up and working as digital experts. We have grown our team from the original two co-founders to a team of five and are raising investment to bring the team to nine and reach as many young people as we can.
We have a passionate belief at Fluency that we can help some of the 75 million young people around the world who need work. As more people around the world come online and get access to cheap devices, we want to be there providing access to decently paid, online work opportunities, not only in the digital space, but moving into other verticals such as customer service, lead generation and customer support.
How you can get involved
We are always looking for youth partners to get involved. If you or your organisation are helping young people get into work, then please do drop us a line and see how we can help. We are also looking for small business clients for our young trainees, so if you need help with a making a website, managing your social media, or a host of other digital services – then please do get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org. More information can also be found on www.fluency.io.
Sinead Mac Manus FRSA
Follow them at @getfluency
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