Printing Positive Change in Sheffield
We were delighted and very proud to be voted the national 'Social Enterprise of the Year' at this year’s Homeless Link Excellence Awards. We are so pleased to see the progress of both our Just Works programme, and enterprises like Printed By Us that we have developed though it, recognised.
Right from the get-go we wanted our social enterprise Printed By us to be something that was co-created with the homeless and vulnerable people who are going to be making it all happen and benefit from it. That has been the case in the three years since its inception.
When we gave an intro about the Printed By us idea to a group of beneficiaries at the Cathedral Archer Project, our parent organisation, we openly admitted that we had no idea what we are doing! Thankfully we were collaborating with talented local artists, and had the expertise of Sheffield Print Club to teach us the screen printing skills.
When we were thinking about the Printed By us brand values and visuals – what people should think and feel when they come across anything that we do, we delivered a brand workshop to the same group, to help form the creative direction for creating the Printed By Us brand.
The overwhelming response from the group matched our own instincts. Our brand should espouse the values of the Cathedral Archer Project, and be ethical. In addition we wanted to develop high quality, premium products. We did not want our products to be bought as ‘pity purchases’ just to show solidarity for the cause. We wanted to make products that people wanted, with the social value as an added bonus.
Our first workshop followed soon thereafter. It was great to take a step back and just observe the group working as a team; taking turns, helping each other get the paper correctly aligned, printing, quality checking and then placing the print to dry on the drying racks. In a way, it was like a mini production line, but the room was filled with laughter and positive words – everyone was taking joy in seeing the work of their hands producing the beautiful prints.
It was a long, exhausting day but an incredible first workshop. Everyone enjoyed themselves, learned a new skill and was proud of what they had achieved – which is the real value of the workshops. On top of that, we now had a short run of superb prints ready for the people of Sheffield and beyond to buy to support the project.
"We certainly had our challenges and it required a lot of perseverance, but we got there in the end and created a beautiful print. In the past I've come up against challenges and just given up at the first hurdle, but this has shown me that everyone has challenges and it's good to experience trying to think of creative ways to solve a problem because life never goes smoothly”, said James, one of the printing team at the initial workshop.
In the three years since that first workshop, we’ve run dozens more workshops and produced over 20 different designs.
We’ve expanded into garment printing with a range of T-shirts, hoodies, totes and mugs available through our online shop in addition to the prints.
We’ve developed a custom printing service to businesses, charities, university societies and other organisations who need high quality printing on excellent quality, ethically-made garments.
We’ve developed and refined our model to make it more efficient and marketable.
And, we’ve worked to maximise our social impact through the development of our Just Works Programme, with its three core elements; supported work, mentoring and participation in regular engagement and wellbeing activity.
Through our Just Works Programme, we’ve supported 25 vulnerable adults, many of who had no previous work experience and long histories of substance misuse and offending, into paid employment in a little over three years.
We’ve just been awarded an enterprise development grant: to build our Printed By Us brand, to develop and refine our social franchise model for it, and to support the launch of our first franchisee, St George’s Crypt in Leeds.
We’ve collaborated with many great people through our journey and believe that social franchise is one of the most effective ways other organisations like our own can benefit from others investment in learning and building expertise. Only by working collaboratively and sharing that knowledge can we hope to grow social enterprises like ours to their full potential and maximise our social impact, not just in Sheffield and Leeds, but throughout the UK.
Interested in finding out more?
Contact us through our website here or, even better come speak to our team at the Homeless Link Social Enterprise Conference 2019 on Tuesday 10th September where we’ll be presenting as part of the opening plenary.