Social Entrepreneurship

Dartington Hall - social justice, sustainability & the arts

It is not often that the 4 of us at Pickwell get away from the Manor all together. It was particularly exciting last week to take a trip together to Dartington Hall near Totnes in South Devon.
In truth we have only recently realised what an incredibly inspiring and influential place we have on our doorstep (well the other side of the county at least!) As we have learnt more of the incredible history of Dartington Hall and its vision for social enterprise and social change we have increasingly recognised what a resource we have here.
Once owned by Henry V111, the 14th Century Dartington Estate had fallen into dereliction until it was bought by Dorothy & Leonard Elmshirst in the 1920’s. They were progressive thinkers with significant wealth to implement their ideas and they established at Dartington a radical experiment in rural living that has helped make Totnes the magnet for creativity and innovation that it remains today.
Today the Dartington Hall Trust is a very broad and stimulating charity with a focus on the arts, social justice and sustainability. What we have found particularly inspiring is the way that it uses its buildings and its commerical enterprises to fund its charitable work in these areas. It also places an exciting emphasis on experimentation, risk and creativity. It is a fascinating social enterprise model!
Some of you may have read that here at Pickwell we hosted our first Social Enterprise week back in November which focused on helping budding social entrepreneurs move their ideas further forward. Dartington Hall is actually the home of the Devon School of Social Enterprise which provides a year long programme to help individuals launch their own social enterprises. Steve and myself were fortunate to attend the graduation of this years students and hear about their exciting enterprises.
Last week’s visit was an opportunity to hear about the amazing range of projects which Dartington nurtures and hosts. This includes the internationally renowned Schumacher College (with its focus on sustainable living); its education and research on social justice; not to mention the incredible music and arts programme which it hosts.
The 1200 acre estate itself is not only vast but genuinely awe inspiring. It has over a million visitors each year and the feel of the grounds, gardens, cafe and shops has some real parallels with Pickwell (if on a much larger scale!).
We were amazed to see that Dartington has the strap line above. With our playeatlaughsleep Pickwell blog we are now concerned that some may think the idea was not entirely original!!
Dartington had a very radical school that was very influential on many liberal / progressive ideas in education and helped establish the small school movement today. Pickwell Manor itself was the venue for a small school under the previous owner which had close links to the small school at Hartland, which was founded by Satish Kumar (who also founded the Schumacher College at Dartington). Small world!
The site of the school at Dartington is currenly being transformed into an exciting residential community for older persons with a vision of what it means to live abundantly in later life.
We are really looking forward to drawing on the inspiration of Dartington as we develop Pickwell..... so I am sure this won't be the last you hear about it!

social enterprise

So, this month, we are at last (after 3 years) getting to fulfil our hope of trying to change the world (a bit). Its the thing that brought us to Pickwell and the thing we find ourselves dreaming about more than anything else.
So the first week of November we had a group who came to dialogue all about social enterprise. Its a subject close to Steve's heart so he had quite a lot to do with the hosting and facilitating through the week, along with his brother Jonny (who put the course together) and Shannon (who has a social enterprise herself and made the week happen).
The group came from London, the Midlands, Kent and Tunisia! Their ideas for social change were as wide ranging as someone wanting to mentor disillusioned young people into a career that will last, through to a very dynamic woman whose mission is to end female genital mutilation in 26 countries!!! Having met her, i actually believe she could do it too.
Through the week they had some general teaching and split into groups to focus on one particular enterprise, examine its mission, vision and values and come up with a short and medium term strategy for its launch.
They had rest time too and really enjoyed our beaches. I joined them for a couple of these times and the conversations simply continued. It was inspiring to be around them.
Steve invited up a couple of local friends on different evenings to share with the group about their own social enterprises. This is Brendan. Brendan and his wife Sarah run Sandleigh Tea Rooms on Baggy Point in Croyde (5 minutes from here). I have blogged about Sandleigh before as its one of our favourite places for a cream tea. It was fascinating to hear about their vision behind their business.
When Brendan was a child he lived in a rural village near Oxford. He spent his childhood playing outside with all the local children, swimming in the streams and generally not being home from dawn to dusk. It sounded idyllic. He left the village and returned when he was in his 20's. When he went back he was shocked to find there were literally no children there. The play park had been dismantled and the areas they had played in had fallen into disrepair. It was as if the soul had been ripped out of the place.
Years later, after much hard work and patience, Brendan and Sarah were given Sandleigh. They run it as a community garden and tea room. The plots they gave away for free to local families with a caveat that if they get a bumper crop of something that they give some to the cafe.
Sarah is the brains behind the cafe and she has made it so atmospheric and the locally sourced food is delicious. They have only been running it for two years but already they have managed to employ a full-time baker for their bread. Their sudden success has taken them by surprise.
They are passionate about community and passionate about raising their children to experience the type of childhood they remember for themselves. Well, they are doing it, and doing it extremely well.

We hope that all those who came on the course can go home and put to good use all that they have learnt here. We very much look forward to hearing their stories as they unfold x