Glasgow Caledonian University
Fuse Café’s innovation is project-driven. Having highlighted a lack of attainment and recognition as a key issue for young people in the area they provide young people with a variety of project-driven programmes designed to provide them with qualifications. Central to this is the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF for short). Designed as a lifelong learning framework, attendees are able to achieve SCQF certificates up to level 4 in programmes delivered together with a local college. For FYC outreach programmes with local schools are essential, the organisation relies on funding from the Scottish Government through the people and communities fund (PCF) in order to provide these services. By securing funding Gerry and his team can continue to provide free services to local children and young people.
Gerry highlighted the importance of parental engagement in the success of these projects. Fuse Café’s ethos is to permanently support sustainable community transformation and engagement, rather than simply delivering some services and leaving before the impact is clear. To assist with this, they have developed a system called Upshot, a comprehensive database of all members that pass through the service. They are able to track attendees’ progression in great detail, including the number of hours spent at the service, improvements and dips in behaviour, classes attended and qualifications achieved. They use this information to qualify their bids for funding and future projects, as it provides them with hard evidence of their ability to improve lives.
In the future, Fuse Café hope to generate up to 50% of their revenue through these commercial projects. They aim to employ a business development manager to facilitate this growth, however Gerry was also quick to add that they do not do projects as “money grabs” – they have turned down many offers in the past that do not take a long-term view.
Initially a joint venture between the local housing association and police department (under the name of B.E.E.T., or Bringing East End Together), Fuse Café was set up to meet the community’s need for a safe space for young people to keep them off the streets. Gerry pointed out that the only amenities available in a quarter mile radius were a betting shop, a cake shop, a kebab shop and a fish and chips shop, alongside three pubs and an ale bar!
The opportunity arose when a local pub was closed down by the Local Council due to a shooting. Gerry noted the slight irony of opening a youth service in an area dealing with issues of alcohol abuse and violence in this setting.
“The history is a mutual need for a youth project, it’s kind of ironic that it’s in a pub that used to cause some of the issues and now we're here trying to still deal with some of the issues from alcohol to drugs and other things.”
As previously mentioned, Fuse Café doesn’t simply aim to offer a youth service. They are driven by a desire to improve the community as a whole, hoping to bring together kids, schools, parents and the council through their work. They have several parents sitting on the board of the charitable side of the business, and the evidence seems to point at them succeeding in this desire.
Gerry provided us with a concrete example of how their innovation has helped develop individuals, recounting a case of a particular young person with a highly challenging background. This individual had a keen interest in fitness and sports, and through Fuse Café was able to deliver a fitness workshop at a local school. This resulted in a highly positive response from both the young person delivering and the school. This workshop is currently one of six workshops being run by young people at Fuse Café, alongside beauty, photography, science, cooking and music.
Beyond providing workshops, Fuse Café currently also has six volunteers signed up to the Youth Achievement Awards, a further individual learning framework for young people over the age of 14. They regularly host awards ceremonies to celebrate attendees’ achievements and further a sense of attainment and recognition.
This has resulted in Fuse becoming what Gerry describes as 'a family'. They have created an atmosphere young people are comfortable coming into, where they can come up with ideas, and develop these into something tangible. He also stressed the importance of their staff providing a listening ear in this comfortable, safe environment, placing Fuse Café as a kind of surrogate, somewhere in between parent and school. Attendees feel secure in talking about difficult topics such as sex and drugs at Fuse Café, something they may not feel able to do at home.
Fuse Café employs 25 staff and 15 volunteers, whose role is to provide support to the young people of Shettleston. The organisation has an annual turnover of over £380,000. The income Fuse can generate itself is largely limited to contracts with schools. 80% of the funding for the organisation comes from funding bids, which Gerry states are becoming harder and harder to secure due to public spending cuts. Gerry states at the moment the organisation is entrepreneurial without the resources, so as a result the organisation is working towards the development of their own business development unit, which would allow them to generate income in different ways.
The area of Shettleston has a long history with crime, drugs, social exclusion and poverty, with one of the lowest live expectancy rates in the city of Glasgow. The lack of opportunity in the area makes the role of the team at Fuse Café even more important. Fuse Café is about more than providing the kids of the east end of Glasgow with a place to go to after school. It is about equipping the young people who attend with more self-belief, more life skills, more opportunities and more value.
With 25-45 juniors attending the café at any one time, the staff at Fuse have made it their mission to not only provide a safe and fun environment but also a place to learn valuable life skills and increase life opportunities. One of the biggest issues affecting the young people he interacts with is social isolation, with many choosing to lock themselves in their bedrooms in front of a computer rather than socialise. This gives kids a place where they can socialise by learning to cook, learning a musical instrument, making new friends, growing in confidence and thinking about their future.
The work that Fuse does by starting the café is helping to tackle the crime count in the area by recognising the importance of attainment and engagement. Gerry and his staff value the kids that attend the café, they place extra emphasis on being there and listening to each young person, “feeling valued” is the key to helping young people make positive decisions and changes in their life. In essence the role of Fuse Café in the east end of Glasgow is about helping to creating sustainable lives and equal opportunities for young people from a disadvantaged area.
Gerry Baldwin, Chief Executive
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Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Business Website: https://www.fuseonline.org.uk/
Year Founded: 2005
Number of Employees: 11 to 50