Sunday, 29 April 2007

The Young Foundation

• The School for Social Entrepreneurs was one of the last projects established in 1997 by Michael Young, later known as Lord Dartington, who is credited with being Britain’s most prolific and successful social entrepreneur of the 20th Century.

At the end of World War II, at the early age of 29, Michael Young drafted the 1945 Labour Party manifesto “Let Us Face The Future”, which helped bring Atlee’s reforming Labour government to power. He worked closely with Aneurin Bevan in the Labour government of 1945 to 1951, where he became convinced that successful social innovation was far more likely to come from individuals and communities than from the public sector.

Young set up his Institute of Community Studies at Bethnal Green in London’s East End. From this base, he gave birth to more than fifty organisations devoted to a huge diversity of social projects. These included establishing the Consumers' Association (1957) and their magazine Which?, the Economic and Social Research Council (1965), the Open University (1968), International Alert (1980), the University of the Third Age (1982) and Language Line (1990).

Young was once described as a shaman who sowed “dragons teeth”, then moved on while great organisations sprung up in his stead. When interviewed by Charles Handy (in his 1999 book The New Alchemists) Young simply remarked: “I can’t stop thinking of what appear to be worthwhile ideas. They seem so obvious.”

At the Skoll World Forum, one speaker remembered Michael Young as a social entrepreneur who always took “No” as a question, and who actively sought out objections to his ideas as a method of refining his plans and proposals.
“Michael Young 1915-2002: Social Entrepreneur” by vivian Hutchinson in The Jobs Letter No.161 14 February 2002
Michael Young: Social Entrepreneur by Asa Briggs (book pub 2001 by Palgrave Macmillan)
School for Social Entrepreneurs, Bethnal Green, London — the base for Michael Young’s Institute of Community Studies, from which he developed his extraordinary range of social innovations
— photo Hutchinson