Crowdfunding employment training for the homeless

Beam is a social enterprise that crowdfunds job training for homeless people, and supports them into stable, paid work.

Photo of Montana Gerry
2 3

Written by

Eligibility

  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Alex Stephany

Initiative’s representative gender

  • Man

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • UK

Where are you making a difference?

London, UK

Website or social media url(s)

www.beam.org @wearebeam (Twitter, Instagram & Facebook)

When was your organisation founded?

11/2017

Focus areas

  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce

Project Stage

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $1mil - $5mil

Organisation Type

  • For-profit

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

Three years ago, I got to know a homeless man at my local Tube station and would buy him coffees and socks. But despite the well-meaning gestures from myself and no doubt others, his position got worse week by week. I began to ask myself what it would take to make a lasting difference to this man’s life. He'd been out of work longer than he could recall. For me, the answer surely lay in empowering him with the skills needed to sustainably support himself. Of course, that would cost far more than coffees. But what if everyone chipped in? The idea of crowdfunding employment training for homeless people was born. Over the following nine months, I developed the operational model by working directly with homeless people and charities.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

Homelessness in the UK is at a crisis point. There are 320,000 homeless people in the UK, a rise of 60% since 2011. Most of these people are living in homeless hostels and other types of emergency accommodation, facing numerous financial barriers that stop them from getting into well-paid work - e.g. the costs of training, equipment, childcare, as well as lack of support networks and lack of confidence.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Beam is an online crowdfunding platform that allows members of the public to fund training courses and professional qualifications for homeless people, and remove any other financial barrier to work that they face. Each homeless individual is given a dedicated case worker, who creates a bespoke employment plan for them and supports them through training and into stable, paid work. Support also comes from members of the public who donate and leave messages of encouragement, which massively boosts their confidence. Stable, paid work then provides the foundations from which homeless individuals can move into their own homes and rebuild their lives. 80% of Beam’s service users move into work, and the average salary of those employed is £28,000 - well above the London Living Wage.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

Beam is the world’s first crowdfunding platform supporting homeless people into work. Each individual has a personalised budget that removes the precise financial barriers they face e.g childcare for single parents. Our tech is built for transparency and scale. Itemised budgets show exactly where donations go and we’ve processed over 26,000 donations with zero marketing spend. We publish real-time data on our impact (https://beam.org/transparency) and are building pioneering tech for the homeless population themselves, through online peer networks. We allow governments to use “payment-by-results" to support disadvantaged people into work, delivering significant taxpayer savings.

5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

Beam is directly connecting homeless people with vetted, high-quality training providers. We have helped homeless people to train up in more than 50 different career paths (https://beam.org/career-pathways). We validate the employer demand for each career pathway to ensure that a) there is demand for skilled employees, b) the qualifications will lead directly to employment, c) pursuing this career path would make them financially better off (vs if they remained on benefits). We also fund basic smartphones and laptops for participants so their Beam caseworker can help them to upskill in their use of technology. We help with interview preparation, CV writing and liaise with a number of employers on their behalf so that they're equipped to secure a job and enter the workplace.

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

Beam is primarily focused on training people in sectors facing skills shortages e.g. construction, healthcare and hospitality. However, we aim to grow the number of careers paths we fund and are supported a number of future-oriented skills pathways such as smart home technician - https://beam.org/campaigns/tommy-smart-home-technician-training - and cyber security officer -https://beam.org/campaigns/Eric-cyber-security-officer-training. We track all outcomes on our transparency dashboard, which can be used to measure progress across different career paths: https://beam.org/transparency

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Unlike other unemployment services, Beam tailors an individual's career plan to their specific goals and aspirations, rather than support people into 'any old job'. We have a hybrid crowdfunding and services model - we don't just raise funds, but also offer a personalised, human-led service through our dedicated case-workers. Beam is inherently collaborative: while unique, we work alongside charities and governments whilst bringing in the support of the public and employers. We join the dots to create a tech-led solution where everyone can play to their strengths.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Since launching in November 2017, we've crowdfunded training for 216 homeless people, successfully funding 100% of campaigns through £800k of donations. We have 5,000 supporters, 1000 of which are now monthly givers. We've supported 70 homeless people into stable, paid work - with many more still in training. We're partnered with more than 35 different charities, signed 6 local authority contracts, and grown the Beam team to 17 people. But Beam's impact is best told by the stories of people we support. Take Javad, a refugee from Iran who fled religious persecution. Javad arrived in the UK in the back of a lorry, unable to speak English. When he got his leave to remain, Beam helped him train as a digger operator. He's now earning £30k/year. His story in The Guardian: http://bit.ly/2wbP9

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

Through existing government revenues - the vast majority of Beam's costs are currently met by government contracts, foundations, and HNWs. We have 6 local and 2 central government contracts in place and plan to grow these in the short-term. We've also been approached by numerous cities interested in commissioning Beam and plan to scale to more cities in the UK in the medium-term, as well as launch internationally. In addition, we'll grow our service revenues: two-thirds of donors choose to leave a service fee, contributing to our overheads. Lastly, we are in the process of building a new recruitment service and thereby growing revenue by charging employers who hire from our talent pipeline.

10. Team

In addition to the CEO & founder, we have a 17-strong full-time team across operations, tech, marketing and partnerships. COO - leads on delivery of public sector contracts; Head of Operations - oversees 9-person strong Mission Support team (responsible for front-line work with homeless members); Head of Finance; Head of Engineering - website & product; Head of PR; Marketing Manager; Partnerships manager - employer partnerships; Talent associate - placing members into roles.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Email

11. Bring it to life: Please walk us through a concrete example of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address

Each person we work with is recommended by a charity or local authority. For example, Adam, who was referred to Beam by Kairos. Together with Seb, his Beam caseworker, he created an employment plan - he was keen to pursue bricklaying. Beam helped him to prepare his campaign to share his story and budget broken down to the nearest pound. 428 supporters helped Adam raise £3,545 in 30 days and sent him encouraging messages to help boost his confidence! Adam’s caseworker, Seb, then paid for his training, tools and laptop for job applications, and helped him secure a stable job as a bricklayer through CV and interview prep. Many beneficiaries then choose to give back - either through mentorship or donating to new campaigns. Adam has offered to provide work experience to other Beam bricklayers.

12. Skills Matching: HSBC Employees will have the opportunity to offer skilled-volunteering. If matched, which of the following skills would you be most interested in receiving?

  • Monitoring Impact
  • Legal Services
  • Brand Development

13. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

Earned income:  21%

Individual donations or gifts: 6%

Foundation or NGO grants: 34%

Debt granted by individual: 39%


14. Financial Sustainability – please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project over the next 12 months.

Our current financial position is strong with 15 months of runway, ensuring we can remain operating during and after Covid-19. We anticipate an even greater demand for our service and have seen increased public will to offer support. Beam’s solution to homelessness is roughly 20x more cost-effective than current government models. In our first round of government contracts, we charged £800 for supporting a person into work. Thanks to positive results, we’re able to charge higher rates going forward, still providing good value for money for the Taxpayer. We plan to grow revenues by 93% this year to £831k. In March alone, we received payment for 21% of this projected revenue. New growth will come from signing more local authority customers; renewing contracts; opening in new cities; new revenue streams through an internal recruitment business; and growing donation volume.

15. Growth Strategy: What are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

Our growth strategy encompasses three key steps: 

Diversity Recruitment: This year, we’ll launch ‘Beam Recruit’, placing candidates within socially responsible companies. Recruitment revenues will significantly enhance Beam’s long-term sustainability. 

Geographic expansion: Our flexible model can be deployed in new cities. We’re already in discussion with Bristol and Manchester about delivery in 2021. We plan to expand globally in 2022, with confirmed interest from Jersey City. 

Demographic expansion: By 2023, we’ll serve other excluded communities - including refugees and ex-offenders. 

16. Activating changemakers: How are you giving people the power to control their own destiny and support other people to become changemakers in their communities?

Our beneficiaries actively challenge negative stereotypes around homelessness and inspire others who are in the same situation. Their positive action creates life-changing results. 

The public (often at a loss as to how best to help someone who is homeless) can now use a simple, transparent solution to support someone in need to make this long-term change. 

Lastly, we make it easy for employers to champion diversity by hiring from our talent pool of motivated, work-ready candidates. 

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

Beam has won 11 awards so far that including the 2018 London Homelessness Awards, The Europas ‘Hottest Tech for Good in Europe’, and MIT’s Best Financial Inclusion Innovation in Europe. Beam’s founder, Alex Stephany, has also been awarded Best Social Entrepreneur in the UK. You can the full list here: https://beam.org/awards

18. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project

Beam is an inherently collaborative service, working with the public, charities and the government who commission our service. To reach new communities, we would be keen to be introduced to key contacts working in different cities.

As we begin to roll out ‘Beam Recruit’, we are keen to collaborate with more socially responsible employers in a wide range of sectors. This would hugely enhance Beam’s impact, allowing us to match our beneficiaries with suitable work even more quickly. 

Finally - Your Selfie Elevator Pitch: Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.

2 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Spam
Photo of Sirvard Atanesyan
Team

I love the overall idea of your project! And who are the professionals who take care of the homeless people education? Are they volunteering?

Thank you very much

Spam
Photo of Montana Gerry
Team

Thanks Sirvard! Each homeless person gets a dedicated case worker, who is an employee of Beam. Beam's case workers support the homeless people on their journey through training and into work. They do everything from conducting safety & wellbeing checks in the initial stages to helping them to apply for jobs and update their CVs. The case workers don't deliver the training themselves - this is done by an external vetted training provider, depending on the career path the homeless person has chosen. Hope this answers your question! Thanks so much for showing an interest :)