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  • Kasim Tariq

Social Enterprise, Action & Design: Transforming Bradford Through Fayakunu



Visiting My Old Stomping Ground


Recently, I had the incredible honour of returning to Coventry University, where my own journey in design and social enterprise began. Invited by my esteemed tutors, Heidi and Richard, I had the privilege of delivering a lecture titled “Social Enterprise, Action & Design” to the current students. Standing before the class I once attended, I felt a profound sense of nostalgia and gratitude. This lecture was an opportunity to share the transformative journey of Fayakunu and inspire the next generation of designers to see beyond traditional boundaries and embrace the powerful potential of social enterprise.


Discovering Ikigai: The Intersection of Passion and Purpose


At the core of my philosophy lies the profound concept of Ikigai, a Japanese term that translates to “a reason for being.” It represents the convergence of passion, mission, vocation, and profession, leading to a fulfilling life of purpose and growth. For me, Ikigai is not just a philosophical idea but a practical guide that informs both my personal journey and professional endeavours at Fayakunu. It emphasises the importance of building harmonious relationships that align with one’s core values, achieving a state of creative flow in work and hobbies, and finding gratitude in helping others.


Ikigai at Fayakunu is about fostering connection and harmony. It involves creating environments where small joys are cherished, daily rituals are performed with mindfulness, and every individual’s contribution is valued and nurtured. This philosophy is intricately woven into the fabric of Fayakunu, guiding our mission and actions. By encouraging others to find their Ikigai, we cultivate a culture of purpose-driven action, where collective goals are met through individual fulfilment, leading to a more cohesive and vibrant community.


The Essence of Social Enterprise



In an era where the relentless pursuit of profit often eclipses ethical considerations, social enterprises emerge as beacons of hope and integrity. At Fayakunu, our operations are driven not by the desire for maximum financial gain but by a commitment to creating social or environmental value. This model is built on several fundamental principles that ensure our efforts are always aligned with our broader mission of community upliftment and sustainability. 


The primary purpose of Fayakunu is both social and environmental. This dual focus ensures that our actions benefit the community and preserve the environment. The profits we generate are not directed towards personal gain but are reinvested to further our mission, creating a sustainable cycle of growth and impact. This reinvestment is crucial as it allows us to expand our reach, develop new initiatives, and continuously improve our offerings.


Governance at Fayakunu is participative, involving stakeholders in decision-making processes. This inclusive approach ensures that the community’s needs and voices are heard and addressed, fostering a sense of ownership and accountability. We also embrace impact investing principles, where financial returns are coupled with measurable positive impacts on society and the environment. This approach attracts like-minded investors who are not just looking for monetary returns but also want to make a meaningful difference.


The essence of social enterprise at Fayakunu is about creating lasting change. It is about building a business model that is not only profitable but also ethical and sustainable. This model serves as a blueprint for other organisations, demonstrating that it is possible to run a successful business while staying true to one’s values and making a significant social impact. 



Redefining Design: Social Design as a Catalyst for Change


Design, traditionally seen through the lens of aesthetics and functionality, takes on a deeper meaning in the context of social impact. My vision of social design at Fayakunu goes beyond these conventional boundaries, positioning design as a powerful tool for societal transformation. Social design, as defined by the European Union and echoed in our practices, is about being acutely aware of the designer’s role in society and using the design process to foster meaningful, positive change.


At Fayakunu, social design is not just a concept but a core practice. It involves creating environments that connect people, foster genuine relationships, and build community cohesion. This connection is not superficial; it is about designing spaces and experiences that resonate deeply with individuals and groups, creating a sense of belonging and purpose.


Social design recognises the importance of diverse approaches to addressing social issues. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and we embrace a variety of methods and perspectives to tackle the unique challenges faced by the communities we serve. This inclusivity ensures that our solutions are relevant and effective, tailored to the specific needs and contexts of the people involved.


A fundamental aspect of social design is its human-centred approach. This focuses on understanding and addressing the needs, behaviours, and experiences of the people for whom the design is intended. By integrating technical systems with human-centred methodologies, we create solutions that are both innovative and empathetic, enhancing the quality of life for the community.


Our process of rearranging and reconfiguring the environment is about looking at the world with fresh eyes and identifying ways to improve and adapt physical spaces to better serve the community. Whether it involves redesigning public spaces to make them more inclusive or developing sustainable housing solutions, our goal is to create environments that positively impact people’s lives.


At Fayakunu, we also question traditional design practices and challenge the status quo. This critical approach ensures that our designs are not only effective but also ethical and responsible. By considering political, systemic, and environmental contexts, we strive to create designs that are aware of their broader impact and aim to prevent adverse outcomes.


In essence, social design at Fayakunu is about making things better for people. It’s about creating positive social change through thoughtful, inclusive, and responsible design practices. This vision is not only inspiring but also necessary in today’s world, where the challenges we face require innovative and empathetic solutions.

 

Fayakunu’s Mission: Bridging Gaps and Building Futures


At Fayakunu, our mission is clear: to engage underserved communities through art, education, and social enterprise. We believe that by providing opportunities for creative expression and vocational training, we can empower individuals and foster community development. Our hybrid studio model combines heritage arts with STEM sciences, offering workshops in pottery, woodworking, and sustainable technologies.


Our approach is rooted in inclusivity and accessibility. We strive to make our programmes available to everyone, regardless of their background or financial situation. By subsidising costs for those from challenging backgrounds, we ensure equal access to these opportunities. This model not only supports individual growth but also strengthens the community as a whole. 





A significant part of our strategy involves aligning our initiatives with Bradford Council’s “Culture is Our Plan” project. This ambitious programme is designed to transform the cultural landscape of Bradford by enhancing arts and cultural activities, creating jobs, and preserving the city’s heritage. By aligning our efforts with these goals, we ensure that our work supports and amplifies the broader objectives of the council.


Cultural Initiatives: “Culture is Our Plan”


“Culture is Our Plan” is a visionary initiative by Bradford Council aimed at revitalising the city through culture and the arts. At Fayakunu, we have embraced this plan wholeheartedly, ensuring that our projects and goals are in harmony with the council’s objectives. This alignment allows us to contribute effectively to the cultural renaissance of Bradford while advancing our mission of social enterprise.


One of the core objectives of “Culture is Our Plan” is to educate and engage young people in Bradford’s cultural heritage. We support this by providing every primary-age child in the district the opportunity to learn about the city’s history through co-created curricula and hands-on workshops. This educational focus not only preserves local stories but also instils a sense of pride and belonging in the younger generation.


Increasing the number, range, and ambition of arts, culture, and heritage activities is another key goal of the council’s plan. At Fayakunu, we work towards this by offering a diverse array of workshops and programmes that celebrate both traditional and contemporary arts. Our hybrid studio model, which blends heritage arts with modern technologies, serves as a platform for this cultural expansion, creating new opportunities for artistic expression and economic activity.


We also support the council’s aim to realise capital projects that rehouse, reimagine, and repurpose Bradford’s cultural and heritage assets. Our initiatives include developing sustainable infrastructure for cultural activities, such as creating green spaces and establishing workshops that serve as community hubs. These projects not only enhance the city’s cultural landscape but also provide vital resources for community engagement and development.


Adopting the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals is a central aspect of “Culture is Our Plan,” and Fayakunu is committed to these principles as well. We measure our success not only in terms of cultural impact but also through our contributions to equality, decent jobs, education, well-being, and poverty reduction. Our programmes are designed to address these goals, ensuring that our work supports a broader agenda of sustainable development.


By regularly engaging 70% of the district’s residents in arts, culture, and heritage activities, we aim to foster a vibrant and active community. Fayakunu’s inclusive approach ensures that people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to participate in and benefit from our initiatives. This widespread engagement is crucial for building a strong, cohesive community that values and supports its cultural heritage.


The Dynamics of Social Action


Understanding the motivations behind social action is crucial for the success of any social enterprise. At Fayakunu, we delve deep into these dynamics, exploring the various factors that drive human behaviour and how they can be harnessed to foster community engagement and support. Social action is multifaceted, influenced by purpose, values, emotions, and traditions.


Purposeful action is a key driver of social behaviour. People are more likely to take action when they see a clear and rational purpose aligned with their goals. At Fayakunu, we leverage this principle by clearly articulating the mission and objectives of each initiative. By demonstrating how these efforts contribute to the greater good and align with the community’s goals, we motivate individuals to get involved and support our cause.


Value-based action is another significant factor. Actions driven by values are deeply rooted in what individuals believe to be right and important. We tap into this by aligning our projects with the core values of the community. Whether promoting sustainability, fostering inclusivity, or preserving cultural heritage, we ensure that our initiatives resonate with the values of those we seek to engage. This alignment not only inspires action but also builds a sense of trust and loyalty among community members.


Emotional factors also play a crucial role in driving social action. Actions based on emotions can be powerful, as they are often driven by personal experiences and connections. We create emotionally engaging projects that resonate with the community’s experiences and aspirations. By sharing stories, celebrating successes, and acknowledging challenges, we foster an emotional connection that motivates people to take action.


Traditional action, influenced by customs, habits, and the status quo, is another dimension of social behaviour. Understanding and respecting these traditional modes of action is essential for gaining community support. We incorporate traditional elements into our projects, ensuring they are culturally relevant and respectful of the community’s heritage. This approach honours the past while bridging the gap between tradition and modernity, creating a sense of continuity and belonging.


Our approach to social action is comprehensive, considering a range of factors including the political, legal, cultural, social, and institutional environments. By conducting thorough analyses and identifying potential alignments and challenges, we formulate strategies that are well-informed and effective. This strategic approach ensures that our initiatives are impactful and sustainable in the long run.


The dynamics of social action at Fayakunu are about more than just understanding why people take action. It’s about creating an environment where action is encouraged, supported, and sustained. By tapping into the various drivers of social behaviour, we build a strong foundation for community engagement and collective impact.


Analysing Bradford: Challenges and Opportunities


Bradford, with its rich history and diverse population, serves as both a canvas and a crucible for social enterprise. My analysis of Bradford reveals a city with deep-rooted challenges but also immense potential for transformation. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for Fayakunu’s mission to engage and uplift the community through art, education, and social enterprise.


One of the primary challenges identified is the societal disconnect from nature. Urban environments often lead to a disconnection from the natural world, impacting mental health and well-being. At Fayakunu, we address this by integrating nature into our designs and projects, creating green spaces and promoting sustainability. These efforts help reconnect people with nature, fostering a sense of peace and balance.


Another challenge is the lack of facilities for culture and art. Bradford has a vibrant cultural heritage, but access to cultural and artistic activities is limited for many residents. Fayakunu’s initiatives aim to bridge this gap by providing workshops and spaces for cultural expression. Our hybrid studio model combines heritage arts with modern technologies, offering a platform for both traditional and contemporary artistic practices.


Societal disconnect from self and lack of confidence are also significant issues. Many individuals in Bradford struggle with self-identity and confidence due to various socio-economic factors. Our projects at Fayakunu are designed to empower individuals, helping them discover their potential and build self-confidence through creative and vocational training. By providing opportunities for personal and professional growth, we help individuals reconnect with themselves and their communities.


Ethnic and intergenerational gaps are prevalent in Bradford. The city’s diverse population includes various ethnic communities that often remain segregated. Our initiatives promote inclusivity and intergenerational knowledge sharing, fostering a sense of unity and mutual respect. By creating spaces for dialogue and collaboration, we bridge these gaps and build a more cohesive community.




Why the World needs Social Designers?


The challenges in Bradford are numerous, but they are not insurmountable. At Fayakunu, we see these challenges as opportunities for transformative change. By addressing these issues head-on and aligning our efforts with Bradford Council’s “Culture is Our Plan,” we aim to create a more inclusive, connected, and vibrant community in Bradford. Our mission is not only to provide immediate solutions but to build a foundation for long-term growth and development, ensuring that the city’s cultural and social fabric is strengthened for generations to come.


In an era marked by global turmoil and environmental challenges, social design’s importance is paramount. As highlighted, “With the world in turmoil, social design has never been more important.” This underscores the critical role of social design in addressing today’s complex issues.


At Fayakunu, we embrace this ethos. Our mission to engage underserved communities through art, education, and social enterprise exemplifies social design’s transformative power. By aligning with Bradford Council’s “Culture is Our Plan” and the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, we commit to creating lasting positive change.


Each of us can contribute to this journey. Through small acts of creativity, community engagement, and sustainable practices, we can build a more equitable and resilient world. The challenges we face are significant, but by embracing social design principles, we can work together for a brighter future.


In conclusion, Fayakunu’s work demonstrates social design’s power to transform lives and communities. Let us push boundaries, challenge the status quo, and create designs that meet today’s needs while paving the way for a sustainable and inclusive tomorrow.




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