5 great social projects in Seattle

We head to Seattle to shine a light on great social projects, where gardeners, jelly and and new suits are all playing a part to solve local challenges.

GroundWorks

Over at GroundWorks, the name says it all about their philosophy. Believing that empowerment begins from the ground up (literally) they use gardening skills as a way of Seattle locals taking the power back.

Groundworks was birthed back in 2011 as part of ‘HopeWorks Social Enterprise’, a social hub that helps locals in a myriad of ways in Seattle, where the unemployment is higher than the national average (5.1% compared to average of 4.9%) and there are approx 81,000 unemployed residents.

One way this is being tackled is by hiring previously homeless and long-term unemployed locals for gardening jobs. Locals are trained as landscapers and some of the profits for work done go to fund job training services and aiding homelessness for locals of the Snohomish County. They hope that the cycle of sowing good employment seeds will continue to keep locals in bloom, one rose bush at a time.

www.groundwrks.com

Dress for Success

It’s a widely touted fact that an employer will make a hiring decision within the first seven seconds of meeting you. Whether or not that’s really true, it’s hard to deny that first impressions count. So what do you do if you can’t afford a suit or clean clothes for a job interview? This is the dilemma that hundreds of people from low income backgrounds, or who have been homeless long-term experience.

It’s a problem that Dress for Success noticed and aimed to change. Focusing on women, they encourage Seattle locals to donate ‘gently-used’ clothing and donations via ‘suit drives’ to give women attending job interviews confidence via new ‘accessories, pantyhose, shoes or funds’. The project is volunteer run, and also puts on professional women’s group, social events and encourages networking. They’re making the point that with a bit of community spirit, small helping hands can be life-changing.

www.dressforsuccesss.org

Awesome Seattle

If you can imagine 10 social enterprise fairy godmothers willing to fund new projects in your area, then you get a sense of some of the work that Awesome Seattle do. They, and their ‘awesome’ team, work together to try and boost new business and encourage social enterprise in their community. Each month, budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of 10 trustees who contribute $100 each to a winning social project ($1000 in total). Receivers of the donations can keep the money to start their businesses, and there have been a few great success stories that you might recognise - including Rosie’s Research and Dress for Success!

If you think you’re awesome then you can apply here

RenewWorks

If you’re in Seattle and you need an old chair sprucing up or a decrepit table saved, then you might want to look at Renew, who are making business out of giving new life to discarded objects. The shop exists physically and online, selling used fine home furnishings and gifts, where a portion of the proceeds go to tackling the local housing crisis. Homelessness is a key challenge for Seattle, (where according to the latest count in January 2015, at least 3,772 people spend their nights in the streets of Seattle’s King County).

Renew say that they aim to teach interns real-world employment skills about customer service, inventory management, social media and digital marketing - and how to give an old lamp the Cinderella treatment.

www.renewwrks.com

Rosie’s Research

Rosie’s Research is the brainchild of Erica Saint-Clair, who wanted to open up the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education to a whole new audience, specifically young girls, who are generally underrepresented in the sciences (according to Saint-Clair, the “physics world is 90% male”).

Her project aims to teach the joy of physics through unconventional means, including potato batteries, and most popular with the young people, jello lasers. Saint-Clair uses lasers to project through jelly lenses (which are eaten afterwards) to try and inject fun back into science for young people who are used to book-learned science via the curriculum. She’s setting up after-school workshops anywhere from observatories and libraries to make the point that science can be fun - and, that armed with food colouring and a gelatinous dessert, you can change the way a whole generation sees the world.

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