It’s hard to take positives out of the austerity which has gripped the UK over the past six years, but that’s exactly what Sophie Unwin has managed to do.
She’s achieved it through Remade in Edinburgh, a multi-award winning social enterprise which teaches participants computer, textile, and repair skills – and cuts waste.
The project was born in part through witnessing unemployment in her former home of London’s Brixton, and a desire to create both jobs and purpose in the lives of others.
That, and the experience of living in a community in Nepal where self-repairing your appliances is often the only option, drove Remade in Edinburgh from a mere idea to a highly successful social enterprise.
Sophie says: “I lived for a year in a village in Nepal and created less than a dustin of rubbish in that entire time. When I saw people not making a living from fixing things, I thought there must be a way to make a business out of it. I wanted to do this through the idea of repair education, so when I moved back to the UK I set up Remade in Brixton.
“In Brixton there’s a lot of inequality, and seeing unemployed people with clear skills was a big motivating factor for me. I saw a guy fixing bikes in his front garden but he couldn’t make a living off it. Social enterprise is about building community and equality – we can all come together. Through living in Nepal and experiencing an entirely different culture, I learned that it’s possible to do things in a different way rather than always buying new.”
Sophie adds: “When I moved to Scotland eight years ago, someone approached me and asked to do Remade in Edinburgh after hearing about the project down south. I held a community meeting, and the project started off as a group of volunteers with £60. Momentum grew, and eventually it needed someone working full-time.
“Now we’ve got the Edinburgh Remakery in Leith which has 10 employees, has diverted over 200 tonnes of waste, and has helped over 1000 people learn to fix computers, furniture and clothes.”
Sophie’s achievements haven’t gone unrecognised, as this month she has been nominated for the Bank of Scotland Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award. After being supported by the bank’s Social Entrepreneur Programme, Sophie is now in with a chance of winning a £10,000 prize to help develop Remade in Edinburgh further.
“When I heard I’d been nominated, I felt excited, and quite humbled as there are so many other fantastic projects. I think that in a way it’s quite hard to compare us all as we’re all doing work that we believe in passionately. We’re the only enterprise from Scotland (on the shortlist), so I’m very proud of that.
“What makes us different is that we’re not just a practical project, we’re also part of a wider call for things to be built to last – a campaign for zero waste as well as one for a more equal society,” Sophie says.
“If we win, the money will go on to create similar community groups for repairing and reusing. We’ll start in Scotland, and ultimately aim to work throughout the UK.
“So far we’ve had interest from Glasgow, Dumfries and Mull. I’d like to refine the model and use it in rural and urban settings. What has taken us five years could take another group two, so they could effectively learn from us.”
Voting closes on Friday (October 28) – if you want to support Sophie and the Remade in Edinburgh team, click here
For more information on Remade in Edinburgh, go here