Closing our Doors

Our decision to stop running the Year Here Fellowship after ten years

Year Here
Year Here
Published in
9 min readJul 19, 2022


We’ve come to the tough decision to close the Year Here Fellowship by the end of this year. The 2022 cohort will be our last.

Since its founding in 2012, Year Here has been funded in a unique way to give our Fellows frontline experience along with opportunities to innovate inside and outside the system. Our business model engages multiple partners: from frontline institutions like care homes and homeless hostels to the local authorities and national charities that make up our consulting clients, alongside our funders and investors. The diversity of this network has been one of the most enriching features of the experience for our Fellows. But, as a social business, managing multiple sales cycles, grant fundraising, investment and recruitment of Fellows has been really hard.

Our inaugural cohort’s launch at 10 Downing Street in 2013

Covering our costs has been a challenge since day one. Financial difficulties were often overcome by the herculean efforts of our team, working late into the night or over the weekend to keep us on track. We asked huge amounts of our staff and Fellows, and they delivered. Year Here was propped up by their passion. But as we’ve matured as an organisation — appointing a CEO to replace our founder, expanding our board and formalising our team structure — it became clear that we needed to break out of the start-up mode of operation that had kept the engine running for a decade.

We have made strides towards sustainability over the years thanks to partners like Royal London, Asfari Foundation, BNY Mellon and UBS, as well as our ongoing partnership with dozens of frontline institutions across London. But the reality is that we just haven’t got far enough: we are not yet a sustainable social business. Our recent strategic review pointed to the need for a fundamental shift in our model. Weathering a decade of austerity, the pandemic, team changes and a worsening economic climate all made the necessary further changes to our model even tougher. Without financial reserves, we decided that we are not in a position to transform the business responsibly.

“As an alum, venture co-founder and now board member, I have experienced and seen first-hand Year Here’s transformational impact. The experiences, friendships and connections made through Year Here are truly unique, and this is down to the incredible energy, commitment and passion of the Year Here team, faculty and family. While I am so sad that the organisation is drawing to a close, I have no doubt that its legacy will remain and continue to inspire the social innovators of the future.”

— Sneh Jani-Patel, Co-Chair

Sneh Jani-Patel, our co-chair and a 2015/16 Fellow with Ron Healey, an Origin Housing resident

Our leadership team and board have worked thoughtfully and extensively for months to make it work. Sadly, we just weren’t able to find a path forward that felt realistic and responsible. To our partners, investors, funders, faculty, alumni and potential future Fellows: we are sorry that we can’t keep going, keep serving some of London’s most marginalised and disadvantaged communities, keep creating unexpected and important connections, keep sparking new ideas, keep inspiring new careers and launching new social ventures.

Celebrating a decade of social innovation

Despite the sadness of this moment, we are determined to celebrate all that we’ve achieved together and all the ripples of change that have emanated from our organisation over the past ten years.

Since the first 12 Fellows worked into the door of 10 Downing Street to begin their Fellowship, we have recruited 265 people to spend a year testing and building smart solutions to social problems. They include teachers and techies, musicians and management consultants. Our cohorts are diverse in their identities too: 40% of our Fellows are people of colour, and 20% are LGBTQ+, well above national figures. Collectively, they’ve contributed over 160,000 hours of their time at the frontline of inequality in London. On the ground, this looks like Roxana Romero (2021/22) running a climate literacy programme for students at Globe Academy or Simon Jarvis (2020/21) working with Baron’s Court Project to support artists experiencing homelessness to sell their work. Working with our Fellows, we’ve delivered 72 consulting projects like designing a new fund for health activities with the Healthy London Partnership or working with the homelessness charity Crisis to plan how entrepreneurship could accelerate the end of homelessness.

Students in the classroom with 2021/22 Fellow and Climate Minded founder Roxana Romero

Beyond Year Here, our Fellows have flourished as social leaders of every stripe. Two years after graduating from the programme, 90% of them work in social impact roles: managing grassroots projects, developing policy in government, working one-to-one with vulnerable people, leading innovation as consultants and, of course, running social enterprises. The destinations of our alumni are kaleidoscopic, from guerilla greening activists and authors to prospective parliamentarians and global social entrepreneurs. While their social impact is paramount, public recognition of our Fellows through awards and press has been wonderful too. Among our Alumni, 3 have been honoured by The Queen, six have been named in the Forbes 30 under 30, and 20 have been named in the NatWest Women in Social Enterprise list.

“Ten years ago, I could never have imagined all the ways in which people would respond to Year Here’s call to action. Seeing our Fellows and ventures flourish in all their unique ways has been such a joy. I am sad, of course, but I am also so incredibly proud of the people who turned Year Here from an idea on a post-it note into a living, breathing movement powered by purpose and love.”

— Jack Graham, Founder

Collectively, our Fellows have launched over 50 new social enterprises into the world. To date, our venture portfolio has reached over 30,000 people — from care leavers who are all but abandoned by the state to refugees struggling to find work in a new country. Feminist fashion brand Birdsong and youth homelessness charity Settle were two of the earliest to emerge from the Year Here fold. Today, in their 8th year of operations, Birdsong sells clothes in 16 countries paying its low-income women makers a living wage and sending additional profits to the charities that support them. And Settle supports vulnerable young people moving into their first home across 28 local authorities in London and the South East. 100% of the young people they worked with in 2021 sustained their tenancies.

Birdsong employs ethical textile manufacturing company Stitches in Time that empowers long-term unemployed, yet talented women

The venture portfolio tackles so many of the facets of social injustice that persist in Britain today like homelessness, healthcare inequity and refugee underemployment. The thread running through all of them is that they are informed by frontline insight. We advocated for and built a model of venture-building that was not about entrepreneurs making assumptions about how people live but about getting alongside people, about listening and learning before doing anything else.

We are immensely proud of what we achieved together, and we know that the impact of the social leaders who have emerged from Year Here and the organisations they lead and work for will long outlast us. Year Here was once described by Rob Trimble, the CEO of the Bromley By Bow Centre as a ‘gentle tidal wave of social innovation’. While the organisation will end, the tidal wave shows no sign of ebbing.

Sharing what we’ve learnt along the way

We started this endeavour with some cornerstone beliefs that shaped our philosophy and approach. These were a response to the missed opportunities, misguided decisions and outright failings we saw among the institutions focused on public good in Britain. While there has been some progress over the past ten years, we can’t say ‘mission accomplished’. Government, the charity sector and social enterprise still have fundamental problems to address if they are to meaningfully tackle inequality and injustice in the UK. We hope we’ve moved the needle, though. As a result of our efforts, Britain now has more social entrepreneurs coming from a broader set of backgrounds and life experiences who bring frontline insight and innovation skills to their leadership.

In our last few months, we aim to inspire others to take up the mantle and push ahead toward these goals.

2021/22 Fellows Motunrayo and Sean during the Venture Lab phase

We wanted to persuade bright, ambitious people to solve problems that matter by applying the same ingenuity that goes into the latest gaming or social media app into some of the toughest and most overlooked problems in our society: like the social isolation of older people or the vast numbers of families living in temporary accommodation. To people driven by purpose and progress, we argued that social business could be their best shot at impact. We still have enormous faith in social entrepreneurship as a route to national impact and long-term progress. Over the coming weeks, we will work with our partners to share what we’ve learnt with them to keep this effort going through the 2020s and beyond.

From the beginning, we said that solving social problems starts with understanding them deeply. Too many of society’s leaders have had little experience of working directly with people living in tough realities. They try to change the world from ivory towers, disconnected from the people they are intending to help. We said that social change happens with people — not to them, for them or at them. Good design happens when you listen to, collaborate and enable people. We want to inspire other incubators, accelerators and social leadership programmes to get in early in the venture creation process, supporting would-be entrepreneurs to get up close and personal with the problems they’re aiming to tackle before they start building a business in earnest.

And finally, we experimented with a new way of learning. We saw that higher education for social leadership wasn’t fit for purpose and we showed that the best way to learn how to build effective solutions to social problems is to try. We knew that learning didn’t need to happen in a lecture hall, detached from society, but could happen in the real world and have a social impact too.

2022 Fellows taking part in their 24hr Challenge on the Frontline Phase

What comes next

As we wind up operations, we’re being guided by three principles. First, we want to prioritise our team’s wellbeing as they wrap up their time with us. Their commitment have been outstanding, and we will repay that by supporting them to find their next chapter. Secondly, we will centre our Fellows’ experience in every decision we need to make. We’ll use all our creativity and resourcefulness to create a valuable experience for them too. And finally, we will take this moment as an opportunity to be boldly generous in distributing any wisdom that our community has grown, seeding new ideas across the system.

“Year Here has made such an important contribution to social entrepreneurship and the sector over the years. It’s been a privilege to have been a part of this very special organisation. My priority now is to honour and support all that has gone before and is yet to come by closing the business in a way that centres Fellows, supports our team and celebrates the impact and legacy of Year Here.”

— Zoë Stanton, CEO

We will be running a shortened Fellowship for the current 2022 Fellows but will still give each of them the launchpad to build social impact ventures and forge careers with purpose at their heart. More detail on the final few months of delivery will be announced soon.

The first of many Thank Yous

While there will be more time to recognise the extraordinary efforts and achievements of our Fellows, Alumni, team and partners over the coming months, we want to end on a note of gratitude.

Few organisations can last forever propped up by passion. This one lasted a decade, and that’s testament to the tremendous amount of imagination, energy and care that was poured into it. That sense of shared mission and collective volunteerism was Year Here’s magic. For every drop of generosity from every Fellow, colleague, partner, funder and friend, we are immensely grateful.

Thank you.

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Year Here
Year Here

A year to test and build entrepreneurial solutions to society’s toughest problems.