Year Here

A community of social entrepreneurs
tackling Britain’s toughest social problems
A community of social entrepreneurs
tackling Britain’s toughest social problems

A decade of social innovation

From an idea for London, a movement was born.

For ten years, the Year Here Fellowship challenged entrepreneurial people to spend a year testing and building smart solutions to entrenched social problems. Year Here recruited 276 Fellows into 16 cohorts. Collectively, our Fellows launched over 50 new social ventures.

Whether they went on to become social venture founders, innovation consultants, activists, politicians or frontline specialists, they respond to the same call to action: to get off the sidelines and build solutions to some of our toughest social challenges.

In 2022, we closed our doors to new Fellows and started a new chapter. Today we are a powerful movement of leaders resisting the scourge of inequality in the UK through entrepreneurship, collective action and advocacy.

Growing Social Ventures

Where are the next generation of social entrepreneurs going to come from? This was the question raised by Growing Social Ventures, a report co-written by our founder, Jack Graham. That question sowed the seed for what was to become Year Here.



An Idea for London

Our founder Jack won an Evening Standard competition for Londoners with ideas to transform the capital. The prize was one night in a unique location: an architectural installation atop the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Jack brought together guests to discuss the idea including David Cohen, the paper’s Campaigns Editor, and Jude Kelly CBE from the Southbank Centre.

“Year Here taps into the longings of most people to make a difference not just somewhere in the world but in the place that they know best and where they’ll continue to live. Most of all, Year Here enables the vague confused desire to improve society and makes it tangible and practical.”

Alain de Botton, philosopher and Ideas for London judge.

The Inaugural Cohort

In March 2013, 12 people were selected to become Year Here’s first Fellows. Launched at 10 Downing Street, the first Year Here Fellowship focussed on educational inequity, homelessness, and the isolation of older people.

Hackney Human Library

In July, our faculty lead Sophie Howarth challenged the 2013 Fellows to create a 'Human Library' in Hackney Town Hall Square – in just 24 hours. 

The event was crafted to build community bonds and counter prejudice. Participants had 30 minute one-to-one conversations with strangers, either playing the role of ‘books’ to be read or ‘readers’ asking questions.



Radical Recognition

The Observer newspaper and Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, named Year Here as one of Britain’s 50 New Radicals.

The list profiled inspirational Britons improving the lives of people and communities across the country in radical and creative ways.

Future lists went on to feature many of our Fellows and ventures.



First Ventures

Our second cohort of Fellows produced two of the earliest members of our venture portfolio.

Settle was founded to break the cycle of youth homelessness by supporting vulnerable young people to settle into their first home.

Birdsong, founded by three Fellows who had been placed in women’s services as part of their Fellowship, is an ethical fashion brand selling clothes handcrafted by London women and ploughing revenue back into women’s groups.

First Bursaries Offered

To Fellows in our third cohort, we were able to offer direct financial support for the first time. Along with our unique partnership with Dot Dot Dot Property Guardians, this enabled us to widen access to the Fellowship. Dozens of Fellows went on to receive bursaries and discounted accommodation. 

Later, we launched the Year Here Foundation to grow these efforts. Josh Babarinde, the first recipient of a Year Here bursary, became the Foundation’s founding chair.

Big Venture Challenge win

Year Here won UnLtd’s Big Venture Challenge and secured investment from the Centre for Innovation in Voluntary Action. This enabled us to start running two cohorts per year, recruiting around 40 Fellows annually.

Higher Education, Reimagined

As we grew, our model gained recognition as an alternative to traditional postgrad programmes. As Sir Geoff Mulgan, Professor of Social Innovation at University College London, explained:

“Year Here is unconventional as it has no lecture halls, no teachers and no fee – because Fellows create value for external institutions who cover the costs of the programme.”



All eyes on our ventures

By 2017, our ventures were starting to make serious waves. Over the next few years, they would be named six times in the Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list and twelve times in the Women in Social Enterprise list. They would win Social Enterprise of the Year from both the Evening Standard and the Centre for Social Justice. And, most importantly, they would work with 100s of vulnerable people across the country.

Read more about Fat Macy’s in Vice, Migrateful in The Financial Times, Cracked It in The Guardian, Chatterbox in BBC News, Birdsong in Vogue, and Supply Change in Raconteur.

London Fields
Two Fellows learning in the Year Here studio in London Fields

In 2017, we put down roots at our gorgeous social innovation studio in London Fields, which became home for four years. Many a summer’s evening was spent in the park, brainstorming new ventures or unwinding after an intensive training bootcamp.

Kevin Chang (1994 - 2018)

We received the tragic news of Kevin Chang’s death in April 2018.

He had graduated from Year Here, beloved by his cohort, just a few months before.

To honour his memory, we launched the Kevin Chang Award to celebrate a Fellow who, like Kevin, demonstrated authentic leadership.



Breathless Olympics

24 Hour Challenges were a Year Here institution. Given little more than a creative format and a small budget, Fellows drove voter engagement in Barking & Dagenham, brought Detroit's Sunday Soup movement to the East End and celebrated Camden’s response to the pandemic. 

In 2019, we focussed on chronic poor air quality in Tower Hamlets, the host of the London 2012 games. Breathless Olympics was a family event to spotlight climate injustice, whereby poorer parts of London face more pollution deaths despite their residents polluting less.



Pandemic Mobilisation

Our 2020 cohort had less than a month of in-person programming before the outbreak of Covid 19. They soon rallied. Together they developed a community-led test and trace scheme in the East End, sewed scrubs for hospital workers, and led a campaign to turn people’s claps for carers into tangible social action.

Other Fellows distributed care packages to immunocompromised people, ran telephone drives to reach thousands of isolated older people and developed a Coronavirus Resource Guide for frontline charities and social enterprises that was accessed by thousands.



Royal Honours

In some of the Queen’s final honours, Mursal Hedayat was awarded an MBE for services to social enterprise, technology and the economy. Later that year, 2015 Fellow Josh Babarinde collected an OBE for services to criminal justice, social enterprise and the economy.

Closing our doors

After ten years, we made the tough decision to close our doors to new Fellows. 

“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.”



Year Here 2.0
A photography, taken from on top of a table, of crowd of Year Here Fellows gathered together.

In the aftermath of the announcement of the final programme, Fellows and team came together to develop the vision for a new chapter of Year Here. The mission was to bolster our collective power, as a movement of over 250 entrepreneurs and activists, to meet the scourge of inequality with boldness, creativity and impact.