Scope’s retail innovation challenge

Staff members huddled in front of Scope logo

Scope has 237 charity shops across England and Wales. And their recent foray into innovation (remember the Strip for Scope campaign?) has inspired us to undertake a new project – Scope’s Retail Innovation Challenge.

Creativity, enthusiasm and a willingness to go above and beyond to make a successful shop were all part of the selection criteria to identify a group of 10 shop managers and assistant managers to help us find new ways to boost shop profits and generate more income, to help Scope make the world a better place for disabled people. It was also a great chance for us to put the innovation process we’ve been developing through its paces.

Staff members working around conference table
Staff members working around a conference table

We kicked off the challenge with a two day workshop for the 10 participants who travelled from as far away as Skipton, Totnes, Liverpool and Hull to gather at our head office in London.

Their challenge was to identify an idea for increasing profit in their shop that they could take back and test over the next eight to 10 weeks. With less than two days to do this it was a big ask!

But as an excited and expectant new group, we dived straight in to insight gathering, problem shaping, ideation and getting into the shoes of customers and donors. By 3pm on Friday each participant emerged weary but exhilarated with two promising ideas that they could take back to their shops to begin to test with our support.

Participant Hannah Croft (Assistant Manager in Scope’s Liverpool shop) shared her experience of her two day trip to London:

“My day started at 5.53am when my train left New Brighton, set for Liverpool, where I would then travel to Euston. It was a stormy morning and I thought I could have been blown all the way to London. When I finally got to Euston the sun was shining and it was warm enough for me to take off my scarf and mittens! I didn’t know what I was going to be doing or who I would meet over the next two days. I was excited but I was a little nervous too!

Once at head office I met the team and we started to piece together the outline of what was in store. From that moment the room never lost the buzz of conversation, sharing ideas, experiences and inspiration.

In the Scope shop where I work, my manager and I have different ways of working, different personalities and views, and that’s no bad thing! It means we normally get the best of both. But it was nice to spend time with people who seemed to think like I did.

We were told that we had a huge opportunity to generate ideas for our own shops and trial them. We were also told we would have few limitations to what we could trial in our shops, as long as it was realistic and in budget. We spent two days working as a team on areas of potential for our own individual stores. I felt like I was 10 again, stood in Toys ‘R’ Us after winning the lottery! It was just an overwhelming feeling of excitement and playfulness.

I have been given the chance to break away from the rules, the norms and guidelines and potentially achieve something great for our store and for Scope. I left the workshop on day two bouncing off the walls. I rang my area manager as soon as I could to tell her every detail I could remember. I spoke so fast and excitedly that she had to tell me several times to stop and breathe.

On returning to my store, I must be honest, it was a bit like being brought back down to reality. Our store is really busy and I am still to have the chance to discuss properly with my manager and settle on the path I should take. I have done some work in my own time on my areas of interest and am looking forward to progressing through the project and seeing what I can achieve. I like to hope I brought a little of the sunshine from London, back to Liverpool.”

Hannah and the other nine participants will be testing out their ideas over the next eight to 10 weeks, letting us know how they fare along the way, what works and what doesn’t! We look forward to sharing what happens.

Ruth, Zoe & Rosa

Scope’s Innovation Team

“Now I describe my disability as a strength” – #100days100 stories

Everything changed for 20-year-old Azar while on Scope’s pre-employment programme for young disabled people. In this guest blog, Azar shares his story as part of Scope’s 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

I have cerebral palsy, but you can’t really see it at first. That’s because I’ve been covering it so well – my whole life I’ve been covering up. The more time you spend with me, the more you figure it out.

I knew I wanted to work in business, so after I left college I was looking for a job. I just wanted experience to put on my CV, even just working in a supermarket. I remember a lot of times in my interviews I didn’t want to say that I had a disability, but they would pick up on it because of the way I speak, the way I walk.

Getting knocked back

Azar smiling and look away from the camera
Everything changed for Azar on Scope’s pre-employment programme

I applied to lots and got rejected by all of them. Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Marks and Spencer, Waitrose – the list just goes on, the jobs that I applied for.

I met Vicky from Scope, and she asked me, ‘Anything you want any help with?’ I asked, ‘Can you give me a job?!’ She said she’d try.

And a few weeks later she gave me a call, and she said that there’s this programme, First Impressions, First Experiences. At first I thought, ‘It’s not a job, it’s more of a course, and I won’t be getting paid’.
But then I thought about it. I had a flashback of my previous job interviews – which went well, until I talked about my disability.

Skills for the business world

Because of the course, and the professional mentor I worked with, I’m more confident of just being me without people judging me. You can’t be worried about what other people think.

If anything you’ve got an advantage, because you can say: ‘I‘m at the same place as these people, but I‘ve also got a disability’. It just shows you have an extra strong character. Now I describe my disability as more of a strength than as a weakness.

I use the skills I learnt on the course all the time. For example, speaking in a professional manner – no one’s going to take you seriously if you’re speaking slang.

My dream job is to become a foreign exchange trader. I want to trade in the financial markets. I joined an online trading academy – they gave me a scholarship and now I can go on the course for free.
And after the course, the trainers don’t just say goodbye to you. We’ve been in frequent contact, and it’s something that I’m hoping to carry on.

Pursuing the dreamAzar looking away from the camera

Recently, I had a cup of tea with my mentor, Sean. I had a great relationship with Sean. He’s a trader, and he had this cool charisma.
I think that’s one of the things I learned – working in business there are going to be times where it’s stressful, painful, hard, but in the end it’s the people who stay calm who make it.

Without Scope I don‘t know what I’d be doing now. I’d be jobless, probably at home, playing my X-Box, watching TV. I wouldn’t be where I am today and I wouldn’t be able to explain my disability in a confident manner.

I‘ve just started a business management course at university. I got an access scholarship with help from Scope. I’m also working a part time job, and I’m starting a business with my uncle. I know what I want to be, and I know I can get my dream job.

Azar shared his story as part of our 100 Days, 100 Stories project. If you’re a disabled person or a parent of a disabled child, email us at stories@scope.org.uk to share your story.

Fostering is one of the best decisions we ever made: #100days100stories

Isabel is a foster carer with Scope’s fostering service. She and her husband foster Rosie, aged 12, and Isabel has shared her story as part of Scope’s 100 Days, 100 Stories campaign. We have changed all the names here, as confidentiality is important in foster care.

I grew up with a friend whose mum fostered disabled children. I’d always thought I’d like to do it, but I thought I’d wait until my children were older.

But then one day at the bottom of my payslip was a message: ‘Interested in fostering?’ And for some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

We were in our mid-20s when we started fostering five years ago, younger than most foster carers, and our own children, Anna and Chloe, were still very small.

I’ve worked with adults with learning difficulties ever since I left college, and of course I’m a mum as well – so for me, fostering is both profession and family.

Meeting Rosie

Rosie came to stay with us five years ago, when she was six. She goes to a special school, and she has complex learning difficulties. When she arrived, I think she could say one word – ‘no’ – and that was it.

When you start fostering a child you’re shown reports from the professionals who work with them, and Rosie was described as ‘passive’ and ‘stuck in her own little world’. I was told: ‘She doesn’t really communicate, she just cries’.

Over the first few months she was with us, she just completely changed. Soon she was being described as full of life, confident, sociable.

Apparently a little boy at school asked the teacher, ‘Who’s the new girl?’ and it was, ‘That’s not a new girl, that’s Rosie!’

Rosie still has a birth family who loves her, but she didn’t feel safe with one of her siblings, who also has complex needs. When she came here, I think it just gave her the relief she needed to develop to her full potential.

Rosie today

Mostly she just likes bounding about the place! She loves books and photography, she loves playing in the garden, going on the trampoline. This morning we were playing together, feeding a soft toy monkey a yoghurt.

She gets on really well with my own children. They’re just like sisters now – so they get on each other’s nerves and argue a bit! But they care about each other, and they look after each other really nicely.

We’ve done a lot of work with Rosie to help her learn sign language. She still doesn’t have a lot of speech, but she’s very good at making herself understood now.

But I think the main thing we could do was just make her feel safe and secure, and make sure she feels loved and wanted.

It’s not like a conventional job at all. On a day-to-day basis, I just feel like Rosie is a member of my family – the only time it feels like a job is when you have to go to meetings and reviews and that sort of thing.

But when we’re out at the beach or going to school, it just feels like we’re a family.

Getting permanency

After Rosie had been with us for about 18 months, we went through the process that means Rosie can stay with us permanently, through to adulthood.

Scope is still there to support us and nothing has really changed – it just gives us stability and the comfort of knowing Rosie is here to stay. And for us, she’ll always be part of our family, even when she’s grown up.

Deciding to foster was one of the best decisions we ever made. We’ve got so much out of it as a family. There have been lots of high points, but just having Rosie in the family is a high point in itself.

40% of children waiting for a permanent home are disabled. Can you help us be there for them? Please donate to Scope’s Fostering appeal – you can help another disabled child find a safe and loving home where they can thrive.