Project Inc

The innovative arts and culture education initiative will use its loan to scale over the next two years

Image credit: GCSE students display their Curious Curators artwork, inspired by the heritage collections at The Silk Museum Macclesfield. Photo © Project INC.

Project Inc

Region: North West
Art form: Other
Investment size: £208,000

Project INC is an arts education social enterprise looking to grow across the North West that  promotes and provides inclusive, creative learning for 11-19 year olds situated within cultural buildings to give a truly alternative, contextualized experience with element of work/life skills. It works with learners who need extra support as they are at risk of becoming NEET (young people not in education, employment or training) and uses art, design and creativity to improve student engagement and attainment. Student-focused, individualised learning and small groupings create an environment where young people can constructively improve their personal and social skills, whilst building confidence and creative ability. Project INC provides a quality creative curriculum offer, fully-qualified staff and tangible outcomes that support progression.

After starting-up at the end of 2016, Project INC’s first year of operating has seen the success of its initial base at The Silk Museum, Macclesfield and the launch of its second, within the Hat Works, Stockport. Over 400 sessions have been delivered to learners with additional needs, with the aim of creating an initial connection between young learners and ‘Arts Places and Spaces’ in their community. There is an acute need for this, as the 11-19 local cohort currently have few opportunities to be involved with the wider heritage of their town.Project INC is fostering a new audience of young people as well as providing a permanent base to access art qualifications through to A Level and skills in the arts and heritage sector that could lead to employment.

"The vision is for Project INC to become a strong partner in education for the North West’s most hard-to-reach learners."

With arts and creativity being squeezed out of schools, the opportunities for supporting varying learning styles and learner-centred approaches are reducing, not to mention the fact that there are simply fewer opportunities for young people to experience the inherent value of arts and culture. The vision is for Project INC to become a strong partner in education for the North West’s most hard-to-reach learners. To do this, it is looking to scale up and widen its reach from two centres to six by 2020. The organisation has developed a sustainable business model that can be replicated; Arts Impact Fund’s investment will ensure Project INC is able to grow productively, supported by the recruitment and retention of quality staff and buy-in from intended partners and stakeholders such as schools. Planning for financial resilience will enable Project INC to fulfil its guiding principles – supporting community cohesion and promoting social mobility through art and culture – into the long-term, creating the greatest possible impact for disadvantaged young people and their local communities.

Project INC approached Arts Impact Fund for £208,000 of unsecured investment to fund the start-up costs of a further four learning bases in galleries or museums over the next two years. The organisation needs the funding upfront to be able to open the bases and start operating, but after the first year each base should be self-sufficient. Project INC’s strong performance in its first year (a period that’s normally fraught with difficulty for any start-up) gave the Arts Impact Fund confidence in its ability to replicate. The sector expertise of the company’s founder, Lisa Alberti, was also highly impressive. A former teacher with over 15 years of experience, including at senior leadership levels, Lisa demonstrated sound knowledge of what it takes to develop relationships with schools and local authorities, the key customer groups for the business.

Scaling offers an opportunity for Project INC to grow its customer base and boost its financial resilience and sustainability in an innovative and productive way, whilst retaining alignment with its core mission. The organisation’s model keeps the cost for schools and councils low to ensure courses can attract the widest possible demographic given the current funding constraints. The economics of this are enabled by partnership agreements with the arts and heritage venues, which include low-cost rent, access to the entire building and collections as well as in-house expert teams and advice. Project INC’s programme contributes in this way to the revenues of the arts and heritage venues, whilst also improving the accessibility and diversity of their audience base.