Behind the scenes at Beam, the company tackling homelessness
What if businesses didn’t measure their success by their profits, but by the positive impact they have on people and the planet?
Written by HYER NEWSROOM
Beam, the social enterprise that’s crowdfunding job and housing costs for homeless people, is making this a reality. And we wanted to find out exactly how it feels to be solving the seemingly impossible, tackling such an important problem, and working in this innovative, impact-driven way.
Founded in 2017 by Alex Stephany after he befriended the homeless man who used to sit at his local station, Beam has already raised over £3 million in donations and helped almost 700 people to find steady work.
Alex, determined to help his friend, came up with the idea of using crowdfunding to support homeless people into stable jobs and homes, by removing the financial barriers they face. But the concept of shifting the focus from the financial to the personal extends beyond the day-to-day work that Beam is doing.
A social enterprise and key player in the tech for good movement, Beam prefers the term “social impact business” as it clearly conveys that, while still a business, its primary focus is on social impact rather than financial gain.
Alex Stephany, Founder & CEO of Beam
What is a social impact business?
Successes are measured by their “social metrics” – such as the number of people who move into stable jobs and homes – rather than by their financial achievements. Beam gets paid by the government to support people in achieving these outcomes, at far less cost to the taxpayer than if they remain dependent on welfare.
The more people Beam helps, the more it grows as a business. This ensures the focus is always kept on providing the highest quality service to the greatest number of people. Beam’s rapid success so far is living proof of their belief that the business world has huge, untapped potential to not only solve problems at scale, but also do immense good in the world.
Transparency is a hugely important part of paving the way for this radical new approach to business. Beam uses tech to achieve strong human connections, showing both employees and donors the tangible changes their efforts can achieve.
Key metrics are all easily found on their website’s “transparency dashboard”. With this refreshingly honest approach, Beam is changing the way we help others and tackling homelessness from both sides. By sharing the real life stories of its beneficiaries, Beam proves that anyone really can make a difference.
Interview with Samuel Black, Operations Lead at Beam
What’s it like to work in this way?
Most of us have probably dreamed of somehow making the world a better place. But it’s so easy to fall victim to pressures to climb the career ladder, or prioritise financial stability over dreams. What if it no longer needs to be a choice of one or the other?
For Ayesha, a Senior Operations Executive at Beam, every single day is a chance to achieve true meaning in her work. Of course her everyday job has its challenges, but Ayesha can see for herself how even the smallest actions can have a huge impact - such as giving a domestic abuse survivor new choices, or helping someone to see their true value in life. Sometimes simply showing a person that there is hope and possibility is enough to completely change the direction of their life.
Ayesha’s colleague Sam, who is an Operations Lead, describes an example where someone his team was trying to help wasn’t showing up for her scheduled Zoom calls. It turned out that she was a survivor of domestic abuse, who was terrified of going on Zoom as she had a severe facial injury.
Sam’s team immediately arranged to phone her instead of using Zoom, and she never missed a call again. Within three weeks of joining Beam she was working in a London restaurant. This is just one example of the huge ripple effect that small actions can have, highlighting even further the importance of a business model like Beam’s, where the focus is firmly on the social metrics. If your monthly targets were measured like this, how differently would you feel about showing up for work?
Interview with Ayesha Begum, Senior Operations Executive at Beam
Beam’s starting point is creating brighter futures for homeless people, but the company’s long-term goals are far bigger. They are on a mission to create equal opportunities for all, and to eventually become the most socially impactful company in the world.
Sadly, many people face homelessness simply because they have not had the same opportunity as the rest of us to nurture their natural talents – an aspect of inequality Beam is working hard to correct. At the heart of this approach is their belief that, by combining talented caseworkers with smart technology, solving tough social problems is fully within reach.
If Beam’s work so far in tackling homelessness is anything to go by, imagine the results if their vision was applied to the many other social issues we’re facing.
Beam is combining impact-first business ethics with an enthralling focus on socially conscious issues. For every one of us who’s ever daydreamed about changing the world but doesn’t know where to start, Ayesha’s and Sam’s experiences show that it doesn’t have to be just a pipedream.
If more companies start to measure their success with a focus on social metrics, we could begin to scratch the surface of what’s truly achievable. Beam already has its sights set on issues far wider than homelessness – and we’re pretty sure we aren’t the only ones who can’t wait to see what follows, not only for Beam but for other businesses following their lead. Watch this space…