'Empower everybody: we seek to enable others to learn, develop and thrive' – this is one of a list of 10 values created and upheld by Flashpoint Labs, co-founded by Mickey Kovari; a refreshingly modern value for an organisation whilst also a meaningful message to send to young beneficiaries of this enterprise.
This value derives from Mickey's original and firmly-held beliefs. His interest in social equality, innovation and enterprise first developed during his childhood. Growing up in Sydney in a Hungarian family, he was very much tuned in to the inequalities within society and uneven spread of opportunities.
He recognised that engagement and empowerment were key but also that without confidence, any opportunity presented might end up passing young people by. "Building confidence is so incredibly important and if you're not getting that from other aspects of your life, you're really at a disadvantage."
Offering opportunities is at the heart of Flashpoint Labs. Through engagement, learning and development they believe that a real life change can be made. Young people are engaged through the creativity of photography – they learn the technicalities, strategic storytelling and innovation whilst developing critical thinking and most importantly, confidence. "The reason why we started was to try to work with young people who are not necessarily engaged in study or in work, so weren't earning or learning, or at risk of being in that group."
Mickey studied Political Economy at University and wrote his thesis on 'Indigenous Self Determination and Enterprise Development'. It was during this time that he realised his efforts were best concentrated on social enterprise to ensure the greatest social impact and powerful change.
After some time spent volunteering and working at the NSW Reconciliation Council, he secured a job at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence. There, he landed on his feet working under Jason Glanville, the CEO, who encouraged Mickey's professional development. He was able to work part-time with flexible working hours in order to set up his social enterprise and participate in a program with the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) Australia. This allowed financial security, support and much needed encouragement from a highly respected professional.
Mickey had set his sights on SSE before it even came to Australia: "I was even considering going to London because I wanted it so bad."
In a twist to his story, SSE thought Mickey wasn't ready for the program and that his original idea wasn't quite right at the stage it was at. Undeterred, he rethought his vision and the idea of Flashpoint Labs emerged. Soon after, in 2011, he was accepted into SSE's learning program.
With experienced photographers leading the way of the enterprise, profits are fed back to fund training, apprenticeships and changemaking photography programs. Young people from underprivileged backgrounds are exposed to high end technology, are able to explore their creativity and learn the appropriate skills – all in the hands of supportive professionals.
With numerous programs on offer, those who are the most committed and who show the most promise are even given the opportunity for employment within the enterprise itself.
The confidence building, supportive environment and world of learning at Flashpoint Labs was mirrored in the program at SSE. It exceeded expectations for Mickey through the camaraderie and peer support that really kept his drive and determination alive. "The strength of the SSE model is that it brings together a group of people who are incredibly passionate, from diverse backgrounds but all like-minded in their commitment and drive. It's really reinforcing community and gives everybody the motivation, confidence and strength to keep going. It's phenomenal."
The future for Flashpoint Labs is looking bright and Mickey is optimistic that it will attract significant donations to secure its future. They have recently appointed a new CEO and Mickey is on the Board of Flashpoint Labs. Currently living in London, Mickey is incubating another social enterprise, High Distinction, an advertising film school and creative studio. But that's not a surprise to us – social entrepreneurship is in his blood.
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