What do we do?
Invisible (Manchester) is part of Invisible Cities, a global social enterprise that trains people who have experienced homelessness to become walking tour guides of their city #seethingsdifferently
We are only 6 months old!! So far we have made a very little amount of money go a long way, we are immensely proud of the impact we have had. But now, we are at a critical stage of growth in which we are training more tour guides and recruiting a bigger staff team. We are exciting to be crowdfunding to support this transition!
The idea was founded in 2016 in Edinburgh by Zakia Moulaoui after years of working with homelessness on an international scale. The first expansion to Manchester was facilitated by Alice Sparks in 2017 whilst in her final year of university. This is when Invisible Cities was established, we have since started in Glasgow and set to launch in York in June 2019.
We provide alternative walking tours of Manchester with the aim to raise public awareness of homelessness by breaking down the negative stereotypes of people living on the streets. Our tour guides are given the platform to feel empowered, to tell their story and have their voices heard. Through tour guiding, they earn a small amount of money, gain transferable skills and regain their self-confidence - all of which expand their future horizons. Whilst also changing perceptions of the streets, the tours encourage members of the public to become active participants in their community by volunteering, donating money or actually stopping and talking to a person living on the street.
Invisible Cities is a GLOCAL social enterprise: working at a local level but with a global reach. We can keep small teams in the cities we are in- 5 guides maximum per city- as we want to focus on the quality of support provided and enable guides to be actors in their communities.
Why is Our Work Important?
Our tours are an active and innovative response to the visible homelessness crisis on the streets of the UK. This issue is not confined to the UK, it is a global challenge. According to Habitat for Humanity, at least 150 million people are homeless worldwide.
Charity Street Soccer Scotland, which commissioned the research into the attitude towards homelessness in 2017, found that 41% of those questioned were "fearful" of approaching the homeless.
National statistics capturing the pattern of deaths among rough sleepers and people living in homeless shelters confirm that 50 people died on the streets of Manchester in 2018, this is the highest number of deaths of homeless people.
This is reflection of how dehumanised and marginalised people living on the streets are. One of our guides in Edinburgh called Biffy said "When you are homeless you are invisible."
Jesus the Homeless on St.Ann's Square. Photo by Emma Boileau.
How do we work?
We support our tour guides by providing in-depth and tailored training in confidence building, public speaking and customer service. We also organise learning days at various cultural institutions and museums around Manchester, such as Manchester Art Gallery, Central Library and Greater Manchester Police Museum. These sessions help inspire the tour content. Each tour guide chooses their own theme, and we encourage them to include history of the city, local knowledge, social enterprises and personal stories in their tours. Their tour is entirely their own creation, we support them to the best of their needs to convert their interests and passions into a tour.
Image of Danny's brochure. Each of our tour guides get their own personalised brochure.
Since launching our first public tours in Manchester on the 20th of October 2018, we have run 45 tours with over 300 tour customers and hosted 10 public presentations to an audiences amounting to over 1,000 people. This means Danny, our first tour guide, has walked over 3 MARATHONS in his time as a tour guide with us! We need your support to buy him plenty of protein shakes!!
Greater Manchester is placed as the third most popular tourist destination in the UK, meaning the tourism sector is worth £7.9bn and supports 94,000 jobs, while attracting 119 million visitors per year. As the tourism sector expands so too does the expectations of the tourist, two main trends have emerged; authentic tourism and sustainable tourism. There is a growing demand for more authentic tourism, people are eager to have a local interaction with the city they are visiting 'off the beaten track'. Sustainable tourism is expanding globally; according to a Booking.com report, 87% of global travellers state that they want to travel in a sustainable manner. Thereby our target customer is the "Conscious Consumer" a traveller who likes to engage in activities that are local, personal and with impact on the ground, wherever they visiting.
We also work with locals to Manchester. We encourage them to see their city differently by showing them a different perspective to areas they may have walked by for years. Our main groups include school students and corporate offices on lunch time tours.
Photos from tours.
Our Social Impact
As we are a social enterprise our social mission is embedded in every layer of our work.
We empower our tour guides to have their voice heard. Homelessness destroys people’s self-worth, as they become isolated and invisible having fallen through the cracks of society. We help and support these individuals to rebuild their self-confidence and self-belief through the tour guide training, and then provide them with tours as a platform to build themselves further. The tours create a unique atmosphere in which customers open their eyes a little more and become more attentive to their surroundings. There is something very special about having a group of 10 or 15 customers on a tour listen to every word said by the tour guide with the utmost respect and care. Beyond tour guiding, we provide our guides with the opportunity to access development and employment opportunities beyond tour guiding. We provide support with every aspect of their lives. We have a dedicated and wonderful volunteer to support our guides and offer them a friendly and supportive network.
"I used to sleep on Market Street. Now I am getting a suit fitted for an awards ceremony with Invisible (Manchester)." - said by Danny on the way to a suit fitting at Slaters (kindly donated) for an awards ceremony we are attending.
"When I first saw her, I thought to myself what is this lady go to teach me. But wow, the inspiration in her, I was a completely different person after her." - said by Lawrence about our public speaking workshop with Maggie Ford.
Changing Perceptions of Homelessness:
We challenge the negative stereotypes that exist surrounding homelessness. Homelessness is portrayed as a distant and dehumanised concept to many members of the public, but we aim to emphasise the message that homelessness really can happen to anyone. The tours transform people’s opinions of homelessness, the opportunity to actually talk to someone who has been homeless and recognise that they are just human is invaluable.
After we have paid our guides a flat-fee of £20 per tour, 100% of our funds are reinvested back into our tour guide development or a social initiative. In Edinburgh we fund a street barbers and a women's pampering night and in Manchester we are supporting Danny, our first tour guide, in publishing a book of his poetry. The book will be sold on our online store and at the end of tour, the profits will be split between us and a donation to The Booth Centre. With the more tour guides we have, the more money we make meaning the more projects and impact we can have.
Encouraging Wider Participation in the Community
The tours inspire and motivate our tour customers to volunteer at local homeless organisations, donate money to homeless charities or simply stop and have a conversation with a person living on the street. This allows them to become an active citizen within their community. In the coming months we want to establish a more fluid streamline to make this process more efficient and also start monitoring this pipeline to report further on our impact.
Danny holding the Mancsy print.
We currently have one tour guide in operation called Danny, three tour guides in training called Ben, Pete and Lawrence and one part-time member of staff called Alice, one part-time volunteer called Millie and ongoing support and advice from Zakia in Edinburgh. As Alice begun Invisible (Manchester), she occupies the role of general manager and oversee the everyday running and expansion of our operations. Our dedicated volunteer is called Millie, she is the Guide Support Officer with the role of building supportive and friendly relationship with our guides. One of our tour guides in training said "she's (Millie) changing the world through her kindness."
We are also taking on some Summer interns in the coming weeks.
We all act as important female role models, by demonstrating that age and gender is not a barrier to the business. Our General Manager, Alice, has sat on three panel discussions since October and will be delivering a TEDx talk in May discussing running a social enterprise as a graduate aged 21.
Millie, Danny and Alice after a team meeting. Photo by Emma Boileau.
Our reviews, citing the tour as eye-opening and uplifting, are a testament to how the tours have positively impacted people’s knowledge of Manchester, understanding of homelessness and been an overall success.
"A tour like no other; inspiring and thought-provoking. His story breaks the boundaries of our perspectives on the homeless... at the end of the day, they are humans like the rest of us, and even a quick conversation will make a lot of difference." - Josh, TripAdvisor
"What a fantastic way to spend our Saturday. We learnt so much about our own city, and feel so much more informed about the systems and support in place for those affected by homelessness. - Lucy, Airbnb
"It was incredibly special to listen and watch him give his experiences of the city through his eyes. The poems he performs at significant points of the tour really added a heartfelt and different element to what a city tour captures, I've never experienced one quite like it!" - Ornella, Google Reviews
What will we do with the money raised?
We have achieved all of this on a very small budget, we are experts in making a little go a long way. We seeking support to make our work bigger and better.
All of the money raised will be invested in Invisible (Manchester) activities. This will have a ripple effect on us as Invisible Cities, by improving our credibility and thereby accelerate our brand to expand on the global stage.
The greatest risk associated with our business today is that the people at the heart of our business, the guides, have the propensity to have complex needs. The impact of this risk is hard to quantify, it is conditional to each individual we work with. We feel we can overcome these risks by providing a strong network of support. This is why the role of our Guide Support, Millie, is so critical.
In addition to this we want to offer more personal development and growth opportunities to our guides by delivering high-quality, ongoing training. We would also like to fund more Invisible Cities meetups, the success of our gathering in December demonstrates why this is so important. In facilitating these gatherings we would also like to establish a Guide Committee, giving them an opportunity to have their feedback heard formally and collaboratively. We hope to host our next gathering in September 2019.
We need to increase our staff team to pay Alice on a full time salary and hire Millie part-time.
We need to increase our presence within Manchester’s tourism market by paying membership fees to various tourism outlets.
We have had interest from other UK locations, but also from Canada, Denmark, the USA, and Argentina. As a result we need support in developing a Franchise Manual for all current and future locations. This would ensure we protect our branding and reputation throughout.
End of the tour, thank you for your support!!
We have attracted media attention from Channel 5 with Esther Rantzen, BBC Radio 4, The Guardian, BBC North West, Manchester Evening News and Banouto (a newspaper all the way from Benin!!)
Manchester Confidential: https://confidentials.com/manchester/invisible-cities-manchester-homeless-walking-tours