The Brightkidz Story
How We Started
In November 2003 a few of us started a Walking Bus scheme at our local primary school to reduce traffic and encourage more children to walk to school. (A Walking Bus isn't really a 'bus' - it's when children walk to school in an organised group usually wearing reflective, fluorescent jackets).
At that time it was very difficult to get practical information on the schemes. After seeing the success of our own Walking Buses we set up an information website to help to other parents who were interested in starting a walking bus at their own child's school. We teamed up with local partners such as Northamptonshire County Council and Northamptonshire ACRE and visited schools to help get more walking bus schemes started in our local area. We now provide information about a range of walk to school schemes and related practical issues much further afield through our website. Our information is intended to supplement the support provided by local authorities and is written very much from a parent's point of view.
The Bright Bit
On a Walking Bus children wear fluorescent, reflective (high vis) waistcoats. This not only makes them more visible to traffic but also makes group monitoring easier. It is also an insurance requirement on some kinds of walking bus. Seeing the children in high vis made us realise how great these garments would be for any children walking or cycling to school, or out on a school trip, especially in low sunlight, mist or rainy weather.
If They Like It, They'll Wear It
Some of the local children were unwilling to wear the adult-size industrial style high vis which had been donated for our walking bus. So we started a school design club and worked with the children to develop more exciting styles using different fluorescent colours, trims and coloured reflective tape. They also helped us to develop ideas for fun high vis badges, bags, accessories and a logo... we realised it would be great for them to have themed stickers, badges and other incentives to encourage or reward them for taking part in walk to school initiatives.
Realising the potential for these products beyond our local school in Northamptonshire, we found assistance with manufacturing, set up as a social enterprise worker co-operative and launched Brightkidz in 2004. By offering products related to our aims we were able to make Brightkidz financially self-sustaining and fund further development of our information resources. Since then our range of products and information has expanded and adapted to our customers' needs. We supply schools, local authorities, businesses, charities and individuals throughout the UK and abroad.
Social Enterprise - What Does This Mean?
You've probably heard of other social enterprises: the Eden project, Jamie Oliver's 'Fifteen' restaurants and the Big Issue. A social enterprise is a business which fulfils a social need and is not just about making money.
We decided to set up Brightkidz as a social enterprise as, unlike many charities, we had a way of earning income which supported our aims, making us financially sustainable.
There are many different legal structures for social enterprise. Although Brightkidz is our trading name, Safe Kids Walking Ltd is our legal name - a 'company limited by guarantee without share capital'. It is part of the common ownership movement, is asset locked and therefore cannot be sold for personal profit. There are no owner directors receiving dividends but all staff are paid a salary. In line with our constitution any excess income is ploughed back or used towards schemes to promote walking to school, road safety initiatives and active lifestyles.
Worker Co-operative - What Does This Mean?
Brightkidz/Safe Kids Walking Ltd is also a worker's co-operative which means all employees have a say on how the business is run and we are guided by the seven co-operative principles.
Although our own children are older and no longer need the walking bus, we are now even more involved in promoting safe, active, sustainable travel to school through our customers and partners. We work with school travel professionals and schools to develop more resources. Social media has given us a new way of engaging with others to gather and share resource ideas. The Social Value Act means local authorities are being encouraged to buy from social enterprises, which is good for Brightkidz! However, local authority budget cuts mean many schools need to look elsewhere to fund their resources to promote safe, active, travel. Our latest scheme, Bright Footsteps, is about helping schools to engage with businesses and get support via corporate social responsibility programmes.
Keep in Touch
If you are a teacher, 'travel champion', school travel professional or you work in road safety education, keep up to date with our news, projects and resources by signing up to 'Bright News' our monthly enewsletter.