Gift Shop: creative social enterprise with young people for mental health and wellbeing

Froggett, Lynn orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-8406-6231, Wainwright, John Peter orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8190-0144, Roy, Alastair Neil orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-4807-7352 and Manley, Julian Y orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2548-8033 (2015) Gift Shop: creative social enterprise with young people for mental health and wellbeing. Documentation. University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Preston.

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The Aim of Gift Shop

Gift Shop was a creative, arts-based engagement project run in Old Trafford by 42nd Street between May – June 2015. 42nd Street is a young person’s mental health charity in Manchester with a 30 year track record of providing services and opportunities to young people under stress. It created the Gift Shop project as a way of engaging with young people and wider communities from Old Trafford.
The idea was to work with young people to enable them to set up their own shop, make their own products and to sell them to their local community. The Shop aimed to introduce young people to the idea of ‘Gift Giving’ and to the work of 42nd Street with any money raised from this venture to be re-invested into local activity. Further, it provided the opportunity for a diverse range of people from the local community to come together and appreciate the talents, time and efforts of young people who are often viewed as troublesome. The community was able to enjoy and benefit directly from the creative things that young people made and sold. Gift Shop thus demonstrated a potential for using this kind of project to break down the boundaries between local residents and young people.


The research findings are based on the experiences of 39 young people, 44 members of the public and 8 professionals who were involved in the Gift Shop project or visited the shop itself. They responded to the questions we posed either by interview or questionnaire.

Key Findings

Connecting Young People and the Community
Gift Shop presented an opportunity for young people from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds to engage in creative activities and take a pride in what they were able to produce. The fact that these were displayed and sold by a small, temporary social enterprise and bought by the community was a mark of their value. The sense of achievement that the young people felt not only raised self-esteem and confidence but also gave them a sense of being part of the local community.
Countering Negative Perceptions of Young People in the Wider Community
The behaviour of many of these young people has at one time or another been regarded as challenging and disruptive of the public space. Gift shop countered such assumptions in a novel and useful way, showing that the young participants could be constructive and generous through the pleasure that they took in gift giving.
Improving Self-perception among Young People Themselves
Young people in difficult circumstances are often subject to labels such as ‘service user’, which position them as ‘objects of concern’ rather than ‘agents of their own change processes’. Gift Shop provided a space in which a diverse group of young people found it possible to think of themselves in a positive and optimistic way, rather than as stigmatised casualties of institutions or systems
A space for Sociability, Relationships and support
and The young people used the opportunity of making things with others in a sociable setting to form relationships with the project staff, and each other. They became aware of 42nd Street as a source of help and support in times of difficulty, and some of them took advantage of the forum created through Gift Shop to discuss what was important in their lives.
Developing skills for Life and Future Employability
The creative sessions in themselves demonstrated to the young people the pleasure to be gained in craft and artwork its potential as a means of self-expression. Together with the shop they began to learnt new skills which if further developed could enhance their future employability.

Key Outcomes

As this was a pilot project we report here on achieved outcomes as well as indicative outcomes that could be achieved if the project were to be scaled up and/or of longer duration.
• The shop provided an accessible local interface between young people and residents that was greatly appreciated by all parties.
• The fact that the shop was organised around creative activity, helped to counter any perceptions that young people were merely a destructive nuisance in the area, and showed the potential for the further breaking down of boundaries between them and other residents in their community.
• The community setting helped the young people engage with, appreciate and feel part of their local community. They gained pleasure in contributing generously to the community through ‘Gift Giving’.
• The young people’s sense of connection to place was enhanced, through the location of the caravan and some of the activities such as map-making which explicitly focussed on this dimension. A more extensive project of this nature could help to build a sense of local identity and responsibility for the area in which they live.
• The young people learnt to work collaboratively with one another and enjoyed the sociability and co-operation of a shared enterprise.
• In the course of making things together positive relationships were formed by the young people both with one another and the professionals working with them. This extended the networks of friendship and suppsupport available to them, including their awareness of mental health support services provided by 42nd Street. The difficult life experiences of some of the young people, which manifested in challenging behaviour, were explored through the informal and convivial setting of Gift Shop.
• The young people learnt new skills around arts and craft, raising their own perceptions of what they could achieve. In a longer project and with sustained engagement this would appreciably enhance CVs. Experience of both creative activities and running a shop would translate into employability skills.
• Young people from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds experienced creative practice and through this medium, a forum to think, feel and discuss what was important in their lives.
• The groups of which the young people were a part benefitted from a share of the proceeds of the shop, and the young people took pride in this material outcome.


Gift Shop was a successful example of 42nd Street’s model of combining mental health support with community based arts and creative activities. For the thirty nine young people who participated, there is compelling evidence that the project met the outcomes set by 42nd Street and also met with the overwhelming approval of the local residents who visited and enjoyed the project. Gift Shop was a small, innovative, non-threatening, enjoyable, sociable opportunity for young people to learn new skills with others in a creative setting where their contributions to the project could be recognised and appreciated. Through engaging in this project, they were able, for a short period, to gain new horizons and to contribute in a small, but significant way to their own community.
A larger project providing a consistent presence over a longer period of time could capitalise on the enthusiasm that was shown and make a more durable impact on community perceptions of young people. It would impact on young people’s expectations of how they might productively spend their leisure time. A more sustained involvement in setting up and running a shop would build substantial employability skills of self-organisation, reliability and customer relations.

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