PSFK 2017 Conference Interview: How Trends Can Be Harnessed Towards Social Good
We interviewed Just Enough UK CEO and founder Phil Knight, who'll be taking the stage at PSFK 2017, about his educational charity that engages children about modern day slavery and radicalization.
Blink once. A formidable world tragedy plays out in a remote corner of the world. Blink again. It’s disseminated across the Internet instantaneously. In our ever-connected world we often find ourselves in a Catch 22: the more connected we are technologically, the more disconnected we are emotionally. Sure, the old adage goes, “Put yourself in the other person’s shoes,” but how can you incite empathy from people when they’re watching these events play out on a TV screen on the other side of the globe—and even more so when it’s through the eyes of a young child?
Enter Just Enough UK’s founder and CEO Phil Knight. The session drummer initially embarked on his mission to engage the masses about human trafficking and counter-terrorism through guerrilla marketing fundraising initiatives. Now he heads up a charity that hosts interactive workshops on these issues at schools across the UK (and soon, the U.S.!) to challenge, educate and make children laugh through storytelling in plays and books that they can relate to, such as Oliver Twist. To date they have educated over 32,000 children in the UK since 2013 with a 98% success rate.
We are excited to host Phil Knight as one of our keynote speakers at our PSFK 2017 conference, to tell us more about how marketing trends and educational initiatives can be harnessed towards social good. (Get your tickets to the conference here!)
Emily: For people out there who don’t know about Just Enough, tell us a bit about who you are and what you do.
Phil: Just Enough UK is an educational charity that visits schools across the UK to talk to children about difficult subjects such as Modern Day Slavery and Radicalization. Essentially it’s about turning these topics into interactive, educational and fun workshops that children can digest and understand. We’ve got three offices across the UK, England, Scotland, and Wales and have now educated over 32,000 children in the UK since 2013. We’ve worked with over 1,000 teachers, and 100 percent of them recommend our workshops, so we’re growing really, really quickly in the UK. We work with the government, non-profits and brands to do this.
Riding on your wave of success in the UK, you’re now slated to launch Just Enough across the pond. How did that come about?
In November last year, the British government approached me and said, “What would you think about taking this internationally?” I said, “Well, if we’re going to do that, let’s go to New York first because the UN is there so it’s the best place to start.”Over the past six weeks, I’ve met with various NGOs and embassies in New York and Washington, who have said, “We like what you’re doing. Can you go back and help to set it up? We could match-fund Washington with New York as well.” I had a meeting with a guy from the UN yesterday who is very interested and wants me back out here in June to do a speech!
It’s crazy because we really built it from nothing in the UK. We had no investors and no eight-year-olds. In the first year of business, I was eating Nutella out of a jar, because we were just getting out of the ground. And to think I just had a phone call from the UK governor asking us to do over 400 schools in the UK with a company they call Prevent, which is their anti-terrorism work.
Are US parties more interested in the human-trafficking or anti-terrorism topics?
When I came to the US, the government asked me to focus on the trafficking side, but when people started to find out that we also do this work in anti-terrorism, we’ve had people from the State Department asking if we could focus on that too.
Do you think you’ll have to adapt your message or teachings depending on which culture you’re targeting?
We can do the same message. In fact, we’ve conducted a survey with all of the kids where each kid fills out their own individual feedback form. To date, we’ve received 2,000 of these feedback forms, so we know exactly what they engage with and don’t engage with.
With the anti-terrorism stuff, we use the message, “Use your voice, not violence” and then discuss how there’s a higher probability of people getting a statue built after them if they use their voice instead by showing them statues of Martin Luther King and the fact that no such statues exist of people like Guy Fawkes or Osama Bin Laden.
How much does Just Enough charge schools to run the workshops?
Phil: It’s £290 for the four workshops, and then for the online stuff that the kids can do without us is £30. We work really hard to make sure costs are kept as low as possible. The only thing we don’t scrape on is staff. We get really good staff and make sure we look after them.
Who do you have onboard your team?
We get a lot of actors who work for us who are trying to get into the West End in London or the theater school in Lincolnshire. We’ll just train them over a month to learn our scripts and then they’ll be put out in the schools. We have about eight of us who are full-time across our offices in the UK running operations and then there is about 50 presenters who are out on the road at the schools.
How were the seeds initially sown for the business concept?
I used to be a session drummer who toured all over the world. 10 years ago, I met actress Emma Thompson at a gig. She got up on stage and started singing with the band. I was like, “Wow, she’s so cool.” Afterwards, she sent a waiter out to talk to me when I was loading up the car to go home. He said, “Look, Ms. Thompson would like a drink with you. Is that all right?” I was like, “Yeah, of course! No worries!” I came back in and she asked me to work with a girl that had just been rescued from being trafficked. I agreed to come around to Emma’s house every Saturday morning at 10:30, set up my drum kit and teach this girl called Svetlana the drums.
After a few weeks, Svetlana finally opened up to me and told me her story. She’d been trafficked from Moldova when she was a kid, held in a place in Soho in London for five years until the police got wind that she was there and she was rescued. It really broke my heart what happened to her, so I thought, “Well, maybe there’s something I can do to help.” I phoned my friend who works for Westminster Council in London and said, “Could I set up an electric drum kit in Leicester Square—which is obviously our version of Times Square—for four and a half days? I want to drum for four and a half days and break a record that a Marine has just set in the U.S. They got behind it and were like, “Yeah, go for it.” I set it up, was there for four and a half days, beat the record, and raised a load of money for Svetlana and her charity. On the last day, because I’d been awake for so long, I was a bit delirious. They said to me, “Do you want the world record?” I was like, “Nope, I did it for her.” Then we had a big hug. It was amazing.
Two years later, I convinced the counselor in Camden to let me put a shipping container in the middle of one of the busiest train stations, Euston Square Gardens, for me to live in for two weeks with just the bare necessities of what you need to stay alive. You could see me through a little webcam, but I had no communication with the outside world. I was locked inside it, sleeping on the floor with just a sleeping bag and a toilet. I wanted to show people what it’s like to be hidden in plain sight, because that’s what trafficked people are going through. When I came out, though, I felt into a huge depression from being separated from the world outside and how it made me think about trafficking victims who had experienced that—and for them it was much longer than just two weeks! We had a lot of media coverage from CNN and other companies, but in the end, we didn’t raise that much money.
How did your turn things around?
While I was in the box, children had been visiting it, bringing marker pens and putting lovely messages on the outside. The local children from the schools even began writing to the counsel, phoning them up, saying, “Could the guy from the box come to our schools and talk about why he did it?”
So that’s how it all began. I started doing these informal talks at schools and it was like a big therapy session for me. I could tell them funny stories about what I’d done. I could make them laugh, and that’s what really made a difference.
I felt that I could create a charity that can do the human trafficking thing better, and if I was going to run it, I was going to do it my way. We weren’t going to ask anyone for money in terms of the general public. We’re going to do the funding through corporate contracts and council contracts and I’m going to build something that schools are going to love.” That’s when it all came together. Now we have Just Enough UK, and will soon have Just Enough USA, Canada, and South Africa.
When did you get asked to go international?
It’s always about initiative for me. We only have a few grand left from last year’s budget, so we’re going build Just Enough USA with nothing, again, but now that we’ve built it in the UK, it’s now got the momentum. We send the kids home with certificates that have advertisers’ logo on them. In New York alone, this collateral will go home with 67,000 kids.
After gathering so much momentum in the UK, what do you think the biggest challenge is to bring it across the pond?
To be honest, it’s just about finding the right people. Then the rest just falls into place. It’s all about trying to get that magical person who can take it and make it their own, come to meetings like this and be inspired. The model itself, the workshops, the online lesson plans and everything. They run to a certain pattern. They run to the same storyline no matter where you put it. What we do is we chop and change the characters. In the UK, we use William Waterfalls, an abolitionist. Here we’ll use Abraham Lincoln and Guy Fawkes for the terror aspect. Fortunately, among every country we’ve been to, there’s always the great abolitionist or the historical terrorist.
Thanks for your golden nuggets of insight, Phil! Phil will be discussing how marketing trends and educational initiatives can be harnessed towards social good at our PSFK 2017 conference on May 19. Get your tickets today before they sell out!
As CEO and Founder of Just Enough UK, Phil works all over the U.K. educating children as young as eight about slavery and trafficking through a mixture of fun games and projects to raise awareness on the issues. The mission is to give children a fun and informative workshop based on the subject matter and inspire them to make the world a better place.