Poku Pipim Osei (BA, PGCert, MSc) is a respected social entrepreneur and the Founder and CEO of award-winning youth empowerment organisation, Babbasa.
Poku relocated to Bristol from Ghana in 2008. Until that point, his professional experiences had been in the private sector – mainly in real estate & property management, and he was keen to continue that career path in the UK.
However, as a young graduate, Poku engaged with more and more young people throughout inner-city Bristol and realised that there was a need and desperation among young people predominantly from ethnic minority backgrounds, to overcome educational under-achievement, unemployment, and a lack of aspiration.
Poku left a paid job to set up Babbasa with no start-up investment. The vision for the social enterprise was a world where young people living in areas of disadvantage are inspired and able to realise their employment and enterprise ambitions, irrespective of where they live, their nationality, ethnicity, gender, race, sexuality or faith.
Babbasa is now a Queen’s Award Winning enterprise, which has supported over 2,200 young people to date. It has 13 paid staff, 124 active mentors and 167 partner agencies, and provides young people often disadvantaged by their race, education or social status with access to career-oriented employment, education, and training opportunities in Bristol.
Poku has set up a consultancy arm to Babbasa to make it one of the few social enterprises in the UK that is not grant reliant. The consultancy sells services that enable businesses to improve inclusion for ethnically diverse people at the workplace. These include training, policy and strategy advisory and project commissions.
It is also evident that many city institutions, who wouldn’t have ordinarily been as equipped to engage with, or recruit from Bristol’s ethnic minority communities now do so through Poku and Babbasa’s network. These include University of Bristol, Bristol Chambers of Commerce members and local colleges; impacting many lives in local communities.
In recent years, Poku has sought to use his influence, time and knowledge to champion equal opportunity ideas in the South West Region and across the UK as a whole. This includes acting as:
- Member – West of England Regional Recovery Task Force: Established by the Prime Minister, Poku is a part of the task force which will support the recovery and renewal of the West of England’s economy following the significant and far reaching impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Board Member – Quartet Foundation, Bristol City Council City Funds and One Bristol: Poku sits on these boards to ensure that funding criteria are objective and grant award is evenly distributed to impact marginalised and ethnic minority communities.
- Founding Curator – Global Shapers (Bristol Hub): The first-ever Bristol Hub for the World Economic Forum initiative was built to help Bristol better connect and learn from other cities in the areas of inclusion, education, employment and climate change.
- Co-founder – The Black Professionals Network: The BPN was founded to help ethnic minority professionals in the UK better connect, represent their chosen career profession and become role models for younger generations.
- Advisory Board Member – University of Bristol Courts and the University of the West of England Business & Management Faculty: Poku provides strategic support to the management of the respective bodies
- Commissioner – St Paul’s Carnival: Appointed to advise on a new sustainable structure and improve confidence in its investors to bring back the African Caribbean carnival in 2017 after funding was pulled for the previous years.
- Charity Trustee – Black Southwest Network, Up Our Street and Voscur: Recruited to help strengthen the governance framework for voluntary sector organisations, between 2011-2018.
The significant impact and positive difference that Poku is making in Bristol led him to be invited and recognised by Queen of the UK, HRM Queen Elizabeth II on the 14th Feb 2018.
Looking forward, Poku has short-term and long-term goals to make Bristol a more equal place to live.
In the short-term, he started Babbasa’s community hub, to give young people a third pillar outside of the home, and school where they can develop many of the skills that they are lacking when compared with some of their more advantaged peers.
In the long-term, he plans to works with city leaders, local organisations, businesses, schools and the community on policies and strategies to improve the infrastructure that young people are being brought up into nationally. This includes supporting Babbasa’s team and young people to produce Bristol’s first Youth Manifesto, which was used as part of the formation of Bristol’s One City Plan.
Poku believes that through inspiring and empowering young people and encouraging serious and open conversations about inequality, we can all be a catalyst for change and will have an impact that continues for generations.