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Paul Lam - Coventry Chess Academy


Coventry Chess Academy on Facebook

gmman at hotmail dot co dot uk

My enterprise project

My enterprise reflections & visions

The Coventry Chess Academy (CCA) is a social enterprise providing chess tuition for children aged 6 to 12. Our sessions run in Coventry every Saturday morning: 10–12 noon. Our main aim is to use chess as a catalyst for social change by providing children with skills that empower them in and outside the classroom.

I came up with the idea for the CCA after being contacted by a colleague whose 6 year old son was interested in playing chess. His son’s school did not have a chess club and he had been unable to find a suitable and local place for him to learn. Around the same time, I attended a talk on social enterprise by a representative of the charitable organisation UnLtd. After some investigation and reflection, I concluded there was a demand for chess amongst local children and that chess could become a vehicle for social change through the skills and qualities it teaches. Moreover, as a former England junior international and qualified chess coach, I realised I was in a position to make this happen.

The CCA opened in July 2013 and has gone from strength to strength. We have succeeded in reaching out to those who are most in need; a significant number of our members come from areas of high socio-economic deprivation and others have faced cultural/linguistic challenges e.g. not speaking English as a first language. Parents comment on how we have helped their children develop confidence, social skills, concentration, decision-making and thoughtfulness; all while having fun in the process.

The chess improvement demonstrated by our members has been simply amazing. Complete beginners have been transformed into proficient players. Novices have been transformed into tournament prize-winners.

The main thing I have learned from the enterprise experience is that there is a huge amount of goodwill amongst members of the public. To benefit from their assistance you just have to be passionate about your idea, be able to present a good case and be unafraid to speak about it with as many people as possible.

I would strongly advise other students and staff to get involved if they have an idea and the ability to make it happen. You’ve got nothing to lose and there’s so much to gain.

Over the next 3-6 months, I plan to upgrade the Coventry Chess Academy’s teaching capacity through better technology. We will be investing in equipment such as digital chess clocks, chess engines and instructional DVDs. We also aim to replace our blogspot with a website offering a forum for playing games, video tutorials and other online learning resources. I believe that our membership will continue to grow and this – along with an increased online presence – will expand our range of beneficiaries.


My enterprise support

My enterprise skills & motivations

The University of Warwick has been a valuable source of support. In addition to funding, Warwick has provided:

  • pitch coaching from a journalist and media personality
  • regular meetings with the Enterprise and Research Development Officer
  • useful contacts
  • networking opportunities at events

Meeting other Warwick students and staff engaged in enterprise was a useful and mutually beneficial experience. I continue to welcome further opportunities for meetings and collaboration.

My enterprise project has given me the opportunity to develop coaching, leadership, project-management, marketing and commercial skills which would not have been possible in my workplace.

I have been most surprised by my ability to lead or supervise a group of coaches, and to teach a large group of children and win their respect. Previously, I had only taught on a one-to-one basis or in a secondary support role.

The skills I developed will definitely help progress my career with higher education. I have ambitions for a management role in this sector.