2. A revolution in grassroots enterprise:
The Work Programme – a centralised approach to employment – hasn’t worked. Finance aimed at start-ups or social organisations is often too hard to access. Local enterprise partnerships (leps) take a broad brush approach and are unable to deal with the nuances of local labour markets, and in particular those who are disconnected from them. A skills and jobs mismatch is prevalent in every city we visited, and a lack of employability among the population is holding back economic output, and creating jobs in which wages and terms and conditions are unacceptable. Economic policies focus on big business while employment is shifting towards small and self-employed solutions and micro- businesses. Across the country, however, we found a wide variety of social sector organisations involved in locally rooted approaches to the creation of sustainable jobs and enterprises and skills training. IndyCube is a not-for-profit organisation that has created community level co-working spaces across Wales. In Liverpool Baltic Creative is a community interest company for the creative and tech sector. It manages co-working spaces, helps businesses establish and develop, and builds networks, with all profits reinvested into its buildings and support networks. ‘Soup’ events are happening across the country, where locals pay to attend a community meal at which ideas for local enterprises are pitched and the winning idea takes home the funds pooled by the audience. Levenshulme Market uses its profits to fund local enterprises and community projects, while TestTown and Can Do Places bring regeneration and local enterprise creation together. Social enterprise organisations such as the Jericho Foundation in Birmingham and the Bryson Group and the Now Group in Belfast help connect disadvantaged people to local jobs, and set up new social businesses and supply chains to provide them. The Galgael social enterprise in Glasgow offers training and jobs in traditional ship-building to people who are long-term unemployed or with mental health problems. Our economies are going through rapid change, as technology shakes up traditional roles and opens up new ways of working. Those places that grasp the nettle, that nurture creativity and empowerment through work, that harness new technologies and the changing nature of work, will thrive.
Who’s doing it:
Baltic Creative | IndyCube | Levenshulme Market | Walker Soup | Beautiful Ideas Company | My Clubmoor | TestTown | Can Do Places | Small is Beautiful | Civic economy in Manchester | Jericho Foundation | Now Group in Belfast | Community economic development
What it needs:
The policy framework of the Work Programme and associated funding through the Skills Funding Agency and the leps needs to change in relation to work and skills. There needs to be a shift away from a centrally-determined, standardised and ‘payment by results’ focused model to one where there is greater emphasis on a localised approach with better relationships between strategists, providers and people. Skills schemes that are locally-led and bespoke are needed as well as social sector involvement in building local supply chains and linking people to jobs.
Clare Goff is former Editor of New Start magazine