Social Startup Labs for Enterprise & Work Creation

Transforming Neighbourhood Economies & Communities

Many cities have neighbourhoods with high levels of unemployment & social exclusion. Social Startup Labs is a ecosystem approach to enterprise & work creation using underused assets like vacant spaces & talents of the excluded to enable deghettoisation.

Social Startup Labs are a series of intense workshops where a range of neighbourhood stakeholders match underused assets with un(der)met needs in order to discover enterprise opportunities. The resulting Social Startups can be incubated with training, coaching & seed funding over months to become trading enterprises creating value for paying customers, paid employment for the excluded & tax revenue for local government.

To empower the excluded to fully participate in the Labs, we offer Skills Camps. This is a course delivered over several weeks using a peer to peer career coaching approach to build confidence, improve interpersonal skills & discover transferable skills, while building supportive relationships with peers. Camps graduates are more active in the Labs & better engaged with the job market.

The above services are generally delivered as part of a programme on a commissioned basis. Previous participants have gone onto employment or into vocational training; demonstrated positive behaviour change; changes in how they thought & felt; had improvements in interpersonal relationships.

Our services have changed peoples’ lives & can transform neighbourhoods by instilling a culture of entrepreneurship.

One of the biggest challenges facing cities is neighbourhoods with high levels of unemployment & social exclusion. Even during periods of strong economic growth, certain neighbourhoods have persistently experienced those difficulties. Various efforts at urban regeneration generally fail to turn around the lives of those whose social exclusion all too often lead to bad outcomes in terms of employment, income, education, health, antisocial behaviour & crime. External factors that contribute to or exacerbate the exclusion include lack of social cohesion, low levels of participation, and lack of engagement. Internal factors include lack of soft skills (especially networking), lack of confidence, fatalistic thinking, poor strategies for job search and career development. These create a dysfunctional socioeconomic ecosystem.

There are useful assets available locally such as spaces that are empty or underused, equipment that’s not fully utilized, people with underused skills, talents and knowledge. Excluded people represent a supply of labour that has not met sufficient demand. They can collaborate with others to restart the local economy & create jobs. London Creative Labs used social innovation & an ecosystem approach to devise a complex social intervention that uses local assets to generate local labour demand while addressing underlying many of the factors sustaining unemployment & social exclusion. As what's needed is a generative approach to deghettoisation.

Social Startup Labs are a series of intense 1-day workshops with a range of neighbourhood stakeholders including citizens from different social strata. They identify & match underused assets with un(der)met needs in order to discover opportunities. They form startups around opportunities & develop a sustainable business model based on products & services they can offer using the assets to address them.

In the Social Startup Incubator over a period of months, they receive initial support in the form of enterprise training, coaching and (optionally) seed funding. Ongoing support is provided by a wider incubation ecosystem. This enables them to become trading enterprises delivering value to paying customers, generating paid employment for local people & tax revenue for local government.

The excluded often feel they have little of value to contribute & are less motivated to participate in the Labs. Skills Camps is an 8-16 day course delivered over several weeks that helps them discover their ability to contribute by using a peer to peer career coaching approach to build confidence, improve interpersonal skills & uncover transferable skills, while building mutually supportive relationships with neighbours. Camp graduates are more active in Lab participation & more able to engage the job market.

The above services are delivered as part of a commissioned programme in high unemployment neighbourhoods, ideally in partnership with a local development agency and/or local govt.

The Kauffman Foundation says, “Job growth is driven, essentially entirely, by startup firms that develop organically." Local economies can be transformed through creating Social Startups to provide work opportunities for the excluded. Many are migrants from nations with economic growth like Morocco & Indonesia. They can play a role in exporting goods & services to them. By tapping into underused assets like vacant spaces, the Labs effectively expand & increase utilisation of the production base. Those startups that become successfully trading enterprises make cities more economically sustainable & contribute to the tax base. 19 startups have emerged from 2 Labs. 63% of 54 attendees had learned something. 42% had achieved a personally desired outcome. 53% had gained a practical benefit. 75% had expanded their network.

Skills Camps put the excluded on track to sustained employment & in the mid to long term, higher incomes. 67 mostly unemployed have graduated from 4 Camps. 71% of them either obtained employment or went into vocational training. 93% demonstrated a positive behaviour change. 95% had a change in how they thought & felt. 72% experienced an improvement in interpersonal relationships. The career coaching skills they gain enable them to help not just themselves, but also family, friends & neighbours. Our hypothesis is if 20% of the unemployed in a high unemployment area graduate from Skills Camps, it will turn around the local “worklessness” culture.

Skills Camps in particular is targeted at the socially excluded with an emphasis on the unemployed. The Camps help participants explore their life purpose as part of the career coaching they give & receive. Camps graduates participate more in vocational learning and often become active citizens.

The excluded are often lacking in resilience & easily discouraged, leading to disempowerment & depression. A tool taught at the Camps is the Work of Byron Katie which is a powerful, but easy to learn & use form of cognitive therapy. This allows participants to deal with persistent negative thoughts & improve mental well-being. It also helps them to be more resilient in their job search & career development.

Women are more likely to take up the Skills Camp offer (73% of participants in 4 Camps) & tend to be able to better exploit the enhanced soft skills they acquire. Women were 50% of participants in 2 Labs.

One aim of the Labs is to increase the connectedness of the excluded with those who have better access to information & resources. Thus helping to close the social divide between the “haves” & the “have nots” thus contributing to deghettoisation. Hence the need to have a diverse range of citizens taking part. Citizens who have taken part in either Camps or Labs often comment on having a greater sense of community. Excluded who take part in Camps & then Labs benefit more from their improved social networks.

Zero waste of people is at the heart of what we do as is local economic development. Social Startup Labs are specifically about creating enterprise & employment opportunities for local people. This means they will have less of an carbon footprint due to having to travel shorter often walkable distances to work. The Labs increases ecological resilience by more optimal utilisation of local assets. The Labs enables participants to instigate Social Startups that have a basis in sustainability if they so wish.

Skills Camps graduates tend to get more involved in local initiatives including those relating to sustainability.

As previously mentioned, Skills Camps graduates who are often from marginalized groups tend to be more active citizens than they were prior taking part in the Camps. They will participate more in local fora and groups. They will get more involved with and/or instigate local projects, especially if they have also taken part in Social Startup Labs.