Covid-19 Action Fund winners: employment and enterprise

The Covid-19 Action Fund provides grants for Churchill Fellows to run projects combatting the effects of Covid-19 in all areas of society. Hundreds of pandemic projects nationwide are being run or assisted by Churchill Fellows, using the international expertise they gained during their Fellowships overseas. Here are the Action Fund recipients working on issues relating to employment and enterprise.

December 2020 awards

David Morgan: supporting prison leavers into self-employment

 

Covid-19 has had a significant impact on people in custody. All face-to-face education and resettlement services have been significantly reduced, negatively impacting access to learning opportunities and the chance to prepare for life after release. According to a recent Ministry of Justice bulletin, published earlier this year, proven re-offending rates for adults released from prison are 46% (approximately 30,000 people per year) which costs the UK £6 Billion pa. The total cost of reoffending is calculated to be £18 billion pa. Helping offenders into employment reduces their rates of reoffending. However, the economic effects of the pandemic mean there are fewer job opportunities and rising unemployment levels, with record numbers of redundancies being reported, so the need to consider self-employment and starting a business will increase.

David Morgan from Bolton, Greater Manchester, is the Founder and Director of Entrepreneurs Unlocked CIC, which enables people in custody to develop their entrepreneurial talent and give them a crime-free future.

He will use his grant to develop a digital support community for people released from prison and those serving community orders, who have completed a learning programme with Entrepreneurs Unlocked, to support them in setting up as self-employed and earning a sustainable income. This platform will provide videos, tutorials, templates and 'how to' guides, as well as connections with trusted organisations to advise on digital, business and finance skills. The platform will also provide an online buddy system, enabling people to share their experiences and encouraging them to access help with their wellbeing. David's Fellowship to the USA in 2018 explored entrepreneurial opportunities for offenders and was supported by The Rank Foundation.

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Eifion Williams: building resilience amongst community businesses

 

The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on small and medium size community businesses and social enterprises. Many are at risk from liquidity issues and unemployment which makes resilience and recovery hard to sustain.

Eifion Williams from Wrexham in Wales is the founder director of Circular Economy Wales CIC - a social enterprise that campaigns to see the elimination of all waste in Wales and its conversion into wealth.

He will be using his grant to develop and pilot a Mutual Credit System to help build recovery and resilience amongst community businesses in the face of the current and future economic downturns. Mutual credit provides a mechanism for businesses to trade without money, instead trading in goods or services. It is based on a model in Sardinia, called the Sardex, which Eifion researched on his Churchill Fellowship in 2018, where it has been used to great effect since 2010, increasing liquidity, helping community facing businesses to stay afloat whilst saving local jobs and vital services. Eifion will pilot the system in Wrexham, using his grant to promote membership to local businesses and subsequently sharing his findings with other regions across the UK. Eifion's Churchill Fellowship was supported by the Rank Foundation. 

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Emma Sullivan: upskilling students to prepare them for work

 

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that there has been a particularly significant drop in the number of young people in employment (16-24 year olds) as a result of the pandemic. And a recent Resolution Foundation report on the state of the labour market found that 19% of those who had lost their jobs following a period of furlough were aged 18-24, the highest rate of any age group. Opportunities for professional networking, internships and work experience have reduced, making it harder for this age group to find and prepare for work.

Emma Sullivan from Twickenham, London, is the co-founder and CEO of Prospela, an award-winning EdTech startup giving students on-demand access to employee e-mentors for career advice.

She will use her grant to develop a database of upskilling resources recommended by employers for students to use at home for free. In this way, the students will be able to upskill themselves and gain access to the latest career insights, with help from an e-mentor, to close an otherwise large gap on their CV. The service will be particularly aimed at state school and BAME students, who may not have access to the professional networks of their more affluent peers. Emma's Churchill Fellowship to the USA and Canada in 2018 explored how tech can be used to encourage corporate volunteering and was supported by The Rank Foundation.

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John Blackmore: providing business start-up training for the unemployed

 

Official statistics show that young people have been disproportionately affected by the rise in unemployment as a result of the pandemic. Additionally a recent Resolution Foundation report on the state of the labour market found that 19% of those who had lost their jobs following a period of furlough were aged 18-24, the highest rate of any age group; and more than one in four who were either not working, furloughed or on reduced pay were from London.

John Blackmore from Ealing is the CEO of Action West London, a charity and social enterprise that helps change peoples' lives through employment, education and enterprise.

John will use his grant to launch an online and face-to-face street market business start-up training and support course for unemployed young people and adults, primarily from BAME communities. The course will be led by a business advisor and skilled trainer, and will link participants with volunteer business mentors and experienced market traders to help develop their entrepreneurial skills. Participants will translate their training into practice by running stalls at the well-established Acton Street market, run by Action West London, testing out business ideas, before having the opportunity to progress to other markets or set up their own business. In this way, the project will also help with local high street and community regeneration. John hopes the project will support a minimum of 20 young people and adults, and that it might be replicated across other London boroughs and the rest of the UK. John's Churchill Fellowship to Australia and the USA in 2002 explored international approaches to crime and community safety which he subsequantly implemented in his work back in London.

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