Something notable is buried in the article "750,000 to join ranks of long-term unemployed in the next four years" (as reported in the Guardian).
"More than 100,000 prison leavers will now also be entered into the Work Programme for the first time..."
This is good news, albeit a bit old; though it seems no one paid attention when it was announced last August. The Conservative government (why bother calling it a coalition anymore, honestly) occassionally does things that make sense -- unfortunately those times are few and far between.
70% of those in prison, on average, reoffend. Those serving community sentences reoffend less than half the time. Recall that the first real trial of social impact bonds was in Peterborough Prison where a social enterprised bargained for an estimated return of forgone savings (or money that other would have been spent) to curb reoffending rates by implementing a successful scheme that did indeed curb reoffending rates.
It's about enablement -- according to Dr Martin Seligman, unhappy with his happiness agenda has reframed it as well-being. In Flourish, Seligman spends most of the book talking about self-awareness and emotional skills as the most important skills for success in 21st century work. This is what we have called digital literacy in our forth-coming book. Seligman tests his well-being teaching programme not on prisoners, but on another often economically marginalised post-term group: soldiers. To 'flourish' is about having the presence of mind and confidence in yourself to pull your own resources to adapt to whatever challenges life places in front of you.
There are a number of groups doing enablement work for the long-term unemployed (London Creative Labs and Particple to name a few). Their approach is different: it involves teaching what is largely self-awareness, to enable people back into work.
London Creative Labs board member David Pinto believes, though, that if we continue to conceptualise work as something that we 'put people back into' then we won't see employment rise. Pinto's big idea is that by teaching enablement, people can create their own work, work for their society doing what needs to be done.
But does government have a role? We at rethink work would say that government's role is to enable society to have the flexibility and the resources for that to happen.
There is something similar about the way social impact bonds work to the way that the Work Programme works: private sector contractors are paid upon results. But that won't make much difference if the economy isn't creating jobs, or rather if people aren't enabled to recognise and make their own opportunity. That's the danger.
There's easy criticism to be leveled at this view: how can you expect people to all be entrepreneurs or freelancers? We don't.
The extreme view is that as we all become freed, enlightened agents of the "creative economy", large businesses will cease to exist. We don't think this will happen, rather what we think is likely is that the economy will be able to support more entrepreneurial activities, social enterprises, and small business made up of coalitions of professionals who bring unique skills to their work. Those with the resources (Seligman's high levels of well-being) will be the most desirable candidates for jobs, will likely have the wherewithall (risk tolerance) to be entrepreneurs.