As many of you know we are launching a new collaborative learning programme with Impact Hub and Robert Bosch Stiftung called beyond (un)employment, which you can find out more about and apply for here. At the end of March, we held an information evening which brought together a small group of curious minds, interested in what beyond (un)employment has to offer. Here is a snapshot of what the group thought on some of the key questions we explore together:

Why are you here and what has motivated you to apply for beyond (un)employment?

Here are 21 of the reasons participants have said motivated them to apply, and also some of the broad concepts they are hoping to explore. There is a wide range of motivations, interests and experience already emerging from the applicants – what could you potentially add?

Unemployment, Employment and Work

We did a short, quick-fire exploration of the terms Unemployment, Employment and Work. Here is what some of the group said – do you have thoughts to add?


Activity performed for the purpose of income generation. Energy and time contributed towards making other people work less. Work is any physical or mental activity. Work is something I’ve always done. Work is a value in society. Work is better for your health. Work is pleasure, graft, responsibility, undesirable graft.


Unemployment affects your mental health, mismatch of skills vs demand. There are barriers, physical and mental, to work. Space to think. Unemployment means no money, status or meaning to life. Anyone working less than 16 hours per week. Unemployment is my reason for leaving Wales. The inability to access reliable income generating activities. Unemployment is space to think.


It’s what organisations do to people. Being empowered to do what the Boss wants. Employment is a life sentence. Employment = obedience. Employment can contribute to self esteem. Source of income. Purely economic.



Impact of Brexit

Part of our specific exploration during the next 6 months as part of a global cohort (5 Impact Hub communities looking at the idea of (un)employment in their local context), will be to explore the impact of Brexit on the local economy. As a group, during the information evening we starting to unpack this a little. This was clearly just scratching the surface – what are the factors we need to consider? Could you add to this?

Post Brexit would increase the UK food prices will rise dramatically. How will Brexit affect my local family business of a butcher shop? What will our future cohesion policy be? Is it an opportunity? Will there be less funding for third sector and arts? Intercity trade deals? Will there be more bad jobs as Birmingham continues a strategy of large capital projects and construction as a main way to create more jobs? What is the future of migrants? uncertainty can create instability. We need to unpack this much further. How can global cultural leadership be nurtured, as we become more inward? Accepting the unfathomable complexity of Brexit and its impact. How will Brexit-based inflation impact people trying to maintain stable employment? Will having a blank slate to rework laws and legislation around work be helpful?


What Would Be a Good Outcome After Six Months?

With potential applicants we explored what would, for them, be a good outcome of being part of this programme / learning group over the next six months. Some of the answers included:

Better practical employment and advice for people leaving full time employment. Insight into fairer recruitment practices. Challenging traditional views and exploring aspiration. Tangible prototype that people can use. Identifying what different types of employment look like. Using it as an opportunity to deeply learn and implement change in our work. Adding a positive contribution to the process. Experiencing fruitful collaboration on something very hard. Exploring evidence and facts of the size of the issue locally. Better understanding of the drivers of unemployment. Ideas for Birmingham and how this experience can inform my work at Birmingham City Council. Meet interesting people and stimulate my brain. Challenge assumptions, expectations and aspirations. Evidence that you have to go beyond 24 hour hacks and challenge model and build collaborative and collective intelligence as a foundation for system change.


Who Should Be in the Cohort?

We know that a strong collaborative approach to complex challenges has to involve a range of people from across range of sectors, organisations and lived experiences. We asked the group, who do you think needs to be part of this cohort? Do you have any ideas and recommendations for people who may like to join?

Unemployed women, mothers who stay at home, mothers who return to work. People who have known financial insecurity. A mix of lateral thinkers and statisticians. People in their early 20s struggling to establish working life. People from Innovation Birmingham. HR Professionals. People who care and want to positively contribute. People over 50 who want and need to work. People with a strong understanding of Universal Basic Income. Trade Unions. Students. Uber / Deliveroo-type organisations.  

Key Topics

To aid with designing the programme we asked the group, what are the key topics the cohort must explore together that are related to the overall theme of beyond (un)employment? Here are some of the responses, what is missing

‘The economic value of trust and being trusted. Sharing economy. The distinction between employment and unemployment. Can working for social good earn anything? Job centres. The normality / status quo of 37 hours a week, full time work. Birmingham’s unique challenges and opportunities. Perception of unemployment. Talent management. Not make it about the traditional old fashioned skills agenda, that is not fit for purpose. People furthest from employment. A curriculum of learning, not just passing exams. How to build futures when corporations outmuscle government? Creating your work and purpose vs. being employable. New ways to be productive, valuable and useful. How do we share wealth and wealth creation. Young people, fair pay, women and work, 50+. Schools, education, universal basic income, stigma around unemployment. What do we mean by work and how do we fund people. Interaction between regional city states. Existing good practice in the space and not reinventing the wheel. Demographics of Birmingham over the next 20 years. Ageism. A workless future. Utopia’.


What Helps You to Learn?

As a team and community, we have all been part of programmes, from 1 day hack type events to MOOCs, accelerators and much more. All of these experiences have had varying degrees of impact, success, personal learning and growth. We explored this question, some of the responses included:

Informal off the radar chats in the pub, cafe, informal spaces. I actually like lectures. Making friends and laughing. Passionate people. Chats about complex topics. Good food, good conversation, informal / formal spaces. Sharing my own learning, knowledge and experience. Trying to apply a solution to a test area. Opportunity for change. Being challenged. Reflection time. Information, lots of it. Comparing approaches to people of different countries and backgrounds. Learning and sharing guidelines, so no one dominates. Mixed learning environments. Listening to others. Changing my mind. Being informed and made angry. Space – physical and time wise to reiterate and improve ideas. Digital engagement in the in between time. Safe spaces for tough conversations. Thinking space. 1 to 1 conversations. Walking and talking. Learning, helping people to problem solve. Helping people share their stories. Travelling and visiting places. Presenting new challenging ideas. Suggested readings. Podcasts.

What’s Next?

We have really enjoyed the response to the beyond (un)employment call out. The applicants so far have been from a range of experiences and expectations, mostly linked by a shared commitment to work with a collaborative group to tackle a complex challenge. This will certainly be the start of many questions and some answers to a big challenge. This is also a final call out to join us, no matter what your experience  – whether you feel directly impacted by the challenge, topic or idea or not. If you are a committed learner, doer and passionate about Birmingham, this programme needs your insight, passion and commitment.

We will be launching beyond (un)employment on Wednesday 19th April 2017 at Impact Hub Birmingham. You can apply to join the cohort here. For more information on the programme, visit our beyond (un)employment page here.


Daniel Blyden

Daniel Blyden