Beyond (Un)employment Session 4
Projects We Love

Session 4 on Wednesday 7th June saw the group head to East Birmingham for the first session away from Impact Hub Birmingham. It felt important to take this step and get out from the city centre, and Bryan, a member of the Beyond (un)employment Birmingham cohort, was kind enough to host us at The Pump, a charity working on the site of an old petrol station, designed and built by young people 10 years ago as a hub for youth work and activity. Previously known as Shard End Community Project, The Pump is an important beacon in the area, and Bryan shared some of the challenges, hopes and dreams with us openly whilst showing us around their various spaces, which include recording & dance studios, cybercafe and a nursery.

“The beauty is that we have the freedom to do what we do, as long as it brings in income and supports young people. You can’t really get away from the need to find work for young people in an area such as this. What little youth support services there are now can be found here.
Bryan, Beyond (un)employment Birmingham Cohort

Unpicking & Unpacking

Not only was it great to come together off-site to share in Bryan’s work to allow the group to connect with each other’s worlds more deeply, but this particular session aimed to ignite a bank of knowledge and resource around existing projects that we can learn from, be inspired by and build upon. What better place to start pulling together great examples of such projects from within one already doing great work in the community?

The session revolved around examining and identifying the beginnings of a collection of projects we love, with some initial ideas curated by the team and put up around the walls to invite response and prompt further suggestions and conversations. The premise lay around the idea that we need to know what has been done, what hasn’t been, and look at both successes and failures and what contributed to those outcomes.

“The success of any project is largely dependent on the energy or passion of the people doing it, so if something has failed we need to make sure to look at why.” – Karolina, Beyond (un)employment Birmingham Cohort


We’ve put up some examples, but we want you to follow your curiosity. Bring your missing gaps to the table. What examples and projects interest you?

The cohort were invited to make a poster, individually or in small groups, to showcase a self-identified project they deemed useful or important to share with the group including key learnings to take away from it. This exercise set the scene for a poster tour, with these findings joining the other examples around the room’s walls, with the intention of progressing the group’s thinking forward towards areas they’d like to explore further.

Here is some of the process and projects that followed, a blend of collective questions, ideas, inspirations and interrogations.

Poster 1: Barcelona Activa


City Council investing in local people through space, business advice
– Regeneration process, going for 30 years and rolled out around the world as an example of local regeneration.
– Put people at the centre
– People with the money took the risk and the community thrived as a result.
– Intentional, they want those people to grow.

Poster 2: Northamptonshire Police


– 30 young men who had been recriminalized as ‘collateral damage’.
Our job now is to get those 30 men into work – that will stop crime on this estate.
– Public servants don’t often take a step back and see what they’re really here to do.
– “Where there’s a lot of crime there’s less trust, and I think trust is an economic multiplier in its own right.”
– “Trust oils economic wheels, makes transactions easier.”

Poster 3: Participatory City / UK Men’s Shed Association

Andrew & Deborah

– Individuals having a chance to design their own environment. Mass participation, participatory ecology, platform approach, mutually dependent.
– “Out of the big picture a smaller picture can evolve.”
– Symbolism of a shed, a place where men could go away and hide, do what they wanted to do, associate with and talk with each other.
– The idea when you’re standing side by side doing something it’s easier to talk about things.
– Opportunity to amplify it and to replicate it, people to set up their own sheds to share tools, chat and make projects.
– “Can you change the air in a place so more participation takes place with less friction?”

Poster 4: Changes UK


Changes UK are based in Digbeth and work with recovering addicts, people struggling with alcohol and drug dependencies.
– Not just helping people get a job but helping them do what they want to do. Marketing, gardening, different areas.
– They deliver person-centred support, individual. 24/7 support, every part of that process, skill development. Setting up businesses.
– For £1 invested in the social return is £14.58

Poster 5: Blue Sky Development


– Works with ex-offenders to provide them with training, 6 months worth of employment, grounds maintenance or recycling sector.
– Re-offending is a major issue if you don’t have work to go to.
– According to their website, 2011 report, could research more and get in touch.
– Groundwork London did an amazing job working for Olympic village. Only 15% went on to reoffend, 43% went on to find permanent work.
– Restaurants in prison work with the offenders and they the restaurant inside the prison.
– Means the offenders had got a skill, chef, silver service waiting, employability skills. Transition into work.

Poster 6: The Pump Lab

Bryan & Diana

– Mythology / storytelling you can create in the voluntary sector. “It can be difficult to be the little boy who says the emperor has no clothes on.”
– Fab Lab: Birmingham’s history is a trade place and market place, now this includes new technology.
– A two way thing – teaching young people and them bringing skills that we don’t have.
– Myth / challenge: It is possible to invest money in something in an area of need that meets that need and generates money?

Poster 7: Eagle House Furniture Factory


– Bristol City Council wanted to commission around £100,00 of furniture and 00 said I think there’s a better way of doing this.
– Instead of just making some furniture, let’s create a pop up factory with C&C router, laser cutters etc.
– 2 paid traineeships and lots of volunteers, young people recruited. 6 month pilot project, created nearly 500 pieces of furniture.
– Love that the skills were not just hard graft but forward looking skills of the future – design, digital, manufacturing, managing a business.
– Because it went so well, the traineeships carried it on and moved on to the business park, open source manufacturing.
– Loved that it’s a pilot that was commercial from day one. Clever, smart and simple to replicate. Became a sustainable model.

Poster 8: Questions Around (Un)employment


– Questions around area of getting a job and being unemployed. Do I understand the journey, the steps?
– Most people, it’s a negative experience, not individually tailored, there’s a gap in Birmingham for realistic cost effective support for people.
– What is the gap? What is the need? Are people being forced into jobs they don’t want?
– Don’t feel individuals in the job centre. More co-ordinated approach for local charities to work together and share knowledge.
– Business in the Community organisation found by random chance and connected with Youth Promise Plus through networking.
– Creating something alternative to the job centre. Independent Job centre in the Guardian article.

Poster 9: Unsuccessful Projects

Colin & Karolina

– Looking at what we can learn from all the projects over the years deemed not to have succeeded.
– Initially they had some life and legs, provided inspiring leadership and got the project off the ground.
– Either floundered scaling it up, public sector who didn’t share the enthusiasm, or the source of funding imposed stuff that killed it completely.
– How do you create a central resource where they can all go to so not have to start from scratch?

Poster 10: ESF ITM


– Model that was applied was set of 32 small projects across the UK, tailored individual support for individual need.
– Flexible funding made it possible. No prescription of what can be done. Projects had permission to fail as long as it was well described.
– Mental health, ex offending, green skills, digital skills and more themes.
– Success partly linked to these projects connected by the community of joined themes exchanging knowledge. Constantly learning and improving.
– Large organisations dictated by funding are not necessarily going to make it work. Too big and bureaucratic.


In this fourth meeting, we were looking at ideas of solutions, but that doesn’t mean that we should move to solutions. This session showed that some people desperately want to work on something and begin building, whereas others know they need to know more of the big picture before they begin – doing vs. exploring – and we need to hold that as a group. The advice from the team was to keep paying attention to what you’re feeling, and that you will be able to coalesce with groups who are ready to look at a system level or hone in on pockets of study in the coming months to create focus.

What the cohort said:

  • I found the session today and being shown round The Pump interesting, which I’d heard of but never been to.
  • Projects are all very well but what about much bigger systemic issues? How do you map the system and what are the skills needed?
  • Really good to be in a place other than the hub today as changes up the way you think.
  • There’s more questions than answers. As a frontline worker, there’s loads of great stuff out there but you’re overwhelmed with where to go and who to speak to, with little time.
  • I found it interesting to have the discussions and hear from other people’s experiences. It made me feel like I need to go away and do some reading, spend a bit of time alone researching. Discussions are great but they leave you wanting to know more.
  • Wanting to refer everything back to our initial conversation. I feel like I’m going home with a much bigger understanding of how to work in these sectors. Nice to refer back to systemic ideas.

Today, bringing the collective consciousness together and pooling the experience and knowledge in the room led to a lively discussion, responding to each others’ posters, unpacking Projects We Love into Projects We Can Learn From, and thereby getting closer to what everyone will be working on further, spurred on by the energy and potential reach of themselves as a group, within a city-wide network, as part of a global project.

To get a low down on this session there is a video below capturing the thoughts of Bryan, Karolina & Diana at the end of our fourth session together.

To follow along with updates from the programme visit:
or drop your comments, ideas or links into the form below to have your say, and feed into the conversations started in this session.

Live illustrations by Katie Tomlinson.
Photography & videography by Paul Stringer.