The Big Issue is all about creating a work opportunity. We give our vendors a chance to lift themselves out of poverty by selling a magazine.
But that opportunity isn’t just an essential part of ending homelessness – it needs to be found elsewhere in society to prevent others from falling into poverty and have a chance at a career and achieving their dream job.
There is no doubt that Covid-19 has made finding that opportunity more difficult. That’s why Big Issue Invest – The Big Issue’s social investment arm – is supporting projects around the UK with creative and innovative solutions to getting people into work. These are just a few of them.
While working at North East Refugee Service, Afi Dometi noticed a problem: all the women who got in touch for help were struggling to integrate into society. Isolation was taking hold and the impact on their mental health was severe.
The answer? Enter Africawad Recycling. The community interest company gives African women from areas of high deprivation in the North East of England the opportunity to work on their project recycling clothes.
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While countries all over the globe have had to reckon with integrating refugees into society, it is an issue that will only grow in future as the consequences of the climate crisis displace communities. UN forecasts estimate there could be between 25 million and one billion environmental migrants by 2050.
Not only does Africawad reduce the number of garments heading straight for landfill, their Women for Recycling Project also provides valuable work experience as well as combatting social isolation and boosting self-esteem.
As well as helping the planet through recycling, Africawad teaches women how to sell clothes online and work on their customer service talents to create transferrable skills and move on to full-time jobs. Proceeds from the project also go towards sponsoring the education of girls across the globe, boosting work prospects both here and abroad.
The transition from school into the world of work is always difficult, but the Covid-19 pandemic meant even sitting exams was impossible, let alone making a smooth transition from pupil to employee.
At the end of 2020, 797,000 young people aged between 16 and 24 in the UK were classed as NEET (not in employment, education or training) – up 34,000 in a year, according to Office for National Statistics figures.
For many school-leavers, the signs of struggle were there before they have even left – youth charity Impetus has warned that young people who receive free school meals are twice as likely to be NEET, for example.
ThinkForward intervenes to help kids while they are at school before they leave for a life of limbo.
The charity embeds work coaches in schools to provide one-on-one and group support for kids as young as 13 and helps them move into employment through their 20s.
Business partnership managers who work with employers tailor needs to young people, set up internships, apprenticeships and other work opportunities.
ThinkForward’s FutureMe programme works with young people to keep them on the right path in London, Nottingham and Kent while their specialist DFN-MoveForward programme adapts this model to help kids with mild to moderate learning difficulties in London, Kent and the West Midlands.
It’s easy for kids who have seen opportunities taken away from them during the pandemic to become disaffected and disillusioned. That’s why ThinkForward’s early interventions are more relevant than ever in the economic recovery.
While the name screams Bond villain, Goldfinger Factory are very much the good guys when it comes to community and climate.
Launched in 2013 by sustainability entrepreneurs Marie Cudennec Carlisle and Oliver Waddington-Ball, the social enterprise is actually named after Ernö Goldfinger. The renowned architect designed Trellick Tower, the West London building where they create golden opportunities for young people who are out of work and education, and older disadvantaged adults from the community.
Goldfinger Factory does this through an academy that teaches people how to make sustainable furniture and homewares, whittling their woodwork skills into further employment opportunities. So far, their work has given youngsters 13,809 hours of paid meaningful work with all trainees receiving the London Living Wage.
The social enterprise is not just creating skills for the future but wants to secure the planet’s wellbeing too with an ethos of reuse that has so far diverted 398 tonnes of materials from landfill and crafted them into beautiful furniture.
On top of that, Goldfinger Factory has a People’s Kitchen that has been delivering nutritious food to the community throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
So while they may be giving the people they train the tools to take over a changing, carbon-neutral world, there’s no sign of any megalomania here.
Big Creative Community/Big Creative Training
The creative industries have been clobbered throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
Prior to the pandemic, the sector had been growing at five times the speed of the wider economy, according to The Creative Industries Federation, contributing £116bn to the economy and employing more than two million people.
But as live events return from their Covid-enforced break, the UK cannot ‘build back better’ without giving the next generation the tools to create mind-blowing works of art.
Their campus in Walthamstow, East London, has more than 300 sixth-form age learners specialising in gaming and animation – perhaps the one creative industry to have benefited during the pandemic – as well as media, music and performing arts and events.
Big Creative is also working to give youngsters a foot in the door in the industry with over 100 apprentices in job placements studying music, digital media, marketing, content production, visual effects and events. Students have even had the chance to attend a secret gig with rapper Stormzy.
As the creative industries get back on their feet in the years to come, Big Creative’s students will be the ones elevating it back to its former pre-Covid glories.
Give your vendor a hand up and buy the magazine. Big Issue vendors are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. But, at the same time, they are micro-entrepreneurs. By supporting their business, you can help them overcome homelessness, financial instability and other social disadvantages that hold them back.