Event to align Joseph Rowntree Foundation's social investment to anti-poverty goals

Andy Smith Tue, May 07th, 2019

Small Change and The Good Economy are working with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to help align its social investment activities more directly with its anti-poverty strategy. One part of this strategy is to support “A route out of poverty through work”.

In March 2019, we assembled a room full of sector experts, innovators and entrepreneurs and ran an Ideation Event – aiming to develop new approaches to tackle the issue of in-work poverty. Throughout the workshop we considered:

  • The causes of in-work poverty and the barriers that keep people trapped in poverty
  • The stakeholders who are financially motivated to solve the problem of in-work poverty
  • What new ideas can be used to tackle this issue

Throughout the day, three big themes emerged:


1. Employee Enablers

When an employee has more job options available, they are in a stronger bargaining position.

People often experience barriers outside of the workplace that limit their employment options, e.g. having poor transport links or lack of affordable childcare. If social investment was channelled into providing enablers to overcome these barriers, employees would have a wider set of jobs available and then they could either move roles or expect a higher wage.

Some examples of enablers include:

  • Helping to overcome cash flow problems early in the month
  • Providing better transport links
  • Convenient and affordable childcare
  • Enabling flexible working hours or the ability to work from home

Who are the social enterprises that provide such enablers and what type of development finance to they need?


2. 'Good Employer' Business Models

Employers who focus on providing good quality long-term jobs for their employees with the aim of retaining and continually up-skilling staff should be encouraged.

There are several simple steps that employers could be taking to minimise in-work poverty. These could form a minimum requirement to receive investment from socially-minded investors. Also, over time, employers would want to advertise if they provided ‘Good Jobs’.

These practices include:

  • Paying all workers at least the Real Living Wage
  • Providing transparency of pay levels across a business by being consistent with using Hourly Rate or Annual Salary when describing wages
  • Providing structured, rigorous training
  • Giving opportunities to up-skill and move into new roles
  • Advertising roles to ensure a wide range of people are aware of them
  • Providing flexible working arrangements
  • Supporting employees to manage financial difficulties e.g. through providing information on affordable credit options or helping manage cashflow

What are the other signs of a ‘Good Employer’?


3. The benefits of networks

New career ideas and work opportunities are often found through people you know. Building networks is important to improving job opportunities.

By having a broad network of friends and acquaintances, a person will be aware of a wider selection of potential opportunities. Also, you are more likely to listen to the advice of a friend – this might be the ‘nudge’ needed to overcome the fear of applying for another job. The friends and networks of people in poverty are often in a similar position, and so are less well placed to signpost new opportunities.

Therefore, it’s particularly important for people to have a diverse network of friends. Organisations that directly, or indirectly, connect people working in different sectors, and from different backgrounds, and enable people to explore different career pathways have an important role to play in supporting people into better jobs.

How can social entrepreneurs develop new ways to get people to meet and develop broad networks?

These are just some initial thoughts, sparked by the conversations had from the Ideation Event. If you have any comments, ideas or suggestions, please join the conversation on Twitter: #solveukpoverty

Or DM us @SocInv_SmChange and @TheGood_Economy

Or email your thoughts to andy@thegoodeconomy.co.uk