How to make a million jobs - A charter for social enterprise

By Colin Crooks

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Special Offer to SocEnts

date: September 28, 2012

I love being a social entrepreneur and I genuinely believe that social entrepreneurship will be at the cutting edge of social change in the years and decades ahead. My book is dedicated to social entrepreneurs and by way of acknowledging your incredible efforts across this country I have set up this special discount site for you. Ordering through this site will not only get you a very competitive price on the book but it will also give business to Eco-Computers, a great socent based in Deptford who will do all the post and packing.

Final, Final edit

date: August 07, 2012

What a drag! The final edit has been really hard work: in typesetting we lost one chart and another moved 6 pages! then some footnotes went awry and as for inverted commas............. Fortunately, I have a brilliant editor who spots these things!

Stephen Timms MP

date: August 07, 2012

Stephen Timms MP & Shadow Minister for Employment has reviewed my final draft! He says "Colin has drawn on his own impressive career in social enterprise to produce a fascinating blend of important policy ideas with personal stories. The accounts of individuals who made it into work, and did or did not stick at it, are enthralling. They shed a lot of light on the menace of long term worklessness, and how we should tackle it." Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP

a title at last

date: July 25, 2012

Inspiration today as I discussed possible titles with Jenny. We thought "Wanted - a million jobs" and thought about wanted posters but in the typical "Wanted" poster the state wants a criminal and what I'm trying to reflect is that its the people that want the government to do something about jobs. So the idea of a Charter came out - a sort of eureka moment. After all, I list some big ideas about what Government AND business could do to help create jobs. The title is fixed "How to make a million jobs - a Charter for social enterprise" at last.......

Growing interest

date: July 25, 2012

The book is really taking shape now - with a bit of help I think I can finish it in time for the Party conference season. I've just finished a section on "how to fund job creation"

My campaign

date: July 06, 2012

I am really pleased that my talk on Radio 4 "Four Thought" seems to have got a lot of people thinking. People are really worried about unemployment but it doesn't seem to get a mention from government. The broadcast marked the beginning of my campaign to get it to be the number one concern. Its a good start but I have a long way to go.

First Chapter

date: June 26, 2012

Introduction At the point of writing this nearly 6.5 million people are unemployed or under-employed in this country. In addition, a further 7 million people are not looking for work. That equates to nearly one working-age person in three being unemployed or ‘economically inactive’ in the UK. To me this is a staggering and scandalous figure. It represents millions of wasted and stunted lives; it represents a tower of frustration, anger and disappointment. It also represents sheer, unforgivable waste. Despite this, reports on worklessness are relatively rare in the mainstream media and there is no proper discussion of the issue. Worklessness and its causes go to the heart of so many of the social problems that we face today, from poverty to immigration, from obesity to crime rates, and yet it rarely features in our national discourse. The media regularly carry stories on the prevailing unemployment rate and focus especially on the figures for youth unemployment. However, hardly anyone seems to appreciate the degree of adult worklessness that prevails in this country. It is as if the issue is like the bottom four-fifths of an iceberg, hidden from view. We adopt an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude to the colossal rates of worklessness that afflict many of our poorest areas. We ignore the issue because the bulk of workless people are concentrated in very deprived, isolated areas. The poverty of our inner cities and towns is frightening and getting worse. It seems to be an intractable problem with no solution. Since the Brixton and Toxteth riots of 1981, governments of various hues have thrown huge resources at these areas, and while some of their efforts have worked, most seem to have had depressingly little long-term impact. Areas that were suffering in 1981 are very likely still to be depressed now. Despite all the investment over 25 or so years, many of these communities remain at the bottom of the deprivation table. Of the 614 postcode sectors with the highest levels of unemployment in 1985, 400 of them are still experiencing worse unemployment rates than anywhere else in the country. Of the remaining 214, only eight communities have seen their unemployment rate rise up to the national average. Eight out of 614 achieving just average levels of unemployment in 25 years? Even more extraordinary is that for many communities nothing has changed in relative terms for 70 years or more. The Special Areas (Development and Improvement) Act of 1934 defined 251 ‘Depressed Areas’. By 2005, only 49 of those 251 communities had achieved a rate of unemployment better than the national average at any time in the intervening 70-plus years. The proportion of people who are unemployed or workless in these areas in relation to other areas has barely changed. Why is this issue so important? As E. F. Schumacher says, ‘If a man has no chance of obtaining work he is in a desperate position, not simply because he lacks an income but because he lacks the nourishing and enlivening factor of disciplined work which nothing can replace.’ For too long we seem to have counted only the economic aspects of work – whether the wage packet makes someone materially better off and improves their and their children’s life-chances, chances that are, of course, also defined only in monetary terms. Unemployment is a tragedy for the individuals concerned because unemployment and poorly paid, insecure, casual employment are the root causes not only of poverty but also of a raft of other dreadful challenges such as ill-health, criminality, poor environments and low educational achievements. In her new book Work, Worklessness and the Political Economy of Health, Clare Bambra is very clear ‘that work and worklessness are central to our health and wellbeing and are the underlying determinants of health inequalities. The material and psychosocial conditions in which we work have immense consequences for our physical and mental wellbeing, as well as for the distribution of population health. Recessions, job-loss, insecurity and unemployment also have important ramifications for the health and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities. Chronic illness is itself a significant cause of worklessness and low pay.’ Worklessness also has a very negative effect on the wider society. Its steady increase has huge ramifications for our society and these became all too obvious during the riots of August 2011. However, the problems caused by worklessness go far deeper than the outburst of lawlessness that we saw then: it has a chronically corrosive and degrading effect on our society and our feelings of security and well-being. We have intensely discussed and debated the reasons for and the effects of the 2011 riots, but we have not examined or properly analysed the more insidious and destructive chronic problems that were the cause of those terrible events. For too long we have focused on the symptoms of poverty – poor health and poor living conditions, the lack of affordable housing, and so on. I think that we should focus more on the causes. For me, worklessness is at the root of most of our social ills. I believe that helping the 15% (or one person in six!) of people who are unemployed or under-employed to get consistent work will boost their life chances and change their whole outlook. Employment cannot of itself fix the structural housing problems that we see in many estates and it cannot completely overcome some of the severe accumulated health issues that afflict poorer areas. But employment can increase a person’s income, thereby making housing and the other essentials of life more affordable. It creates a stronger sense of self-esteem and purpose that does improve most people’s health and well-being. Crime rates for an area fall if more people are in work, and if work becomes more than a remote possibility for the majority in that area. Furthermore, the increased level of self-esteem can bring with it a more pronounced feeling for the community in which one lives, and that in turn lowers the tolerance of petty crime and vandalism. I have run a number of businesses that have deliberately sought to take on people who are termed ‘difficult to employ’, such as the long-term unemployed or ex-prisoners. You will meet a few of them in this book. Most come to their interview, or their first day of work, with very low self-esteem and no confidence. They are often bewildered and clearly struggle with the pace of activity and the variety of things that are happening in a workplace. They are not particularly useful in the first few days either, and they make many mistakes. However, if you have the patience to wait, you will see an amazing transformation happen in just a few days. Gradually, their heads are held a bit higher, their speed of reaction increases, their clarity of speech improves. Within a short period, you can see a visible difference in demeanour. In a word, their confidence grows. The change does not stop there, though – that is just where it starts. All our human relationships would improve if as a society we were more confident. With greater levels of confidence, you start to see more engagement with the work in hand and often with the wider work environment. Confident people start to volunteer for training and learn new skills. Confident people ask for pay rises and promotions. This in turn breeds confidence in the company, and the atmosphere of the whole workplace improves. A lack of self-esteem and confidence is one of the root causes of obesity. It is also at the root of much social breakdown and violent behaviour. The inability or unwillingness to assert oneself when faced by an institution (whether it is the health service, the housing association, or the local council) is often an issue of confidence. My belief is that although there is agreement in government about the statistics, and the issues they raise are priorities for all political parties, the solutions offered are divorced from real experience. Conservative and Labour governments have each in their own way attempted to deal with the staggering inequalities that disfigure our society and that seem to widen with every year. Consequently, governments have spent billions with very laudable aims but they have not achieved anything like the effects that so many anticipated. My solution is different; it draws on 22 years’ raw experience of creating real jobs and helping deprived and de-motivated people from run-down communities as distinct as Brixton, Thamesmead, Gateshead, Newham, Wembley and Paisley. This book is an attempt to look beneath the skin of some of the major issues that cause worklessness in our poorest communities, and to give life and substance to them. I will introduce you to real people who have experienced these issues first-hand and I will show you what that means in terms of their lives. I will also show what it means to employ them. In describing these people and their lives, I hope to help those who have no experience of such deprivation to empathise and to understand the scale of the challenges that prevent these people escaping from the depression of their situation. At the core of this book is the philosophy that such ingrained challenges require concerted, long-term and patient solutions that focus on people and on creating work for them. Many areas of the UK have been in decline for decades and are extremely depressed. These communities are less cohesive and less resilient; they lack the skills that the modern world demands and they have a low capacity for organising. In many, a culture of dependence has formed a seemingly solid crust around the community that has restricted and hobbled all the regenerative efforts tried thus far. Turning these areas around will require patient investment and focused rebuilding. The main emphasis of this effort should be on creating new jobs in these communities. The creation of real employment is the best way to create a climate whereby new skills are valued and social cohesion is improved. Despite the apparently bleak prognosis, it is the premise of this book that the seeds of change and hope lie dormant within these communities. I will seek to demonstrate that with some skill, a lot of patience and a belief in a community and its potential, it is possible to allow those seeds to germinate and to bring great improvements and energy to their landscape. It is not simply a question of how much we invest. It is more of question of who we invest in and how long for.


Worklessness is a terrible thing. It sucks the energy from people and destroys communities. It seems impossible to tackle but it is not. In "How to make a million jobs - A charter for social enterprise" I describe how jobs can be created and communities rebuilt. It can be done. It will require patience, focus and above all trust in the community but it can be done. I challenge the decision makers in this country to focus their energies on creating 1,000 new jobs in each of the 1,000 most deprived areas of the UK. This book shows them how. Can you help me get it to the people who need to read it?


Colin Crooks has a successful track-record as an award winning social entrepreneur; Colin's first business was Papercycle, a successful office paper recycling business that he set up in 1989 and ran for five years, employing up to fifteen people, primarily long-term unemployed and ex-offenders. In 1994, he founded a consultancy called 3Re to provide environmental auditing services in the business sector. Between 1998 and 2003, Colin researched, developed and established Renew North East, an organisation that provides white goods repair and training for long term unemployed people. He was also responsible for a computer recycling and training charity called Cybercycle that operated in the Angell Town estate in Brixton between 1998 and 2003. Perhaps his most well known achievement was in setting up GreenWorks in 2000, with minimal funds; it is a social enterprise and charity dedicated to creating employment through the reuse, re-manufacture and recycling of redundant office furniture. In 2008, Green-Works received the prestigious Queen's Award for Enterprise (Sustainable Development). Colin was CEO of GreenWorks from 2000-2011. In that time it created nearly 1,000 jobs and diverted 47,000 tonnes of old furniture from landfill. Colin is passionate about the potential for social enterprise to mitigate some of our most intractble problems. In his first book he examines how social enterprise can help reduce long-term unemployment.

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