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New pilot programme fosters social capital in young people

Three people sit around a laptop computer. One points to the computer, explaining a concept to the other participant.

Ismael Hayden, Project Manager of Catch22’s new Inspiring Connections programme, sheds light on the importance of social capital for young people.

Impetus and The National Institute of Economic and Social Research recently released a report ‘Establishing the Employment Gap’ showing that disadvantaged young people are twice as likely to be without any form of education or employment (NEET). The report indicates that 26 per cent of disadvantaged young people are NEET, compared to 13 percent of their better-off peers. Education only accounts for half of this difference so even with the same level of qualifications, young people from disadvantage backgrounds still have far worse employment outcomes.

What might explain the rest of this gap?

Impetus believes that while there is no definite answer yet, the answer “strikes at the heart of concerns about social mobility and the promise that where you come from shouldn’t determine where you can end up”. The Social Mobility Commission argues that class remains entrenched in society and that those with means are twice as likely to end up in professional employment. Even when disadvantaged individuals do land a professional job, they are still earning 17 percent less than their peers.

What is social capital?

A person’s social capital is described as the networks that through shared values, norms, identity, and trust facilitate co-operation within or among groups. Affluent groups often act as gatekeepers to their worlds, effectively barring many disadvantaged people from accessing the same opportunities.

So what are we doing about it?

Catch22 recently launched a pilot in partnership with The Social Innovation Partnership, four Livery Companies and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Livery Companies are the City of London’s ancient order of guilds and trade associations with origins dating back to as far as the 12th century. Our Inspiring Connections programme brings highly networked advocates from Livery Companies together with Catch22 candidates drawn from our Employability teams, based at The Hive and Community Links.

The programme draws advocates from The Clothworkers’ CompanyThe Goldsmiths’ CompanyHaberdashers’ Company and The Skinners’ Company. They have well established networks in the business community and can open up the social capital in their specialist fields.

The programme has been designed in partnership with The Social Innovation Partnership, a social impact enterprise who are monitoring and evaluating this innovative pilot.

How does it work?

From the outset, we were aware of the differences in lived experience between candidates and advocates. We needed to address this head on so advocates and candidates were invited to discuss their hopes and fears and in doing so created a shared sense of responsibility, values and norms within the group.

During the programme, Livery Company partakers act as advocates for the young people; they share their stories of success and failures and provide insights into overcoming professional challenges. One session is dedicated to increasing candidates’ skills for managing complex interactions, such as asking for a pay rise. Others explore advocates’ purpose in life and identify the skills necessary to fulfil that purpose. The programme builds an understanding of networks, partnerships and relationships and concludes by mapping a candidate’s potential journey to success.

What next?

The programme is currently in its pilot phase. The first cohort resulted in excellent participant feedback – candidates are already building on their newly developed networking skills and continue to share their learnings from the programme with each other through online forums. Building social capital has a ripple effect for closing the gap on opportunities and we are seeing the impact of this even after the first pilot. We are now planning to introduce the next cohort of candidates and advocates in the coming months following the success of the pilot.