Roundtable discussion: ways back to work

How can social enterprises help people find their first jobs, or help them back into work? Local social entrepreneurs, representatives from the public sector, and researchers gathered to discuss challenges and what works with social entrepreneur Steve Ralf from the UK, over a tasty breakfast at Carinas Kafè.

Systems Change, not just providing experience

Many agreed that social entrepreneurs need to be working on changing the overall structures. “Providing experience isn’t enough,” said Sarah Prosser from Bydel Gamle Oslo.

“Sometimes the jobs [for people with immigrant background] don’t exist, so we’re also working on promoting more diversity higher up in enterprises,” added Erlend Nyheim from Sammen om en Jobb)

Working with NAV

Many of the social entrepreneurs focused on the challenges with the structure of NAV.

“Because of the NAV reform, more responsibility is placed on the individual than was before. Youth don’t know where to start, and for refugees just the language skills are a challenge, even if you have a Masters in IT,” said Awat Sarzali, from Spir Oslo.

It can also be difficult for social enterprises, which tend to be relatively small, to compete for NAV contracts. “In order to access contracts from NAV you have to be large enough to have employees whose sole job is to apply for these, said Sarah.

The short-term timescale that NAV and the rest of the public sector work on also presents a challenge. “Jobbsøkerhjelpen works on preventing unemployment before young people even know what NAV is. The sooner you start working, even if it’s just for a few hours per week, the less likely it is you’ll be unemployed later in life. But this can be a challenge because there are no incentives for the public sector to fund these kinds of projects since the costs come at a later stage,” said Matilda von Sydow, Unlimiter and Daglig Leder of Jobbsøkerhjelpen.

Inclusivity and Diversity

Many of the roundtable attendees agreed that we need to think more inclusively about diversity. “It’s important to give people from marginalized groups work experience in the normal sector and not pigeonhole them into one industry, to show the diversity within that group,” said Matilda.

A way to improve the way social entrepreneurs think about diversity is to make sure they’re talking to the groups they’re trying to help. “Social entrepreneurs need to invite the groups out of work to participate in the meetings,” said Olav Helland from Spekteret.