Phoenix Project

Our program ‘Phoenix’ offered a space for participants who are former prisoners, to develop their ideas, professional network and present their business plans to the Nat West incubator team

I was seconded in role as Lecturer Centre for Innovation, UoB in 2017 through the  ESRC ECR Secondment to develop a twelve-week taught program at the Centre for Innovation, UoB for entrepreneurs who where also former prisoners with our partner NGO ‘Grow Inspires’ based on our belief that an inclusive and practical Enterprise Education model can support former prisoners to create new lives through new ventures. 

Our program ‘Phoenix’ offered a space for participants to develop their ideas, professional network and present their business plans to the Nat West incubator team. Our former participants have gone on to start a range of community and commercial businesses since the program ran in 2017/2018.

Despite recent reform, reoffending rates remain around 30-50% a year post release. Ministry of Justice research (2013) shows that reoffending can be halved by getting people into work post-release. However, few mainstream employers will entertain applications from the ex-offender community. Only around 1⁄4 secure jobs and these tend to be lowest common denominator jobs often provided through charities. Employability training as a key strategy to reduce offending cannot succeed when the block is an individual’s past rather than their ability to do the job. 

In my collaboration on this project I co-designed the program and conducting a human-centred design-ethnography on the teaching practices we used to support our participants in the program. Based on this work my self and the Grow Inspires team represented Centre for Innovation, UoB at the Symposium on Entrepreneurship Criminal Justice at the government think tank {‘THINK TANK} Centre for Entrepreneurship’, London.