People’s social networks were shaped by factors including ethnicity, class and gender, but personal characteristics, such as confidence, were also important in developing useful connections. Family and friends were seen as the basis for most relationships but there were low levels of awareness about wider social networks and how they might be used for moving on from poverty.
People’s links beyond their own ethnic community were important, but the added dimension of racism could prevent access to ‘mainstream’ influential networks.
Social networks tended to be ‘like with like’, so while they were used to access employment, this was often into low-paid jobs which relied on informal recruitment processes.
Strong bonds with family and friends helped mitigate the effects of poverty. However, developing bridging and linking ties with networks that could move people on from poverty involved risks and scarce energy and resources.
Voluntary, community and faith based organisations were seen as important for facilitating access to cross-cultural networks.
There were examples of good practice in agencies encouraging people to consider how their social networks could help them move out of poverty. However, there was no consistency in practice between agencies.
thanks for mentioning the social media surgeries as part of an approach which can help spread skills
The report reccomends:
- Mentoring could be powerful in promoting positive use of networks for gaining work, setting up businesses and progressing to better jobs. There would be value in piloting peer mentoring within the workplace and for those finding a return to work problematic.
- Employer action is required to address the negative ‘grace and favour’ aspects of networks in recruitment and promotion. Organisations should routinely review the extent to which informal workplace networks discriminate in access to employment and progression in the workplace.
- As online access increasingly becomes the default for service provision, the need to promote digital fluency becomes more urgent. Social media clinics, with an emphasis on network aware ness, could be developed and linked to digital champions in Job Centre Plus.
- The networks of service users were recognised as under-used resources in identifying training and employment opportunities, but there was no systematic agency practice. Standardised ‘toolkits’ could be developed for employment support agencies. Toolkits should enable people to map their networks, help build strategies for extending and using networks, and provide signposting to agencies that can assist in developing ‘bridging’ capital.
- ESOL classes are critical for people from migrant and refugee communities seeking employment. They provide important spaces for cross-cultural networking that can lead to helpful inter-ethnic friendships and increased confidence in language and literacy.
- Voluntary, community and faith organisations offer vital advice and services, and inform signposting and networking within and between ethnic groups. These resources need to be protected and recognised. The principles of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 should be incorporated into public service commissioning procedures, with contractors required to demonstrate added social value through access to community networks.
- High quality volunteering helps develop links beyond family and community: its importance needs to be recognised, as does the diversity of motivations for taking up unpaid work in the community.