Accelerating rehabilitation through entrepreneurship

Rehabilitation through entrepreneurship

More and more people see entrepreneurship as a viable route for offender rehabilitation. But schemes that have real impact are rare because so few offer real life practical experience. As influential entrepreneur educator Steve Blank, famously exhorts, start-ups need to "get out of the building".  As a result the effectiveness of pre-release training is severely limited.

Enterprise training can, at best, teach people about entrepreneurship.

Self-employment is a whole new ball game.  Whatever people learn about entrepreneurship never quite prepares them for the gritty reality of doing it themselves.  Being your own boss is empowering and scary in equal measure and no amount of theory really teaches people how to make money.  That is why we launched the Phoenix Programme.  For maximum impact we need real life experiences that empower rehabilitation through entrepreneurship as this example shows.

Phoenix - authentic rehabilitation through entrepreneurship.

Phoenix is light on theory.  People learn so much more by doing things for themselves.  That is why our 12 step programme facilitates practical implementation. Participants work on their own business rather than a training enterprise, each step making their future more sustainable. That  enables us to empower them to build an authentic enterprise, one shaped by their unique strengths and values.  This is how rehabilitation through entrepreneurship really works.  By building business capability, gaining confidence through doing and interacting with real customers, they reintegrate with society as a business owner rather than a convict. An overview of the programme is below.

12 Steps to rehabilitation through entrepreneurship

12 steps to rehabilitation through entrepreneurship

Our secret sauce lies in our burger

3 learning layers to maximise impact


We have thought long and hard about how to maximise success in building a business and the burger makes an excellent metaphor for how we run each session.  The real learning comes from the experience of doing, not listening to lectures.

The top bun is the confidence our participants gain from trying things out to see what works.  It won't always work, but that is ok.  So long as we know why and what to try next time, there is no failure in learning.   The only failure is in not learning.

The meat in the middle is the new tools and techniques that go into growing business capability.  We will talk about what they are, but real progress comes from adapting them to each individual business and then getting out there to try them out.

And this is what we do in the bottom bun.  Before we leave each session, our participants will have taken the new techniques and worked out exactly how they will take action with them.  Knowing the first step massively increases confidence while making a commitment to an action plan provides the motivation to see things through, 

Embrace the future and shrug off the past

Phoenix is all about rebirth and reinvention.  New businesses rise from the ashes of past misdemeanours, which means that their owners need to think like CEOs not ex-cons.  When talking to the public, they are potential suppliers of their hopes and aspirations.   When talking to peers, they are entrepreneurs and collaboration partners.  It is time to shrug off the past and embrace a future that will be written by our aspiring bosses as they discover that business is what they make of it.

Rehabilitation through entrepreneurship requires a strong delivery team

We have designed the Phoenix Program to be as effective as possible, which means consulting and working with a diverse set of skills.  Brief bios of the team are below.

Mark Neild - empowering rehabilitation through entrepreneurship

Principal and Grow Inspires founder - Mark Neild

Mark inspires and transforms the lives of thousands of entrepreneurs on the verge of poverty in Africa and Asia. He is an award-winning mentor, author and innovation consultant, renowned in entrepreneurship nationally and internationally. He lectures at the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Bristol University when not running his business and Grow Inspires. Oh, and he is a keen sailor and helicopter pilot to boot and a thoroughly nice chap.

Eleri Cosslett - empowering rehabilitation through entrepreneurship

Love Entrepreneurs co-founder - Eleri Haf-Cosslet

Cofounder of Love Entrepreneurs, Eleri is herself an ex-offender, who left prison with nothing but the statutory £43 pounds to her name. She has managed to live on her wits, speak out and create a truly extraordinary business empire, in spite of losing over £17 million. Her passion for entrepreneurship is truly infectious.

Yvonne Bignall - empowering rehabilitation through entrepreneurship

Chief Confidence Coach - Yvonne Bignall

International trainer, confidence coach, mentor and experienced CPD learning designer. Yvonne is a no nonsense serial entrepreneur and award-winning author with more get up and go than the average Olympic athlete. Nothing stands between her and success. With her superb confidence coaching abilities she will rock you into action and take you from zero to hero. But be prepared to be challenged.

Keir Williams empower rehabilitation through entrpreneurship

Educator and Researcher - Dr Keir Williams

Keir directs the “Being Human” module at the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which teaches students the interpersonal skills needed to succeed in enterprise.  He has been seconded to Grow Inspires for the project to share knowledge and help us make the programme even more effective.  He has particular skills in teaching people with Special Educational Needs.

Improving rehabilitation through entrepreneurship

Phoenix is a pilot.  We strongly believe that there is a better way to reduce re-offending and note the Ministry of Justice research showing the link between getting work and reduced reoffending. But giving people employability skills won't get them work if employers won't employ offenders.  Instead we need to find another way of creating jobs.  Other research draws parallels between offending and entrepreneurial behaviour. So if the seeds are there, all we need to do is cultivate them and you have already seen how we do that..

Grow Inspires is pleased to partner with the Economic and Social Research Council who are funding this pilot both to inform public policy and improve our capability as a service provider.  We are working in collaboration with the University of Bristol Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to share knowledge at the cutting edge of entrepreneurship education.

Peoples Postcode Trust - accelerating rehabilitation through entrepreneurshipWe are also grateful to the players of People's Postcode Lottery for their financial support.  Innovation is always risky and it is not until we have demonstrated the full impact of our way of doing things that we can turn an experiment into a sustainable venture.  The People's Postcode Trust recognise the potential and have helped us on our way, but our future is not in charity and handouts.  Our future lies in delivering a service that is so effective at what it does that it is worth paying for.