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Jericho: People before profit

The Jericho Foundation started in Edward Road Baptist church as a ‘jobs club’ for the vulnerable and excluded. In the last 15 years, it has directly supported over 8,000 people.

JUBILEE CENTRE AUTOR 193/Charlee_New 04 DE MAYO DE 2022 09:30 h
Recycling wood at The Wood Shack, Jericho Foundation, Birmingham. / Photo via [link]Jubilee Centre[/link]

Most hiring committees want the best applicant, but what about the candidates who fall short—and what about those who fall short time and time again?

It’s difficult to break into the labour market when you have experienced homelessness, mental ill health, addiction, disability, modern slavery or the criminal justice system.

But what if there was an employer who took these people on, helped them grow, and supported them into new, better opportunities? This is Jericho’s answer: changing lives through enterprise.

Based in Birmingham, the Jericho Foundation is a charity which operates five social enterprises and two community-interest companies across the city and provides supported employment opportunities, apprenticeships and qualifications for those who are vulnerable or excluded from the labour market.

Approximately half of their 150 employees and volunteers are supported staff, on a pathway to becoming ‘fulfilled, skilled and employed’ in one of their enterprises.  

Jericho’s diverse enterprises, which have an annual turnover of approximately £3 million, include: Jericho Construction, a commercial and domestic construction company; The ReUsers, a second-hand shop next door to a waste recycling centre; The Wood Shack, a wood recycling social enterprise; Jericho Cleaning, a cleaning business that pays the Real Living Wage; Miracle Laundry, a Birmingham laundrette; Jericho Workspace, a co-working space within Jericho’s own offices; and Change Kitchen, a joint-venture, vegetarian and vegan catering business that uses surplus food to prevent food waste.  

Jericho grew into what it is today in response to local needs. In the 1980s and 90s, the Balsall Heath area of the city was known as Birmingham’s ‘red light district’ and plagued by serious crime.

One church, Edward Road Baptist Church, organised a drop-in centre in the church hall to reach out to their neighbours. As they met more people who wanted to leave the sex and drugs trade, their drop-in centre became a ‘jobs club’.

But they soon discovered that a lack of CV-applicable work experience was the real problem for those trying to get a foot in the door. They decided to create the employment they needed, so in 1998 they bought an industrial building just along the road from the church and founded Jericho Community Business, a print, textiles and supermarket business. 

At the start, Jericho was at the social end of social enterprise and we relied heavily on European and government grant funding’, says CEO Richard Beard,

‘But we have work hard in the last 15 years to flip our income model on its head for sustainability and independence. Today, we arre mostly enterprise with 80% of our income generated by trading. We provide valuable services and goods to the local economy whilst breaking barriers in employment’. 

To date, Jericho have directly supported over 8,000 people and in 2020 they were awarded the ‘Work and Welfare’ award from the Centre for Social Justice in recognition of their success at getting people back to work. 

It is still an ongoing challenge for Jericho to run businesses that provide competitive services, and do it with a workforce who are recovering from difficult circumstances, including homelessness and modern slavery.

But they are finding that more clients and customers want to partner with them, and buy their services, precisely because of their social purpose. The Jericho Foundation demonstrates how enterprise can deliver social impact in the marketplace.  

Charlee New, the Jubilee Centre’s Storytelling Lead & part of its ‘Church & Enterprise’ research team.

This article was first published on the website of the Jubilee Centre and re-published with permission.




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