Presenter: Dr Beth Weaver, University of Strathclyde
Developments in social policy and penal practices across Europe have made little progress in addressing barriers to and creating opportunities for employment for people involved in the criminal justice system. In this presentation, Dr Weaver reports on an exception to this norm in the form of social cooperatives, drawing on an ESRC funded study, which analysed the ways in which prison and community-based social cooperatives, in Italy and Sweden, and social enterprises in the U.K work to support social integration and desistance. The study sought to understand the complicated, whole-greater-than-parts qualities of how and under what conditions work provides a sense of identity, place, belonging and hope. Social cooperatives, it is argued, play a distinct role in supporting social integration and desistance to the extent that the culture of the cooperative is shaped by cooperative values. Indeed, the cultural and relational environment of a social cooperative is as significant to job satisfaction, social integration, and wider processes of change as participation in paid work. Participants described their experiences as being as much a process of resocialisation as a means of work integration. Where social cooperatives are embedded in and inclusive of the local community, they can ameliorate some of the stigma experienced by multiply-marginalised employees and encourage their social integration through opportunities to exercise active citizenship and develop economic, human and social capital.
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