A father and daughter team, they came to us keen to make a difference in the realm of ex-offender rehabilitation and employment.
Prison reform has become a hot topic this year, with David Cameron announcing a series of reforms including giving more power to prison governors. But we were asked to look beyond the prison gates, and examine the world of the ex-offender, to see where we could make the greatest impact.
Employment is the single more effective way to substantially reduce re-offending, which is the ultimate intention of our reform-based prison system. But the barriers to employment for ex-offenders are often not their own skills, attitude or reliability, but the stigma they carry in the mind of the employer. This needs to change.
We set a simple goal for the project: getting 50 businesses to consider hiring ex-offenders, 20 to give it a go and 10 to say it works.
Giving offenders a second chance can turn their lives around for good. But we found there is also a strong business case for the employer. Reports by charities in the sector have shown that ex-offenders match or exceed regular jobseekers in terms of reliability, skill level, loyalty and other metrics. This is the story we want to get out.
Visually mapping the landscape around both the ex-offender and the employer allowed us to see where the opportunity lay. What we found in the sector was that although there are lots of charities and organisations providing help to the ex-offender, there was no central resource or one-stop-shop with clear, unbiased information, aimed at the employer. Google results returned press articles with a point to prove and charities with their own programmes to promote. We decided to fill this gap with a simple but informative website, including some myth-busting, employment success stories and a useful directory of relevant organisations.
We’ve called them The Exceptionals.
Their back stories are exceptional, of course. They’re not the norm. But they often have exceptional skills that you wouldn’t expect. They can be exceptionally loyal, reliable and hard-working employees.
You can be exceptional too, by giving them a second chance.
So far, we’ve produced a holding page and are developing the main site. Take a look at theexceptionals.org
There are a few printed campaign elements on the go too, such as this attention-grabbing postcard.
It’s been a hugely rewarding project to be part of. Being deeply involved in everything – research, shaping the goals, naming, identity design and campaign materials – has led to us all becoming very invested in the cause.
To make the emotional case for employing ex-offenders, we are also working on a documentary film following their stories alongside those of the potential employer and recruiter. We’ll have more to share later in the year.
Joseph Harries is Design Director at GW+Co