Works 50+: putting people over 50 back to work in Cornwall

United Kingdom



Institution: Cornwalls Works.

Design: Think Public (Deborah Szebeko, Ian Drysdale, Emma Gasson, Alice Osborne, Emma Dyer, Nicola Ward)

Challenge: Battling unemployment for those over 50.

Currently in the Cornwall Region in Britain, over 29,000 of those eligible to work are unemployed. Of them, 40% are over 50, and most are likely not to find work again. By 2017, approximately 34.4% of the workforce will be over 50. What options are available to help society adapt to a population of older workers and, in turn, devise new and suitable solutions? Joining forces in order to rise to such a challenge are local employment authorities and the Think Public agency. The experiment was conducted in 2009 as part of the Design Of The Times (DOTT) project specializing in design method applications for the Cornwall Region.

Process: Getting those over 50 involved in new solution development

Following an initial diagnostic phase, the team decided to organize a special day called, “A bus for the 50+’s”, giving the team the chance to make the first move and touch base with those in the age bracket. In conjunction with the team, some took part in the mapping and analysis of the various policies, as well as services intended for their implementation. A co-discovery phase then took root: Singled out for their high unemployment rate among those over 50, the towns of Redruth, St. Austell, Callington and Saint Just made for ideal testing ground. Next followed the co-digestion phase wherein the “patterns” observed and documented during the whole process were brought together. Out of the fifteen challenges identified, six were deemed to be of an urgent nature. In order to address them, co-design efforts fueled the generation of ideas, some of which are expected to be put to the test in real-life situations.

Outcome: Complementary solutions to existing models

Myriad ideas resulted from this experiment: “Accueil-maison”, an innovative, in-home service reserved for those over 50; “Skill swap”, a system of sharing practices; Or “50-50 mentoring”, a peer-to-peer service wherein individuals having found work and support pay it forward by lending a hand to those in similar need. One idea, in particular, “High Street Cryers”, underwent considerable testing: Among the volunteer testers were pharmacists, bookstore owners, news agents and retailers whose day-to-day involved significant contact with the public. The role of the “Cryers” consisted in identifying those individuals eventually in need of job search or healthcare assistance, and striking up an exchange to ascertain the most appropriate and useful services for them. Had the individuals required more information, the “High Street Cryers” jotted down their contact details, and passed them on to the most apt department, which then followed up accordingly.