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Roots to Work

Lifetime employment within the same organisation is now exceptional rather than the norm and the job market is competitive. Yet many individuals lack employability skills that can improve their chance of finding and keeping a job. These skills include showing confidence and initiative, reliability and timekeeping. By engaging in practical activities people can develop and show their readiness for work. A classroom is not always the best environment for developing and demonstrating these skills.

Project overview

CSD conducted a review of the evidence on how involvement in community food-growing and urban agriculture projects can help people to develop their employability and ultimately find work. We also interviewed 30 people in 24 relevant projects across London. The project was developed in partnership with the Capital Growth food-growing network, a partnership initiative led by London Food Link, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, and the Big Lottery's Local Food Fund.

The research report, published in October 2011, gives an outline of employability skills with examples provided from 24 London-based projects and from international literature; some of the key findings include:

  • Community food-growing and urban agriculture projects in London include a wide range of people in local communities. They include people with difficulties that are likely to affect their employment chances, such as long-term unemployment, physical or mental disability, addiction, homelessness, and language barriers.
  • Participation in these projects can help develop people’s confidence and the level of social support that they have around them.
  • Participants can develop transferable skills that are important for working life, including self-management, problem solving, and interpersonal skills such as teamwork, leadership, and supporting others.
  • By participating in food-growing and urban agriculture people can develop technical skills which prepare them for jobs. They can develop enterprise skills and they can be encouraged to take part in formal learning.
  • Community food-growing projects can facilitate transitions into work by providing references for participants, enlarging their networks of contacts and sometimes connecting them directly with employers.

Project outcomes

The report provides a well-substantiated picture of the extent to which food-growing can develop skills, and can be used by urban agriculture projects as as a basis for discussing and developing the impact of their work. Our partner, Capital Growth, have used the recommendations to guide their strategic thinking on skills development and training. The report was also referenced in 2012 in the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts’ evaluation of the Big Lottery’s local food programme.

The report has led to a follow-on partnership with food-growing and training co-operative Organiclea. We have documented Organiclea’s good practice with regard to supporting the learning of volunteers, and have devised good practice principles which are also validated by other trainers.

The resulting guidance has been published in a volunteer training toolkit in July 2013.

Footage from the Roots to Work launch event

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I appreciate very much your agriculture program because I see that it is imperative to help others who do not have anything to eat and I think you can the poorest countries of the earth as my dear Haiti homeland. Could work together to help people to develop the ability to produce their own food (courtyard garden) and other things like a chicken or community they buy a derisory price hens or produce vegetables, they learn how to ensure food security.

Jean Allritch DERIS
Student in Agricultural Sciences
Responsible organization Foyer Eclosion.
Fri 19/10/2012 21:43

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Research reports

Roots to work report

Roots to work: Developing employability  through community food growing and urban agriculture projects

Roots to work report

Roots to work - Summary report


Roots to work checklist





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Project dates: February – October 2011