Emma Harrison CBE, Entrepreneur and Chair, A4E (Action for Employment)

What is sustainability? it means nothing to the people out there – Emma suggests that we change the word! “It helps people find jobs” would be more effective. Every decision you make ask yourself: is it going to improve the lives of people? If it won’t – then don’t do it!

In the ‘Who Knows Best?’ TV show, Emma was sent to Leyton to find the least employable person. So she went in to an estate full of ‘gang warfare’ and found a lad stuck at home – his 10 mates in prison – ad had a cup of tea with him. “I don’t want to be a manual worker. I want to wear a suit. I am really clever, I’m a bloody good  drug dealer” he said. When she got past all the innits and dinnits, Emma found some things that really mattered to him.

Emma advises business leaders to start buying when something good happens to people. We are currently buying things that are being done to people. Remember the people, she says. Self esteem classes, all that – is waffle (edited!!). One person will decide to help another as long as we don’t interfere.  Poking and interfering does not help. Have a cup of tea, find out what interests them, ask them to do something. To put it simply – ask people to do it. Don’t do it to people.

Get your pen and paper ladies and gentlemen: this is your take home party bag. Emma finds that when people do not have goals (or if cities for that matter) do not have goals, that’s when it goes wrong.

Let’s list the things we can do not the things we can’t do. Walk in to a white room – in your head – shut the door behind you. There are shelves in the room and on these shelves are all the things you’ve ever wanted. No-one is watching, you can take what you like. Keep your paper hidden and be honest. Shut the door in your room… what would you take from the shelves? Now – 5 years on from now. What would you want someone else to write about you?

The biggest problem Emma comes across when working with people in cities is that they don’t have a goal plan. You don’t need a 10 day away day strategy… it is in your heart. Where there is real passion in the leaders she meets, the cities are flourishing. Aiming for the average is not enough. Not a green city – the greenest people in the city. The kindest people live in Coventry…. Stop doing things to people – stop being doctors and fixing their problems, ask them to do it themselves.

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