How LinkedIn tackled social stigma to help ex-offenders thrive

Encouraging employers to look past a criminal record, LinkedIn’s mentoring programme offered eight young offenders the chance to launch their own streetwear brand.

LinkedIn MW Awards 2023
Source: LinkedIn

An estimated 80% of prison leavers are unable to find work a year after their release. Struggling to rebuild their lives, more than 40% will reoffend within a year.

Determined to improve the odds, LinkedIn commissioned research which revealed finding employment for ex-offenders could boost UK GDP by £2bn.

Teaming up with social enterprise Inside Out and creative agency VCCP, LinkedIn set out to create a rehabilitation programme offering ex-offenders the chance to access skills-based training and employment, while also tackling the cultural stigma.

The team devised a four-week mentorship programme to help eight young offenders launch the UK’s first streetwear brand created by prison leavers. The group were taught technical skills such as screen printing and design, alongside business skills and the soft skills needed to build a professional network.

The project culminated in the launch of the Blank Canvas communal concept store in Westfield Stratford. The ex-offenders sold their designs to the public, while the in-store experience detailed their personal stories. Street artists painted portraits of the prison leavers, each with its own QR code inviting people to connect with them on LinkedIn. The wider community benefitted from panel discussions with career mentors, workshops and networking opportunities.

The programme generated exposure for Inside Out, with press coverage reaching more than 8 million people despite no above the line media support. The ex-offenders each finished the programme with more than 500 LinkedIn connections, as well as new careers and paths into further education.

Winner of the 2023 Marketing Week Award for Branded Experiences and Events, LinkedIn’s scheme is now underway for a second year.