The Dusty Knuckle bakery, home to beautiful bread and delicious treats made with care and enthusiasm, was a vision that was born in a home kitchen before later relocating to a Hackney car park. An award-winning social enterprise, The Dusty Knuckle works with young people facing barriers to financial independence: youth offenders, early school leavers and the long-term unemployed. Their ultimate aim is to develop a sustainable model for employing disadvantaged young people with barriers to employment, including criminal/custodial records, childcare challenges, no qualifications, and NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, or Training).

Photo courtesy of Nina Sologubenko

Our long-term aim is to function as a social enterprise that brings young people here to work in paid positions and who haven’t necessarily worked before.

Max Tobias, Founder

One of the bakery’s founders, Max Tobias, was motivated to create the bakery as the direct result of 12 years experience working with troubled and criminally involved young people in London. This left him searching for another way to reach young vulnerable people, often those demonstrating behavioural issues. Through the social enterprise he hopes to offer them the opportunity for a meaningful future in which they are able to sustain themselves on both a financial and personal level. He settled on the idea after hearing about a bakery in LA that provides hope, training and support to over 10,000 formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women, allowing them to redirect their lives and become contributing members of their communities.

Photo courtesy of Nina Sologubenko

Over time, I came to see that the calm, cyclical and somehow quite spiritual nature of the bread making process might offer them the kind of stability, routine and financial independence that are key to sound mental health in most people.

Max Tobias, Founder

It has been acknowledged that social exclusion can be a negative contributor towards the living conditions, emotional life and the health status of young people. A large proportion of 18 and 24 year olds are at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU and youth work can offer opportunities for preventing and remedying this vicious circle.

I think for the particular kind of young people I want to reach, charity is perhaps no longer the right way to be looking at the problem, actually maybe they don’t need charity but what they need is self-esteem and prestige and a feeling of self-sustainability. I think charity can sometimes makes you feel the opposite of that.

Max Tobias, Founder
Photo courtesy of Chomping Ground

To address youth unemployment we need to give young people access to training that is relevant to the needs of the labour market, establish links with businesses and find effective routes into employment. The rapid growth in social enterprise businesses is one way to do this, allowing young people direct access to the jobs market in an environment that puts their development at its heart, whilst still maintaining a commercial focus. With growing numbers of young people out of work, providing appropriate training and opportunities for development can help to engage them and ensure that they are not left on the periphery.

I really want to see young people changing their mentality and learn through coming to the Dusty Knuckle that they have a future and they can live a life that is fulfilling.

Max Tobias, Founder

There is a growing confidence that potential investors will acknowledge the benefits this model can bring as an approach to tackling social injustice alongside performing as a socially viable business. Companies, organisations and non-profits are pushing towards bringing sustainable solutions to some of the world’s greatest and most complex challenges but they need to be supported.