The target audience / beneficiaries of the Synergy Centre will depend on the service provided.
Synergy events draw an audience of adults aged 18-65 from all across the city in which they occur neighbouring towns and the wider UK. People were even known to travel internationally to attend the Synergy Project events in London.
The Synergy audience tends to be more mature than a normal clubbing audience and less interested in the standard, hedonistic club experience and more interested in the conscious, awareness raising aspects of the event. Tending to be quite environmental, socially and culturally aware, Synergy audiences are also a peaceful crowd, with incidents of anti-social behaviour very rare. One aspect of the relatively ‘conscious’ nature of the audience is that they tend to drink less than a normal club audience. While they may result in lower bar incomes, it also contributes to a very peaceful, relaxed and friendly vibe for which Synergy events are renowned.
Some Syenrgy events, particularly held at Synergy venues, are family friendly and welcome parents with children of various ages, which noticeably changes the atmosphere. Such events organised ‘shared parenting spaces’ in which the children can sleep with the parents taking it turns to supervise.
The Youth Project will cater for young people aged 12-25 living in the community surrounding the Synergy Centre. It caters particularly for those experiencing long term unemployment (>6 months) and those wishing to gain work experience or raise their skills in the field of the creative and cultural industries, the NGO or healthy / sustainable lifestyles sector. In more deprived, urban communities, the Synergy Youth Project has worked with young people at risk of engaging in anti-social or criminal behaviours. In Cambwell, a large majority of participants in the Youth Project were from Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) backgrounds.
Synergy Community / Economy
The initial target audience of the Synergy Community will be a core audience of people already sympathetic with progressive social and environmental issues. This community will expand as regular events begin and their outreach and engagement potential is realized so that more people are enrolled.
It is also hoped that the Synergy Community and the services it will offer will also be of interest and beneficial to other members of society, particularly those facing social and economic exclusion as a result of long term unemployment, mental health problems, substance misuse, homelessness and other barriers to being a full and active member of society. As economic conditions worsen, unemployment rises and local government budgets are cut, the demand for services to keep people in touch with the world of work, even if the work is of a voluntary nature, will increase, as will demand for services and facilities which promote active citizenship, volunteering and community / social cohesion.
In particular, Synergy will seek to develop ways of tackling the unemployment trap and poverty trap that constrain people living in deprived communities, particularly how to develop or maintain the necessary motivation and work ethic required to remain an active and productive member of society, even when access to paid employment may be limited by the economic circumstances. In many modern welfare states, there are social payments, unemployment benefits or forms of social assistance which are close to alternatively achievable wages, particularly when there is no minimum wage or it is set very low in proportion to living costs. This arrangement triggers a typical pattern of individual behaviour, because it represents an incentive structure where entering the labour market sometimes does not pay and as a result people stick with unemployment. Though this behaviour is rational in the short run, in the long run these people rob themselves of further possibilities for social mobility and are deprived of the mental health and well-being benefits of being productive.
But the unemployed also have some minimum standards. They may want to do something useful and fulfilling and the higher their social expectations, invariably raised through improved education, the less inclined people will be to accept unfulfilling, menial work. This is particularly the case with unemployed graduates, of which there are increasing numbers due to high recent levels of people entering further education, yet without an increase of skilled jobs for them to undertake. Un or under-employed graduates are therefore likely to be attracted to complementary economic schemes such as the Synergy Trainee scheme or the Social Enterprise support scheme, enabling them to apply and develop their skills and develop self-starting and entrepreneurial skills associated with the freelance and self-employment sector.
For many people receiving Working Tax Credits, as they earn more, they will lose much of the extra income through tax and withdrawal of housing benefits. This can provide a powerful disincentive to work harder and acquire new skills and while the scheme increases incentives for people to get a job, it also reduces incentives for them to better themselves thereafter. For many people receiving unemployment benefits, particularly in times of high unemployment, there is a tendency to be forced into taking low-skilled, low-grade jobs. If after 13 weeks, claimants are still unemployed, they must broaden their job search and face the prospect of taking work for which they are considerably over-qualified, negatively impacting on their self-esteem and mental health. Furthermore, if they are forced to take such work, they are unable to apply the skills they have acquired through their education, serving to block and obstruct their future career development.
People on incapacity benefit are also potential beneficiaries of the Synergy Community. While there are inevitably members of society who are unable to work at all due to sickness or disability, there are some who while not being able to work full or even part time, may be able to enter into employment of some kind. Often, when the person concerned is incapacitated due to mental ill-health, membership of a supporting community and participation in activities which promote positive mental health can help lift the person out of downward spirals of depression and worklessness.
For people receiving ‘social care’ for mental health problems, new systems of personalised budgets offer an opportunity for small scale, grass-roots community organisations to offer services that offer supportive and therapeutic services and gradually re-integrate people into social and community life and from there back towards a rediscovered work ethic and employment.
Asylum seekers are increasingly perceived to be a burden on society – unable to work but consuming resources through the strains they are sometimes considered to place on social services. Participation in projects such as the Synergy Community will enable them to remain socially active and raise their skills at the same time as benefiting from the other forms of social support provided by the Community and enabling them to make a positive contribution to society.
People on probation are also potential beneficiaries of the services and support offered by the Synergy Community. Often patterns of criminal behaviour are informed by the circle of friends in which an ex-offender is moving. Encouraging probationers to engage in a progressive, pro-active community and participate in activities that promote active, productive citizenship as well as others which promote healthy living and good mental health is likely to reduce their chances of re-offending.
People experiencing homelessness have been the beneficiaries of projects in Brighton targettint the rough-sleeping community. Some rough sleeps have been given a place to stay and paid employment. This has given them an opportunity to recover from substance misuse problems and improve their mental health with support from support workers, who have also sign-posted them to other support services and advocate on their behalf so that they can avail themselves fully of their rights. Other rough sleepers have benefitted from particpating in the Rough-sleepers Advocacy Project to enable them to have their views and interests properly represented.
 The unemployment trap occurs when the net income difference between low-paid work and unemployment benefits is less than work related costs, discouraging movement into work;
 Poverty Trap – the position when in-work income-tested benefit payments are reduced as income rises, combined with income tax and other deductions, with the effect of discouraging higher paid work whether that involves working longer hours or acquiring skills.