Aberdeen Foyer is on a mission to end youth homelessness and prevent and alleviate poverty in Aberdeen and the Northeast. The team delivers lots of different programs and services that combine to offer wraparound support for young people and adults, such as helping them with learning, being part of a community, finding a job, and getting a home. They work with a local organisation called Reboot which collaborates with youth-focused organisations in the city to enable them to step back, consider the bigger picture and spot the external factors that could shape their programmes. All the while they keep the young people who’ll experience the interventions right at the centre of their work.
After attaining their FOR Youth Accreditation, Aberdeen Foyer wanted to improve its practice even further by extending Advantaged Thinking beyond its housing services and across their organisation as a whole.
Earlier this year, after attaining their FOR Youth Accreditation, the Foyer’s leadership team asked Reboot and the housing team to explore ways in which Advantaged Thinking could be embedded within their community-centred and asset-based framework. This move strongly reflects their strengths-based values to ‘see the person’, and the Advantaged Thinking approach offers a well-defined structure in which to delve deeper. Part of the work included involving their HR team, since nurturing a supportive environment for staff would be pivotal to the project’s success.
Ester Laiho, Communications Manager at Aberdeen Foyer and Dinah Sandoval, Reboot Lead, describe their process of collaborating and developing the initiative:
“We began with a small and dynamic team of four people thinking deeply about how to embed a new working culture in the Foyer, beginning by articulating our Theory of Change:
If we provide a general understanding of Advantaged Theory; link theory with practice; provide continuous engagement informally and formally; and harvest the evidence that components of Advantaged Thinking led to significant changes that improve outcomes for children and young people, then we will have transformed the Foyer as a strength-based organisation.
Once this was articulated, we mapped out a process to test our Theory of Change for embedding Advantaged Thinking, recognising that this is an iterative process:
We started by preparing for a town hall meeting to reach as many staff as possible. The aim was to build on the Advantaged Thinking training that some staff had completed a year ago and to introduce the 7 Tests to newer staff. Following the meeting, we invited other staff to join our working group and to give feedback on the session itself. This is what they had to say:
“The town hall was very interesting and insightful. It made us think about Advantaged Thinking at a personal level, organisational level and governmental level. It was clear that while individually and as an organisation we tend to use Advantaged Thinking, there are often policies and procedures in place from the people that control our contracts that limit Advantaged Thinking from the beginning, when someone joins a programme/course.”
Our humble but mighty team of four grew to a group of ten with an open invitation to contribute when they had capacity or interest. This group has become the Advantaged ThinKERS who come up with creative ways to engage other staff. The team agreed to embed one test at a time which includes discovering what is already there, sharing what was discovered with others in the team, and inspiring them to make enhancements to their services. After all tests have gone through this process, the team will think about the best way to harvest what has changed and determine if our Theory of Change was effective.
Before a test is launched, the team will think about participatory and engaging ways to build excitement. For example, with TALK, we recently had a week full of activities that were fun but also insightful for the tests to come. These are some of the insights that came from that week:
“How easy it can be to be open not only to yourself but to create space for others to share with you. A deeper understanding of one another. “
“How the wording of a question can create an environment that either encourages or discourages a meaningful response. Even if the intention of the question was the same.”
"I'm still learning." I really needed to hear that today, it's very easy to be far too hard on yourself and expect too much. I'm very guilty of that so I needed that way of being kind to myself today.”
Those in the Advantaged ThinKERs group came from different teams across the organisation. It has been amazing to tap into the collective wisdom and creativity of the group. The members have shown dedication and have enjoyed being part of this process:
“I like that we are trying something new on an organisational level and not just within small pockets of the organisation. It really feels like we are all in this together and we are welcomed to and encouraged to think outside the box for every step of the way. Love it!”
“Working in HR, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the Advantaged Thinking team to plan how we may help our organisation become more Advantaged Thinking in the ways that we talk to, think about, understand and work with young people. What I have learned is that our teams are doing many of these practices already in their day-to-day roles, and so this process has helped us to uncover what strengths as an organisation we already have in and around Advantaged Thinking but also where we may share our learning across our teams. Our teams are geographically dispersed, and so a lot of this process has been about encouraging and facilitating spaces for information sharing and collaboration across our organisation, which has a multitude of knock-on benefits.”
We’re very excited to hear about what our teams are discovering as far as the language they are using that’s already strength based. We’ll be sharing these discoveries later this month with the whole organisation.”
It's encouraging to see Aberdeen Foyer’s move to further embed a culture of Advantaged Thinking within their organisation. If you’d like to find out about Advantaged Thinking visit our website where you can learn more about this asset-based philosophy, discover the different training on offer and download your free copy of Adventures in Advantaged Thinking!