Chapter 7: Learning Through The Journey.

Insights from Foyer Federation programmes, resources and strategic vision.

“Empowering a young person to take part in the Foyer Federation’s programme presented them with opportunities to excel and overcome their challenges. They were not thinking about their inability to read or write.” Rob Dean, Bridge Foyer 

“The Foyer Federation has inspired fresh approaches to empower young people experiencing disadvantage for 30 years, leading the UK Foyer network as a flagship for innovation.” Foyer Federation

At heart of our work, The Foyer Federation has always had a focus on asset-based initiatives, projects and programmes – ‘Advantaged Thinking’ in all but name until the concept was finally crystalised in 2011. Looking back on a decade of success, Chapter 7: Learning Through The Journey, explores the genesis of Advantaged Thinking, how it fuelled a series of national programmes and how it came to be synonymous with our vision, activities and strategic vision.

Where to start? 

In  2011 The Foyer Federation launched a programme called ‘Open Talent’ with a discrete group of 5 Foyers. Taking its cue from the life coaching model, the programme focused on emphasizing young people’s positive characteristics, abilities and unique talents. The Open Talent programme proved to be a great success, expanding in 2012 to include 16 Foyers, and sparked the beginning of the Advantaged Thinking methodology that we know today. 

Reflecting on a decade of Advantaged Thinking we can say that the positive culture, language and ethos of the movement has proved to be a guiding and grounding force. It has served as an anchor during challenging times, a foundation on which to build new programmes and even functioned as a mentor helping us to reflect and stay focused on our strategic purpose to represent the aspirations and strengths of young people.

Chapter 7: Learning Through The Journey takes a closer look at:

  • The Foyer Federation’s role in leading on Advantaged Thinking
  • The Programmes that fuelled the journey to Advantaged Thinking
  • Advantaged Thinking in practice - for young people, practitioners, services and the youth homelessness sector

It also explores the ‘Home for Advantaged Thinking’ strategic vision in four rooms:

  1. Room A: Leadership – Youth leadership and activism
  2. Room B: Quality – Better services and inspirational staff
  3. Room C: Influence – Advantaged Thinking to influence change
  4. Room D: Community – A community of Advantaged Thinkers

Key Learnings:

  • Advantaged Thinking is deeply rooted in robust evidence collected from a long history of initiatives that create positive change for young people.
  • Over the past decade The Foyer Federation has worked to embed Advantaged Thinking practices across the network via a range of nationally significant programmes.
  • The Home for Advantaged Thinking strategic vision outlines an action plan for the future, specifically placing the work of The Foyer Federation into four rooms: Leadership, Quality, Influence and Community.
  • The Foyer Federation continues to future-proof and embed Advantaged Thinking practices into the network via training, resources, initiatives and programmes.

What are we doing?

The Foyer Federation leads on Advantaged Thinking’s pioneering solution to youth disadvantage – the ‘Foyer Model’ – through a network of quality-assured UK Foyers, supporting practitioners, funders and service providers to transform their approach to working with young people. We’ve made significant strides on introducing the sector’s first national learning qualifications and quality assurance programme, underpinned by Advantaged Thinking methodology. We create resources, training, events and toolkits that help practitioners reflect on and develop their practice – re-wiring mindsets from a deficit to an asset-based approach – and support them on their accreditation journey. 

We’re committed to influencing more positive ways of working with and understanding young people from across the sector, developing national programmes with innovative approaches to health and wellbeing, employability and social action.  These programmes enable the Advantaged Thinking ethos to be communicated, actioned and bring about positive change, such as through the development of Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s (PHF) Youth Fund.

Our mission to promote and amplify positive, person-centered, strength-based models of working with young people is outlined in our strategic plan ‘Home For Advantaged Thinking’ which can be found here. Set out in four ‘rooms’ named Leadership, Quality, Influence and Community, each space is designed to provide the right environment for Advantaged Thinking to grow. For example, room A ‘Leadership’ is about rebalancing power and providing new opportunities for young people and services to develop sustainable leadership skills and take action on matters that affect them. In room B ‘Quality’, the focus is on Advantaged Thinking through better services and inspirational staff, building the capacity and quality of services to deliver an offering that increases positive impact and outcomes for young people. In room C ‘Influence’ we raise awareness by sharing stories of young people through the Foyer Federation’s website, social media and digital platforms, and collaborate with like-minded organisations to celebrate and promote the talents and skills of young people. Lastly in room D ‘Community’ we’re focused on developing new communities of practice, providing inspiration and resources to support an Advantaged Thinking youth offer, holding space for like-minded youth organisations to collaborate and challenge each other around asset-based thinking.

What is the future for Advantaged Thinking? There are so many things that need to change for young people and within the systems and paradigm we all work in as professionals. The Foyer Federation’s vision for the future is the creation of a solid Home for Advantaged Thinking where we can all unite around the strengths, talents, experiences and energy of young people, and through our training programmes, advocacy and support, foster a robust community of young people, funders, youth workers and service managers all committed to asset-based ways of working.

Inspiration from around the sector

Between 2011 and 2013 The Foyer Federation launched four national programmes (Open Talent, Healthy Conversations, Pop Up Talents and Working Assets.) aimed at supporting young people to explore their talents, improve their health and strengthen their employability prospects. Open Talent called on those who work with young people to consider talent in the broadest possible sense; not as an elitist word, but as a positive characteristic or ability. It became the building blocks of Advantaged Thinking as we know it today. Healthy Conversations provided young people with the understanding, opportunities and networks to improve the health and wellbeing of themselves, their peers and their communities. 

At the same time Working Assets, working in partnership with the Society of Motor Manufacturers, and Pop Up Talents drilled down into the systemic barriers that young people in supported accommodation face when trying to find employment. Young people gained hands-on work experience and opportunities for personal development such as mentoring and coaching, training schemes, courses leading to recognised qualifications. Both programmes opened up an Advantaged Thinking approach to understanding and investing in work capabilities.

Current Foyer Federation initiatives Power Up and Talent Bonds make the concepts of Advantaged Thinking accessible to young people. Power Up is funded by The Listening Fund and is a youth leadership and influence development programme designed to tackle the imbalance of power that young people who have experienced homelessness face, amplifying their voices and helping to make the services they interact with truly youth led. Talent Bonds are a direct financial investment in a young person to help build the resources they need to develop an employment goal, career choice or wider personal interest. They are a mainstay of many Foyer Federation programmes with regular rounds of funding for young people in Foyers to apply for.

Reflection Questions:

Q1. What can you learn from The Foyer Federation’s role and track record?

Q2. Which projects or programmes resonate most with your interests and experiences?

Q3. How might you apply Advantaged Thinking practices in your service?

Download each of the Adventures In Advantaged Thinking chapters here:

The Foyer Federation is registered in England and Wales under company number 2699839 at Work.Life, Core Building, 30 Brown Street, Manchester, M2 1DH. The charity is registered under charity number 1040482.
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