Listening To The Landscape.

Leading the way – voices from staff and young people

“It [Advantaged Thinking] was a life-changing experience and till today we are using it in all our work and contact with professionals and young people. We will never forget how important the language is and how it opens or closes contact with young people. We want to share our experiences with other people who work with young people and we hope to inspire them and that they inspire us again.” 

Erna Roelfsema and Charlotte Schippers, Groningen

“It is about working with [people] and helping them on their journey in life, rather than passively having our service doing something ‘to’ them and then them moving on.” 

Staff at Your Housing Group’s Foyer services

What does Advantaged Thinking look like? How does it make a difference to young people’s lives? Leading The Way is the sixth chapter in our Adventures in Advantaged Thinking series where staff and young people from Your Housing Group services share the impact that Advantaged Thinking has made to them during their time within the Foyers.

Where to start? 

The Foyer Federation and its national network of Foyers champion an Advantaged Thinking approach in the youth supported housing sector. Your Housing Group’s Foyers are an outstanding example of how Advantaged Thinking can grow through an organisation from the work staff and young people do every day, from impacting strategic decisions within a housing association, to influencing local commissioners to back the approach.

Having worked with young people in an Advantaged Thinking way for many years, Your Housing Group’s Foyer Managers have developed their own ways of visualising what it means to them and how it is woven into the fabric of their services. Through their consistent efforts and mindfulness of the approach, it has shaped the way they think about their work:

“Advantaged Thinking is the internal sort of ‘due diligence’ I do in my head when I am going through my daily work, making decisions or changes on scheme. It makes me question if what I am doing or agreeing to is for the right reasons – will it have a positive impact on our young people? Asking reflective questions that get you to the heart of the mission and purpose.”

The sixth chapter of Adventures in Advantaged Thinking looks at:

  • What Advantaged Thinking looks like and brings to a service
  • How professional practice develops through Advantaged Thinking
  • How Advantaged Thinking makes a difference to people
  • Story highlights from Advantaged Thinking experiences
  • Top tips for leading in an Advantaged Thinking way
  • Future hopes
  • Responses from young people on what Advantaged Thinking means

Key Learnings:

1. In order to sustain an Advantaged Thinking way of working, staff need to consistently engage with a reflective practice,  both on how they work with young people and how they themselves may have benefitted from an asset-based experience,

2 Taking a person-centred approach helps to develop relationships of trust that empower young people to take positive risks and overcome challenges, such as managing their mental health and taking positive action for their own future.

3 The language we choose has the power to impact the way we think, which in turn has the power to affect the way we act and the way we work with others. Positive approaches create an environment that feels safe for young people to make mistakes, learn, grow and feel valued.

4 Believing in young people has the power to help them believe in themselves and makes an environment where they can thrive. As young people grow with Advantaged Thinking they transform their own lives and futures.

What are we doing?

Since the launch of our strategy Home for Advantaged Thinking in April 2021 we’ve been able to make great progress in many areas, positively impacting the lives of over 3000 young people. We’ve brought together our network and strengthened our community through a series of energising events and peer learning programmes. We’ve engaged 80% of our members in their quality development journey – a robust framework that provides training and resources to help services measure and guarantee the positive impact and added value that Advantaged Thinking brings to the lives of young people. 

We also celebrated two key milestones: 10 years of Advantaged Thinking and 30 years of the Foyer Federation by compiling this publication Adventures in Advantaged Thinking to evidence the impact of working in an Advantaged Thinking way. We continue to promote this work in order to inspire partners, stakeholders and the wider community to believe and invest in young people, so that they can become leaders in their own lives and communities.

Inspiration from around the sector

“Where there is Advantaged Thinking there is hope.”

Advantaged Thinking is flourishing in the four Your Housing Group Foyers and continues to be a central part of the positive outcomes young people achieve. The quotations below are taken from interviews with staff responsible for Your Housing Group’s Foyer services in Chester, St Helens, Wigan and Warrington. 

Q. What does Advantaged Thinking look like and what does it bring to a service?

“If Advantaged Thinking was the sea, the rivers and streams would be the Advantaged Thinking journey feeding all the villages with its beauty and flow. As the villages become towns and cities, the clouds would be the reflections created by the mindsets of all the people living there which would pour back into the Advantaged Thinking sea ready to restart its journey.”

“It is a positive shift in mentality moving from a support model that focuses on need/issues/negatives and instead looks at talent/ opportunities/ambition.”

“It is about working with [people] and helping them on their journey in life, rather than passively having our service doing something ‘to’ them and then them moving on.”

Q. How does practice develop through Advantaged Thinking?

“Advantaged Thinking has enabled us to break that cycle of viewing young people as a collection of faults, a flawed and broken mechanism that must be fixed. Instead, it has gifted us with a new mindset coupled with a revised glossary of terms such as ‘talent’, ‘worth’, ‘positivity’, ‘value’, ‘aspiration’ and ‘skill.”

“I now find it uncomfortable to ‘tag’ young people, e.g., NEET, homeless, etc., whereas years ago I would do quite easily. I try to contemplate my language when speaking about people, which is a challenge for me! But for all the right reasons, so it acts as a temperature gauge. The listening element is a big next step for me. Really listening.”

Q. How does Advantaged Thinking make a difference to people’s lives?

“It is sometimes a difficult paradigm to break when a person does not feel worthy to experience praise or success due to whatever has gone before in their life before coming to a Foyer. However, Advantaged Thinking provides us with the landscape to not only start a fresh chapter in the lives of our young people but also gives them ‘permission’ to be confident, to be proud, to be successful and – if they are daring enough – to dream.”

“Advantaged Thinking allows people the opportunity to feel proud of themselves again having engaged in conversations or opportunities that result in an improved self- esteem. Once their confidence is higher, tackling their challenges now seems more possible.”

Reflection Questions:

Q1. Which insights from this article connected with you most?

Q2. How might you challenge your staff team and/or self to take action from any of the insights shared?

Q3. Which Advantaged Thinking responses from staff resonated most for you?

Q4. How might you take action in your service to learn from these responses?

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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