This year’s Ideas Lab event was held on 20 September – and we’re still feeling that creative buzz! 16 members of staff from 10 services came together and stepped into an innovative mindset to look at an old problem from new angles, and find fresh solutions to take back and put into practice. 

The day began with a couple of games to get everyone into a child-like, imaginative headspace – perfect for ideation, but quite different from the practical problem solving approach most service staff need to take day to day. From parachuting to the top of a tree to making a Barbie hammock out of tape, all the way through tunnelling into a festival and creating a bus disguise out of a coat rack, it’s fair to say that things got creative pretty quickly!

Ahead of time, we surveyed attendees to uncover the challenge most people were interested in exploring, but rather than one clear winner, we came away with three. Each of the four groups selected one of the following ‘problem statements’ to zone in on for the day:

  • Young people can’t afford to move on successfully because of the cost of living crisis.
  • Young people don’t want to engage after the pandemic. 
  • We are not able to recruit and retain the staff we need to run a good service. 

The first step was to reframe the problem statement to understand it more deeply and examine it from new angles that might not be immediately clear. Each group agreed on a new way to look at their chosen problem: 

  • Move on options are not designed for young people in the cost of living crisis.
  • Young people have not had the opportunity to develop the skills, knowledge and wisdom to thrive in the current cost of living crisis.
  • How do we develop services that encourage young people to choose to invest their time with us.
  • The people we recruit do not currently have the understanding, passion and drive for young people.

Next, the groups discussed their experiences of the issue in their services to fill in any contextual gaps and share what they’ve tried, what’s worked and what the challenges have been. This was a great opportunity to learn from the valuable experiences of peers and colleagues in different member services and pick up new things to have a go at. 

The afternoon session was a space for brand-new thinking and creative solutions. Over the course of three different exercises, each group came up with a minimum of 25 ideas for things to try as a solution to their reframed problem statement. These ranged from simple things that had previously not been considered, to ambitious projects that will take time and funding, to the kinds of things that you need a genie and a lamp to make happen (or a time machine). 

Each of those big ideas on post it notes were then discussed and placed on a grid based on the level of impact and the level of possibility, leaving a cluster of ‘do-it-now’ ideas, a bunch of ‘do-it-in-future’ ones, and some ‘probably-don’t-do-it’ thoughts too. We can’t wait to hear how each service takes these glimmers and turns them into something truly beneficial for their team and young people. 

Meanwhile, The Foyer Federation have a collection of tools and resources specifically designed for use with young people and staff to help them to tackle some of the challenges faced by services, including some of those outlined above at the Ideas Lab.

  • The Advantaged Thinking People Handbook focuses on HR practices in general, with Module 1, all about Advantaged Thinking recruitment and retention practices, available now. 
  • The Advantaged Thinking Practice Handbook provides specific ideas about conversations to have with young people in order to boost their engagement with shaping the service they live in. 
  • Advantaged Thinking Training supports development of culture within services, and is a valuable tool on the journey towards endorsement and accreditation. 
  • ReRooted, a new Foyer Federation programme in development, is intended to support staff to support young people who've faced great challenges (those young people with complex needs) and we’ll soon be asking our network to consult on this.

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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