Thought leaders from Foyers around the country came together in East London yesterday to get creative about work and employment among Foyer residents.

The Ideas Lab gives passionate, busy leaders a dedicated space to think outside the box about the issues they, their teams and their young people face every day. It creates room for a more in-depth exploration of the subject than you might usually have time for, and sparks exciting what-ifs that lead to practical solutions (that are cheap or free!) that can be implemented right away.

Every Ideas Lab starts with a problem statement, focusing on deficits and using a DisAdvantaged Thinking lens to look at an issue. This time, the group started with:

The number of young people that find and sustain work in Foyers is low. What can we do about this? 

Reframing the statement using an Advantaged Thinking approach took the group down some exciting, sometimes quite existential routes and highlighted several fresh, new ways to look at the idea. These included questions like ‘what is work?’, ‘is it okay not to work?’, and ‘how do we make working the norm?’. After narrowing these big concepts into something that can be tackled on a day-to-day basis, the group arrived at a question that captures the heart of the issue:

How do we get young people to understand why it’s important to work?

Throughout the day-long workshop, the team explored suggestions like:

  • How do you find out what young people are interested in, and how can that be related to the idea of work?
  • How do you incentivise working when money isn’t enough of a driver?
  • How do you personalise the idea of working and its benefits for each individual?
  • What are the different ways work can look? Self-employment, shift work, volunteering, skill-swaps, and so on.

A memorable insight into the benefits of Advantaged Thinking among frontline staff came from Glen Placide, Enfield Foyer, who shared a story of a young man who loved to dance. His passions bled out into his daily life and staff would often catch him dancing in the lifts. They encouraged him to pursue this interest by taking a workshop, which led to him leading classes of his own and winning a Jack Petchey Award in the process!

At the end of the day, the Ideas Lab group came away with a list of actionable ideas that are cheap or free, and can be tried out quickly and fairly easily among Foyer teams. These included:

  1. Using a questionnaire and quick-and-easy online personality tests to find out about residents interests and passions. Then, sharing these in a central, visible place so that people can make connections with and for each other.
  2. Encourage staff to bring their own talents and skills into Foyers, and give them time to do this.
  3. Make contact with local businesses and sign up to relevant mailing lists to stay on top of new opportunities.
  4. Recognise Foyers as employers and create in-house apprenticeship opportunities/schemes for residents.
  5. Hold discussions with small groups of young people about their perception of the value of work.

Our next Ideas Lab in the works, so keep an eye on our monthly newsletter for more information. If you have a go at any of these ideas, we’d love to hear from you – whether it works out or whether it’s simply a learning experience! You can get in touch with Kate at [email protected].

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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