The Foyer Federation Open Talent

News and comment from the Foyer Federation, with a focus on Open Talent

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It really doesn’t have to be this way

Yesterday’s Guardian carried the distressing story of how the futures of 29 young women and their children are being put at risk by the decision by Newham Council to withdraw funding from the Focus E15 Foyer in Stratford, East London. The council has warned that, because of a desperate lack of affordable housing in London, these young women may well be housed many miles away from their home, community with the consequential loss of links with family, education and other networks they have built while living in the Foyer. The unintended consequences of this short term decision and the long term damage it may cause was well summed up by our own Steve Hillman in his comments.

Later in the evening, the New Zealand writer, Eleanor Catton, made history by becoming the youngest writer to win the Man Booker prize at the age of 28. In her acceptance speech, she talked about how another book, ‘The Gift’ by Lewis Hyde, had influenced her understanding of the West Coast Gold Rush that provides the backdrop for her novel ‘The Luminaries’. The area was rich in gold, prized by Europeans for its value, and seen as pure currency to be traded. But another mineral, greenstone or ‘pounamu’, a symbol of belonging was prized by the Maori for its worth and could only be given. She went on to talk about what it means to live in a society that is based on ‘worth’ rather than ‘value’ and her words took me straight back to Newham.

The truth is that we grossly ‘undervalue’ the talent and potential of millions of young people. We live in a society that demonises them and sees many of them as a ‘worthless’ drain on society, particularly if they are socially and economically excluded. There are structural barriers that make it very difficult for them to access work and we have a welfare system that, instead of investing in their future potential, traps them in poverty and disadvantage. Services are often seen as ‘interventions’, one way ‘transactions’ in which the recipient has precious little involvement in shaping the offer. Even in Foyers, where a ‘something for something’ deal is an explicit part of the relationship between the young person and the service, do we really make the best use of what the young person has to offer? So is it surprising that, when we look at the effectiveness or otherwise of the services that work with them, we count the wrong things. We make notional calculations about the money that might be saved for the public purse by preventing someone from spending a lifetime on drugs or not going to prison and yet are prepared to throw away the positive investment that has already been made in the lives of the young mothers in Focus E15 and the contribution that they would undoubtedly have made to their families and communities.

I hope the image of that group of young women, children in arms, telling their individual stories of the difference the Foyer has made to their lives proves a powerful wake up call to those who are blighting the lives of a generation of young people who, contrary to popular belief, are keen to get their lives on track and build a thriving future for themselves and those around them. Because, sadly, the story of what is going on in Newham is only too similar to stories we are hearing every day at the Foyer Federation. We are hearing of lengths of stay being reduced to a point where it is simply not possible for Foyers to provide the integrated induction to adulthood that every young person needs and some young people simply do not get at home. Services are being told which young people they can take, how long they can take them for and what they should do with them. Moving them through a service as quickly as possible, even if that means a tenancy in the private rented sector on benefit, becomes more important than getting a place in college or moving them towards work. The ‘system’ is simply not working for young people – whether it is education, benefits or housing – and, as a society, we are storing up serious trouble for ourselves because these young people are our future.

I think Eleanor Catton has put her finger on something very significant. A society that is based on ‘worth’ rather than ‘value’ is one that prefers to see young people as ‘feckless layabouts’ in need of a kick up the backside or ‘victims’ in need of charity rather than ‘possibilities’ in need of investment. It is a society that seeks to measure the cost of everything and ends up knowing the value of nothing.

Here at the Foyer Federation, we believe we all have to take some responsibility for the situation we have created. It is time that central and local government stopped batting the blame for cuts backwards and forwards between them. But, equally, those of us in the third sector who are involved in delivering services have to be open to the need to change the way in which we do things. For the last couple of years, we have been working with a group of our members to remodel services in a way that challenges the deficit based approaches that underpin so much of what is commissioned and delivered. Because we simply don’t accept that it has to be this way.


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First sale for Vision Tees

I spent my lunchtime at Spitalfields market today and am the proud owner of a new t-shirt. The best thing about it is that it was made by Drapers City Foyer’s Working Assets project team from Bethnal Green. As an East Londoner I am especially pleased that they chose to take photos of each other and their surrounding area to create the designs for their new T-shirt company Vision tees.

The team have done a great job and it makes me very happy to have been involved in the set up of their Working Assets. In this project you can see the benefits of the expert advice they have received from Drapers Fashion Company and Forward Internet Group. Reece and Aaron said today that they would carry on the project and keep making and selling more t-shirts. The strong team, well supported by Foyer staff Sarah and Runi, will build the enterprise around work and college.


Above: Reece, Aaron, Runi and Sarah. The first team to man their Spitalfields market stall.


Above: Aaron holding the t-shirt he designed.


Above: Reece next to the t-shirt that he made and I bought. They are the bricks of Drapers City Foyer itself!

You can follow them on Twitter via @visiontees

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An Open Talent journey story by a Doncaster Foyer resident

“My journey began when I moved into Doncaster Foyer. I applied for a talent bond so I could get a Basketball kit and sneakers to share my skills by coaching residents and in basket ball.

I then began to train the Doncaster Foyer residents for 6 weeks. The last week of training I organised was a match between staff and residents.  I took them all through a couple of drills and had good feedback from the sessions from all who joined in.

After the 6 weeks were up a programme started called SMILE. I then had the privilege to meet Carl Miller who spoke to me about the coaching I had done and the coaching I was going to do. He then took me and the rest of the residents I had been working with to Doncaster College to do this program for 8 weeks.

Carl then showed me how he wanted me to coach and I learned a lot of exercises, drills, and warm ups not only that but how to present myself how to talk to my audience and deliver the sessions professionally. I made them fun and this got me the full attention from my participants.  While we were at Doncaster College using their courts to practice I met their basketball team who had no coach. Carl and I spoke to them told them I could take them for coaching and they agreed. I got contact details said I would be in touch soon.

After the 8 weeks were up I then took the Foyer Residents and Community College team for coaching sessions. I passed on the skills and knowledge I had learned from Carl. The session consisted of ball handling, dribbling, passing, shooting.

This led to an invite to Plymouth for a 2 day event along with the rest of the Foyer Basketball team. It was a celebration event for everyone who had done the SMILE programme, 4 Foyers attended.

The first day we arrived we went to the Plymouth Foyer to meet everybody had some food a quiz. Second day went to a sports hall where we gained our Level 1 Coaching Certificate in Basketball. It was great fun to meet new people. I learned a lot from this trip and the session we did.

On the last day we finished with a celebration event and award ceremony. Carl spoke to me and said I was going to get a SMILE bond. I was very excited and he told me to get a Community Basketball team together. He told me was proud of me for the hard work I had put in and said to me that he was going to leave me to get on with it.

When I got back home I knew what I had to do. I had a community team lined up ready to coach. I planned my sessions and told everyone when and where the session were. The Foyer team had other priorities and did not want to be involved so I concentrated on my community team and took them through the basics to start with.

After a couple of weeks went by I the drew up some Foyer basketball contracts for my players to see if they were committed to the programme and asked them to sign a form to agree to the terms and conditions of the coaching sessions.

I took them to the Deaf College basketball courts to train and the sessions were going great. My players were improving so much. We have no more funding to pay for the courts but I am looking at asking the player for a small contribution to pay for our own course and keep the sessions going

A couple of days ago Carl rang me out of the blue I was surprised said he had heard the hard work I had done. He told me he was proud of me and this meant so much to me. He said he proud of my work he then said you ready for your Level 2? Am I ready? I said yes, was very excited and couldn’t stop smiling. He talked to me about putting on a summer basketball camp on for the community said he would get some brochures done up and emailed to me. I am still very excited to set this event up and to gain my Level 2.

My journey has been very hard and rocky but Carl believed in me set me right. He never gave up on me never turned his back on me, gave me hope and strength to carry on. He said he will be always there for me if I needed to talk.  I am happy to have him as a friend and a great mentor to me I thank Carl for this opportunity would be possible without Carl and the 2 boss ladies.”

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Importance of local PR

Influencing taxi drivers has come up as a must do before. I’ve talked to many foyers about how important is for PR in the local area and to make sure they will actually get young people to their destination safely. This is a conversation a Doncaster staff member had on a recent taxi journey:

I thought it would be nice to share with you all a conversation I had with the taxi driver on my way to work.

ME: “Doncaster Foyer please”

Driver: “I picked from the Salvation Army near the Dome the other day, 2 girls and 2 boys and took them back to the Foyer “

ME: “They would have been to the community centre “

Driver: “What a lovely lot they were, very polite and they were telling me all about the things they do at the Foyer, They said the staff are fantastic and it’s a good place to live; can I have a room there please ? ( laugh )

ME: “Thank you, it nice when we hear some thing nice said about the Foyer, it’s a shame people make a judgement on it before they have seen it for themselves “

Driver: “For what I heard from the kids the other day, it’s a shame there aren’t more people like you lot around to help youths now days “

It’s nice to know that residents do enjoy living here and we do make a difference to their life’s… made me smile”

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Young People Homeless Parliament Talks Housing!

This morning the young people’s homeless parliament met with Jack Dromey, Mark Prisk, and Don Foster to voice concerns around affordable housing.
Making history it all kicked off in December 2012 with the UK’s first ever young people’s homeless parliament, in parliament event. The young people’s homeless parliament is made up from representatives from seven charities; The Foyer Federation, St Mungos, St Basils, Homeless Link, Crisis, Centerpoint & YMCA England. Together they are the voice for young people across the UK who has experienced homelessness.
The meeting was impassioned & vibrant; touching on the importance of a youth led approach to building facilities & the right to a stable home rather than a shelter.
But housing for young people is not just a matter of four walls and a roof; it is people who can make all the difference. Our representative Steve explained how his Foyer has helped him to go to college and apply for university, recognising the positive impact of having staff to support young people 24/7. Another young person with Foyer experience stressed that it was her support staff that encouraged her to volunteer, opening up a world of opportunity.
Unfortunately the meeting had to come to an end; I suspect to the young people’s disappointment, although there is an exciting flurry of activity ahead, I will be sure to keep you updated.

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Intrepid Explorers Bootcamp Opens Talent

Last week young people from across the country joined the Foyer Federation at the Intrepid Explorers bootcamp to develop the confidence and skills to capture stories of impact from across the network and beyond.

On day one we kicked off with Open Talent & Advantaged Thinking activities, followed by an afternoon of hands on journalism training delivered by the Media Trust. Day two was packed with open discussions around how to gather & share stories of impact followed by more journalism practice.

There was an abundant of energy within the group and we can’t wait to see what can be achieved from such a talented group of people.

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Inspiring Impacts Network Event, 12th March 2013

Shared measurement is about gathering impact not subscribing to data capture tools. They are offering signposting to a few types of tools but it’s more about learning about what outcomes our beneficiaries need and creating a consistent line between deliverers, funders and policy makers.

This work has been started in more depth in the US by FSG who are looking at shared impact. New Phil atrophy Capital (NCP) who hosted the event today are the UK equivalent and are working with the Inspiring Impact Network and Triangle consulting, who developed outcome star, to carry out work towards a ‘Blueprint of shared measurement’. I am eager for the Foyer Federation to be involved so we can make sure that it is filled with advantaged thinking outcomes rather than deficits.

They explained steps towards agreeing a shared measurement that I will be applying to the first PopUp Talent Monitoring & Evaluation meeting in a few weeks’ time:

1. Understanding your sector

2. Developing shared outcomes

3. Using common tools

4. Using common methods

5. Sharing and comparing results

As a result of today’s event I will start thinking about how we can ask Young People what other employability, youth housing or personal develop schemes they’ve attended in the last 6 months. I think the Intrepid Explorer round tables, happening later on, would benefit by NCP chairing or attending a shared measurement discussion. Our beneficiary data needs to be aggregated in order to provide evidence to policy makers & commissioning changes that affect young people.

There was a presentation by Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse (CAADA), who are quite similar to us in terms of evaluating external service delivery impact. They made me feel better as they work with 100 services but had 14 to compare in a chart. They showed me that at Regional meetings and Practitioner Forums we could share project or FSM data from other services, maybe anonymously, to start conversations about best practice. “It’s our day job to worry about what is being collected then share it with delivery services”. But mainly to show that Foyers are doing a good job and make hard working support staff feel better about their work. This was described as professional nourishment!

Bond also presented and one of the things they talked about was Mybond. It sounds like MyNav and aims to share ‘Improve it framework’ impact tools for organisations in their network.

There were worries about actually being able to share data across sectors in light of competition. I have heard this mentioned amongst Foyers before. It got me thinking about how do we find out and track who is re-tendering and which services are at risk? Could we use the new CRM to do this? Or it is recorded elsewhere internally?

We will be demonstrating an approach to collective impact, on a smaller scale, in the PopUp Talent Partnership. In year two we are committed to sharing the evaluation and findings with a network of 400 organisations. I think what is different about our work is we will be achieving the above goals by working outside the sector as we are partnered with Good People and the companies they will bring into contact with our beneficiaries.

I very much hope that later this year we will have an opportunity to share our work in PopUp Talent digital impacts capture plus the Intrepid Explorers with the Inspiring Impact Network. This group is made up of some influential third sector organisations and funders so will be a fantastic chance to demonstrate an asset based approach to measuring the impact of youth programmes.

Finally, during the networking at the end I spoke to Eibhlín Ní Ógáin (pronounced Evelyn) about a report being launched in May about NPC measuring youth employability programmes and they are very excited about PopUp Talent digital data capture and would like to talk to us about that once we get started in the summer.

Blueprint for shared measurement Executive Summary