Mayday Trust worked with the Frontline Network to capture the experiences of those who take a strength-based approach to working alongside people experiencing tough times, such as homelessness. This Wisdoms is part of a suite of Wisdoms where the voices of people who either experience or deliver services are captured and shared.
Frontline workers were offered a variety of platforms to share their voices, including group Zoom conversations, individual conversations, WhatsApp messages, email, and social media. Conversations took place with people from across the UK during COVID-19 restrictions, so face to face meetings were not possible. It was agreed that all the contributions would be anonymised when used in this listening exercise.
We used the Mayday Trust approach of deeply listening through ‘Wisdoms’, which poses just one open question and listens to what each person wants to bring to the conversation.
A total of 66 people contributed to Wisdom from Strength-based Working, all of whom were directly delivering strength-based work, and some of whom had lived experience of homelessness or other tough times. The conversations and comments were initiated with the question – What is your experience of delivering strength-based work? The following document captures the main themes which were identified from what was heard. For context please also see our previous Wisdoms work: Wisdoms from the Pandemic, Wisdoms from Behind Closed Doors, and Wisdoms from the Street.
What Does is mean to Work in a ‘strength-based’ way?
Mayday Trust, as a result of more than 11 years of extensive research, listening to people going through tough times and practical experience, has developed the Person-led, Strength-Based, Transitional (PTS) Response. Mayday’s experience has shown that being strength-based only works when the person has choice and control, is able to accept or reject support, able to define the goals of that support on their own terms, and where PTS coaches have a high degree of autonomy to be led by the individual, hearing what’s important to them and together working out what will move them toward the life they want to achieve.
- Strength-based – To be strength-based requires more than just focusing on the positives in someone’s life. In order to be truly strength-based, you need to be led by what is important to the person and respond on an individual basis. The work of a strength-based practitioner is to listen, be curious and reflect with the individual to contextualise their experiences and to work alongside them on the things that the person feels are the most important. The aim is not to fix things for the person, nor to manage their situation, but to identify and build upon the individuals’ skills, talents and abilities to tackle situations themselves whilst leveraging the right support at the right time.
- Relationship Building – this is what it’s all about. Once trust is developed, conversations open up to include areas of the person’s life including their aspirations, interests and what they’d like to achieve for themselves. These are positive goals and hobbies that people can develop within their communities. By doing so, people prove to themselves that they have the strengths to achieve and this realisation can spur them on to make the changes that they want in their lives.
- Commitment – it requires the continuous commitment of the whole organisation to also become strength-based, adapting organisational systems and structures which support strength-based working, and to seek funding that allows for the person to truly lead the relationship without tightly defined targets of success which are not meaningful to their lives.