HI Future | How We Co-Created Our Homeless Employment Solution

Noisy Cricket’s mission is to bring diverse people together to co-create social change, with a vision of creating people-powered movements, so centering people impacted by social issues is integral to our work as a social enterprise. For HI Future, we recruited Mooch – a person with lived experience of homelessness – as a paid consultant, and worked with 15 impacted by homelessness to engage in user research, co-creation and testing of the HI Future solution

Compensated for the time spent on HI Future, we worked with those impacted who were looking for work, as well as people who had successfully managed to secure roles. Their personal insight into the issue, willingness to improve social mobility recruitment and ability to speak truth to power were three of the core strengths that this group of resilient, courageous and future-focused people brought to the community. 

HI FUTURE COMMUNITY FUNDERS, SPONSORS, PARTNERS AND PARTICIPANTS

Ensuring people with personal insight into homelessness were central helped us better understand the root causes of business barriers to homelessness, but to ensure we had a holistic perspective on the issues, we also worked with charities and public sector organisations who focus on helping homeless people become ready-for-work. Complementing our efforts to remove business barriers rather than duplication existing service provision, we worked with:

  • Business in the Community
  • Groundwork in Greater Manchester
  • Mustard Tree
  • Bolton at Home
  • Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council
  • Business Growth Hub
  • Department for Work and Pensions
Darren Amos, Balfour Beatty
“[What worked well on the HI Future project was the] bringing together of all different parties including those affected by homelessness, support organisations and potential employers from different industries helped to provide a real insight into the issues and a spirit of collaboration”

Bringing experience of working with vulnerable people, the employment leads, work coaches and support workers we engaged with brought safeguarding skills and expertise on working with vulnerable adults, an objective perspective on social mobility recruitment issues and insights on the challenges and opportunities surrounding influencing businesses to recruitment homeless people.

With our focus on removing business barriers to homeless employment, the private sector was an integral part of co-creation too. Working with businesses across construction, energy, travel and retail industries, we made sure to understand social mobility recruitment challenges holistically. We also worked with HR, diversity and inclusion plus social value leads, to understand needs from different perspectives within each organisation. 

MOOCH ASHLEY (LIVED EXPERIENCE CONSULTANT) AND LAUREN COULMAN (NOISY CRICKET CEO)

Our partnerships with Manchester Airport Group, Balfour Beatty, Cadent Gas and Co-op Group helped us to see where the core challenges and opportunities were in removing business barriers to homeless employment.  The majority of these challenges were based on cultural beliefs, including business employees believing impacted people weren’t willing to work, despite 88% of homeless people wanting to work again and 88% having prior work experience. 

However, these challenges also had systemic impacts, seen in how willing businesses were to target people who they perceived to have limited value in the workplace.. However, we also learned that businesses are willing to target graduates – despite having little or no previous employment experience – and adapt the recruitment process, presenting an opportunity to reshape interviews to help impacted people have a better chance of success. 

Angie Stott, Balfour Beatty
“[The unexpected outcomes and impacts of working on HI Future was] the way I view the issue of homelessness and those affected by it. I didn’t realise there is a huge spectrum of homelessness and a real need for an employment matchmaking and support service.”

Co-creation wasn’t without its challenges, however. The people with personal insight into homelessness that we worked with had occasional housing, finances and health challenges that sometimes impacted their ability to effectively contribute to the HI Future project. As charity and public support workers had recruited the 15 people we paid to participate, we had appropriate support structures in place, but required us to continuously recruit new people throughout the process. 

Charities and public sector organisations also helped us shape our safeguarding measures and provision, but one of the major challenges we experienced was that support workers, work coaches and employment leads sometimes spoke on behalf of the homeless people they had recruited to participate in HI Future. Sometimes, their perspective contradicted what homeless people were telling us they needed, requiring expert facilitation to manage. 

IMAGE 5: MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS PRESS COVERAGE (FEBRUARY 2019)

From a business perspective, we found our partners were willing to share openly – regardless of how the outcomes reflected on their organisation – and were keen to learn about the issue, their contribution to it and how they might change to better support homeless recruitment. Motivated  to address skill gaps, demonstrate social value for public tenders and improve diverse recruitment, however, we recognised this was a self-selecting group. 

As a result, in future we will endeavour to develop participation programmes that incentivise people impacted by issues to engage over the course of a project as opposed to a one off basis. We’ll also aim to engage businesses that have less of a vested interest in the outcome of our co-created solutions, so we have a better understanding of entrenched barriers to the issues we’re looking to address.

Faye Goodworth, Content Designer at Paper Studio
“[The value that HI Future brought to me was] A reminder of the difference working in a human-centred way can make to the people you’re designing for. Evidence of how personal bias affects decision making, and how solving problems for people with experiences different to ours does not work for anybody if it is based on our own assumptions. Validation that something as seemingly insignificant as the language you choose to use can make a huge difference to how a person feels and experiences a service. Inspiration to continue championing human-centred content and service design”

While we prepped businesses for co-creation through running the education workshop first and foremost, we didn’t undertake the same kinds of activity with charities and the public sector, who we assumed would be able to address their own preconceptions about what was needed. Building on our existing facilitation tools and training we use to prep co-creation attendees, we are exploring the roll out of a bias-check session for support organisations too.