You know you’ve been around a while when the same idea that was a good one seven years ago is a good one again now, but this time for different reasons.
Put simply, the obvious reason for awarding our trainees accreditation certificates back then was to help them get a job. At a time of job vacancies across many sectors, getting a job is currently pretty easy. So why are we revisiting accreditation?
Following our ninth birthday in October, this is a moment to take stock. The world has changed incomprehensibly since 2013 and whilst we should pause to celebrate our successes, so too must we look in the mirror at who we are and who we want to become. That’s why this autumn we’re entering a rather grandly titled ‘Strategic Review’. We will be listening to the voices of all our main stakeholders and reviewing our purpose, our vision, our offer and our business model. At this stage, I can’t tell you what will come out the other end, but rest assured I’m appropriately nervous and excited.
Whilst we celebrate the 1000 lives we have touched over the last nine years and explore how on earth we navigate the next two weeks, some things remain unchanged. The enduring and unrelenting strength and resilience of those we support in the face of daily and mounting challenges. Equally, the absence of long-term answers to sustainability as a social business.
With the rate of unemployment estimated to be somewhere between 57% and 90% among the homeless population, unemployment as a theme remains a constant, despite the high levels of employment in the general population. When we talk about unemployment this now includes underemployment as well as work that doesn’t pay. With a keen focus on our mission to prevent homelessness, it seems right that we should always have half an eye on what we do to support un- and under-employment. Indeed, we have a well-formed and tested employability offer. But has anyone else noticed ‘employability’ dip off the radar with fewer housing associations offering this kind of support? It’s certainly not flying off our metaphorical shelves.
In response to the barriers to employment that those we support face, in 2015 Your Own Place went through the OCN process of accrediting our offer. I was of the belief that having a recognised certificate would be a string to the bow – or CV, of our trainees. Accrediting was a mammoth task for a tiny organisation at the time and we nearly didn’t make it. Cost, time and the practicalities meant that I should have thrown in the towel sooner. Our offer wasn’t formed enough to take it and it was shelved almost as soon as completed. Among the challenges were the OCN hoops that required us to compromise too much on our neuro-diverse adapted highly engaging and participative style as well as passing on the cost to our customers, many of whom had their own employability offer.
So why are we here again and why am I so excited about it? Because accrediting our offer, something that will be completed by January, is an opportunity for our trainees first and foremost. Thanks to a new partnership, soon to be announced, the trainees attending and completing a Your Own Place workshop won’t just get a Your Own Place certificate, they’ll now receive AQA certificates too.
For many this will be a quiet source of great pride and even their first certificate. For others it may help open doors with private landlords in an increasingly competitive market. For all, it’s the cast-iron proof of their efforts, commitment and contribution during our workshops. So as a targeted prevention intervention, the practical door-opening benefits of certification are certain, but the alignment with our values of empowering people and boosting their confidence truly resonate with being able to award them with something that will further propel them forward. What goes around comes around and personally I’m delighted to have changed my mind.