Our recent Community of Practice (CoP) webinar, held on 20th January 2022, discussed different approaches used by our CoP members to address access to housing and shelter. This blog aims to draw out common themes and differences among the different CoP members, by summarising the three questions that participants answered in the webinar. Firstly, what animals best represent the projects? Secondly, what is the long-term vision for the project? And thirdly, which stakeholders need to change their behaviour to achieve this long-term vision?
What animals best represent CoP members’ projects?
Participants first thought about an animal that best represented their projects. We had a huge range that went from chickens to polar bears – even a unicorn! For example:
Two participants chose an elephant, representing the importance of sticking together as a community (or a herd). They felt that their projects offered reliable and strong services.
Three participants chose a tiger, illustrating that their projects are fierce and protective.
One participant chose a duck-billed platypus; illustrating how her project is adaptable and flexible to changing circumstances, drawing ideas from many sources, and combining them together in an improbably successful way.
Unlike many organisations who chose animals associated with adaptability and strength, one participant chose a chicken to represent their organisation, highlighting the nurturing care that they provide to their community.
What long-term vision do CoP members have for their projects?
Most CoP members mentioned that their long-term aim is to find sustainable pathways to end homelessness. This could be done by equipping people experiencing homelessness and insecure shelter with tools and skills that can empower them to be fully integrated (i.e.: psycho-social support, economic empowerment) and bring positive changes into their communities (i.e.: destigmatizing homelessness).
Many CoP members talked about the importance of person-centred approaches and tailored support to individual needs. For example, Butterflies (India) and Vulcan Learning Centre (England) highlighted the importance of mental health, a major challenge where governments do not consider mental health a public health issue.
Who are the stakeholders whose behaviour CoP members would like to change and how do they do it?
Most CoP members mentioned the importance of changing the behaviour of local government authorities. Shelter Cymru (Wales), for example, shared that two of the local authorities they have worked with were keen to work in partnership, one wasn't, and the difference this made to the project was huge.
While CoP members recognize local authorities’ effort in supporting vulnerable people, especially during the pandemic, some people experiencing homelessness do not receive support appropriate to their specific needs. Some CoP members also noted that well-drafted regulations and laws to address homelessness are not always fully implemented, for example due to a lack of budget.
Many CoP members agreed that advocacy work is fundamental to mainstream homelessness into the agendas of local authorities. Butterflies (India), for instance, broadcasts a radio programme in which children discuss access to secure shelter with local authorities. This shows the power of co-production, connecting end-users with the targets of advocacy efforts. Some CoP members such as Social Bite (Scotland) have been a key player into mainstreaming programmes such as Housing First within local governments, evidence that changing local government mindsets is possible.
Another approach of CoP members is to build direct and strong relationships with local authorities to share information and work towards joint delivery of services. Maintaining dialogue can be challenging when there are frequent staff or political changes, but some CoP members such as Tshwane Leadership Foundation (South Africa), involve universities in partnership groups to help maintain continuity of discussions and decision making. Generally, the CoP members have commented that the pandemic tested existing relationships with local government, but also created a space for CoP members to demonstrate their value and use their capacity and networks to support vulnerable individuals.
We would love to hear your thoughts about these approaches and models! Feel free to write your comments below. You can also comment on the webinar follow-up thread here and inform our conversations for the following webinar.
The CoP Team
Icons: Freepik, from https://www.flaticon.com