Case study: Mayday Trust

If people had listened to me like you do, I would have got my life sorted out years ago.
Participant, Mayday Inspire

I heard an inspirational presentation from the Mayday Trust when I attended New Philanthropy Capital’s seminar on systems change recently and since then I’ve been sharing their story with everyone who will listen.

The Mayday Trust is a homelessness organisation unlike any other. In 2011, they conducted a qualitative review of over 100 people and they uncovered the systematic institutionalisation of people accessing homelessness services. The ‘traditional’ focus on needs kept people in their area of weakness, leaving them unable to create sustained, positive change for themselves. The results were so powerful that they demanded a need for radical change. Change not only in how they delivered support, but in how their entire organisation thought, acted and responded to make sure the individual was at the heart of every decision they made and every action they took. As a result, they created the first strengths-based personal transitions service for people experiencing homelessness: Mayday Inspire.

The way they work with people is transformative because their central belief is that people, particularly those identified as having ‘complex needs’ should have power and control over their own lives. Their maxim is ‘thrive, not survive.’ By using this as a starting point, they have changed the way they see every person, so that they are no longer the vulnerable, street homeless person often overwhelmed with problems, but someone with talents, strengths and abilities that are usually overlooked.

The Mayday Trust have thrown out needs and risk assessments and the use of paperwork in front of people and replaced it all with real world, advantaged conversations. Their focus is on listening and hearing people, exploring what they’re good at and finding their ‘spark’. Once they’ve found it, instead of providing a service, they provide openings, matching them with real world opportunities outside of the homelessness sector.

The way they work with people is transformative because their central belief is that people, particularly those identified as having ‘complex needs’ should have power and control over their own lives.

They have stopped making the service mandatory and introduced voluntary engagement so that people feel in control and they have found ingenious ways to balance the power dynamic between staff and ‘client’ which includes doing away with keyworking and having the option to meet with a coach who is external to their housing and based in the community. And every policy, procedure and manual has been co-created with the mantra ‘how would I feel if this were me?’ at the core. Engaging with people in a respectful, human and genuine way couldn’t just be new words on paper, it had to be done through their shared, lived experience.

They are currently looking to join forces with innovation partners so if you’re interested – take a look at their website. I certainly wish I could work with them…

What I need isn’t just to come off drugs, quit alcohol and get a job. I need to feel that I’m worth something, then I might want to do those other things.
Participant, Mayday Inspire

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