HI Future – the HI standing for homeless inclusive – came into being long before we created the community that lives and breathes it now, though its collaborative way of working has been fundamental to its existence since day dot… and, it’s our cross-sector community, co-producing an employment solution with those people impacted by homelessness is what will see it through to success.
It wasn’t always this way, though. Two years ago, not long after I launched Noisy Cricket, I started working on homelessness. With people I love personally impacted by the issue and seeing how the rise in homelessness was impacting a human I’d come to care for who slept rough on the same street I lived in central Manchester, how could I not?
A year later, and I’d been taken in by the Manchester Homelessness Partnership (MHP). An inspiring collective of public and third sector organisations, Viv Slack of Street Support, Jez Green at The Mustard Tree and Beth Knowles of GMCA had all shown me the power of co-production – working with not for those impacted by an issue – and a core principle of Noisy Cricket’s work was born.
Throughout 2017, I was able to bring businesses to the work the MHP were doing. Using Noisy Cricket’s root cause research, we were able to educate 250 businesses on the “why” of rising homelessness and channel them into an MHP support group to take action. Yet, with the power, platform and resources available to so many businesses, I suspected there was bigger potential at play.
Cue Mooch and Woody. Bringing their own experiences of homelessness and the sector to the work we were doing at the business support group – now part of a much bigger programme run by the inimitable Dee Lowry – I was told in no uncertain terms that we needed jobs. A root cause, strategic and sustainable response to an issue that impacts the whole city and every person in it. Got it!
Yet, with numerous brilliant initiatives across the UK readying people experiencing homelessness for work, where were the businesses? Despite the Booth Centre’s weekly jobs clubs, Business in The Community’s (BITC) ready for work programme and the programmes and platforms developed by Manchester City Council ready for the regional skills gaps in tech, construction and hospitality, where were the jobs?
A chance encounter with Tash Willcocks of Hyper Island presented an exciting opportunity to get under the skin of the issue. With a growing body of insight on the issues underpinning the business barriers to employing people who have experienced homelessness, Noisy Cricket put a brief, to the 30 plus bright, proactive and creative students at their Manchester MA programme, and let the innovation roll.
Three months later, with the support of BITC and Pret a Manger – an organisation running their own homeless-focused employment programme – Woody, Mooch and I worked with the student to support the development of eight solutions, addressing the systemic, cultural and personal challenges inherent in employing people with personal insight into homelessness.
With so many potential options, we went back to the business community, and with feedback from the Co-Op, KPMG and Manchester Airports Group (MAG), narrowed our options down to two key solutions. One, a matchmaking solution, helping businesses find those individuals willing and able to work. The second, a support system, to add on to the great work being done up front by the public and third sector.
Yet, indirect feedback came our way too. Assumptions regarding the type of work people who have experienced homelessness would be suitable to do. Fears surrounding mental health, addiction and criminality. Concerns around cultural fit, another perception which we knew needed to be challenged if we were ever to encourage businesses to open their doors and offer up opportunities.
Now, to make it happen. We knew if HI Future, were ever to succeed, it would be the community we create created around it that would be the deciding factor. Taking our solution out to the progressive, pro-active and committed businesses, charities and public sector departments across Greater Manchester, it became clear the potential HI Future had to create the systemic and cultural shift needed.
As 2018 closed out, we were delighted to welcome Manchester Airports Group and Balfour Beatty on board as runaway sponsors, providing the funding necessary to kick start the user research and education sessions needed to understand the challenges and opportunities inherent in employing people who have experienced homelessness.
To Sophie Stephens and Kelly Singleton, thank you, for passionately championing such a new and exciting approach.
Throughout 2019, as we bring on board new sponsors, and with the commitment of supporter organisations of the like of KPMG and Lloyds Bank, we’ll bring together directors, HR professionals and line managers to work directly with people who have personal insight into homelessness, to co-create the solution we need to shift attitudes and test the platform making recruitment as simple as possible.
To Rebekah Ingham, Alex Roche and Jonathon Summerlin, so much gratitude, and to James Hargraves and Simon Chapman, for all making waves within your organisations!
The expertise of the DWP and our local partner organisations – the Mustard Tree, Groundwork in Greater Manchester and The Growth Company – which already work, on the ground, with impacted people to ready each-and-every individual for work will be essential too. There’ll be a lot to learn, but working as an open, collaborative and caring community bring better insights and a brilliant outcome.
To Nina Cioffi, Chris Hulse, Chris Gopal, Venetia Knight, Aileen Stirman, Ellie Jess and Naomi Ilagoswa, a huge thank you for the brilliant work you already do, and the support you’re lending to the HI Future project!
It’s an exciting year ahead of us, and with the talented team we’ve now assembled around Noisy Cricket to research, educate, design and build the solution you tell us is needed, we’re aiming for a later 2019 launch, to pilot across Greater Manchester in 2020, and roll out across the UK thereafter.
We can’t do it alone though! We’re still on the lookout for sponsor organisations, and need all the help we can get – from the tech, retail, and hospitality industries in particular – to make sure we launch a solution which provides opportunities, choice and acceptance, all to help us achieve our vision of creating secure and stable futures for all.