It’s July 2010 and I’m sat in a community centre in Tottenham surrounded by some of their most hard to reach long term unemployed people, participants on the Families into Work Programme. We’ve been asked to delay the start as someone is running late. You can cut the atmosphere with a knife. There is an air about these people that is a combination of angst, anger, resentment, desperation, futility and despair. If you’re an employer and you walk into this room you walk straight back out. No CV’s, no new suits, no interviews, you just do. If you’re a trainer, same deal.

The group have volunteered to partake in “The Life You Want ©”, a personal breakthrough, motivation and employment programme. It’s a programme which has been years in the making. Myself and my colleague took material from around the world, often the preserve of executives and high achievers. We think this is what is missing from employability programmes, educating challenging kids, rehabilitating ex-offenders. What would happen if we could recreate the fantastic results this work has on the privileged who undertake it with the most disadvantaged in our society, the people who need it most but are least likely to get access to it? It would be life changing was our hypothesis. What about if we could do the work and replicate the results with the organisations tasked with working with these people in the public and associated sectors? We think it will change the game.

What we’re going to do with these people, is comparable to the change that needs to happen in government, councils and those organisations involved in helping them.

The work we will do is very powerful. It will deliver lasting changes and help people achieve life changing results. We will help the group take personal accountability and responsibility, sit in the problem and deal in the business of reality. We hold a mirror to them. We will explain how the game works, how employment works and put them through a process which creates real self confidence, motivation, aspiration and corrects the attitudinal areas which sabotage them. We give them a personalised route to success and support them to change their lives forever.

Why isn’t this happening everywhere? For all of the hard work and good intentions of many working in employability, deep down, many are frustrated at how little lasting difference they are able to make.

For years now I have seen too many people in the public and associated sectors playing the game. The culture of spin, playing the system, organisations not really doing what is expected or required of them but learning to pass audits and inspections to create a false picture, a more palatable one. Shaping outcomes to fit the funding regulations, to make things more acceptable to leaders and politicians. Did we honestly think there would not be a consequence to this?

I’ve met with local authorities who have shown me the latest tender out in conjunction with a now defunct organisation. I read the overview quickly and say “that’s not going to work”. They shuffle awkwardly and mumble about procurement processes and funders regulations. I speak to the funder who points the finger elsewhere. I then speak to the successful delivery organisation, who, admit that it is not going to work, they will fail to deliver and fail to make any profit from it. I’ve met colleges who do not want to train unemployed people. If they won’t who will?

The evidence has been building for years. Anyone who has really looked will find it very capably covered in books such as The Spirit Level, Affluenzer and Status Anxiety, some of which I understand are popular with our party leaders.

Now is surely a perfect storm and time for all involved to look at this differently, be honest with themselves and deal in the business of reality. Policy makers, driven by government have to be seen to be doing something. Whether it works or not is academic, literally, and this has to change. The how is missing and this is the how. Policy without implementation and delivery is a waste of time and money.

Public sector organisations are often paralysed by inertia. Innovation and risk taking are rarely encouraged and rewarded. Too many continue to do the same thing over and over. Einstein’s definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”. The pattern of behaviours the unemployed find themselves in are comparable to public sector organisations.

It’s a brave step for an organisation to reflect and commit to change, realising that what they are doing is making little if any sustainable difference. But it is what we expect the most disadvantaged to do and that paradigm shift is what we facilitated with the group in Tottenham. A single mother Anna (name changed), who hadn’t worked for 14 years. What’s the point of working for an extra £20 per week? Her kids wanted for nothing because she ran up huge debts with catalogues. A hopeless situation she thought. Because of the intensity of the work we do on the programme we helped her realise that if her kids grew up without realising that you had to work to get things you want they would be in for

an awful shock. Or worse, they decide to just go out and take what they want which can have devastating results, especially when you live in such deprived areas.

Following the programme we did some specific work around interviewing and assessment centres. We put her in front of a global employer happy to take recommendations from our programme. Anna scored top out of 15 in the group which included recently redundant executives. She turned the job down as the shifts and travel would not be suitable for her younger child and then because of her new found skills and confidence, sourced her own job and got it.

Back to July 2010, how did the programme go? Brilliantly. All who did it gained full time employment or went into full time education. It is not easy. It is hard work and requires specialist skills and experience. But it does work and works more effectively than anything else they’d ever experienced.

Imagine if our councils were able to say the same. The Work Programme, Early Intervention and other models will struggle unless they are able to include the paradigm shift described.

This material was used at the worst performing school in Coventry, 90% of the bad lads got 5 A-C’s or more at GCSE. It was used to help turn NASA around after the Challenger disaster. If it is so effective why is it not more widely used or mandated?

Maybe now as we see the consequences of not dealing in the business of reality and just playing the system, organisations charged with delivering sustainable change will go for the paradigm shift themselves that they require of others.

If you would like to find out how we can help your organisation transform the lives of your most disadvantaged residents, linking with family intervention or worklessness programmes, please contact:

John McDonough
07837 663 969

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