Advantaged Thinking for Young People Experiencing Homelessness

Advantaged Thinking

Today (14 May 2021), the Foyer Federation, of which YMCA DownsLink Group is a member, is celebrating 10 years of Advantaged Thinking: its an influential philosophy that empowers young people who can’t live at home to thrive, not just survive. It’s a philosophy that fits closely with our own values of ensuring that everyone can, ‘belong, contribute and thrive’.

Advantaged Thinking focuses on an individual’s strengths, rather than their weaknesses or what they need to overcome. It doesn’t define people by their problems but instead focuses on their dreams and aspirations and invests in their potential.

10 years ago, Colin Falconer (then Director of Innovation at the Foyer Federation, now Director of InspireChilli) introduced Advantaged Thinking to the world on the TEDx stage. It has since become central to all the Foyer Federation does, including developing the first quality assurance accreditation for supported housing, national programmes for health and employability, and building young people’s leadership skills.

Advantaged Thinking now underpins our approach to the provision of supported housing and how we work with young people: We believe that young people who have experienced homelessness are among the most resilient of their generation. They have talent to build on, experiences to draw on and the energy to spark change. We aim to put Advantaged Thinking at the heart of our work, so that every day we strive to ensure our young people aspire to, and believe in, the future they want.

What is Advantaged Thinking in practice?

Advantaged Thinking is an asset-based philosophy. It shapes everything we say and do. Advantaged Thinking promotes people’s strengths rather than defining them by their deficits. It understands that working towards people’s aspirations and dreams is just as important as meeting their immediate needs. An Advantaged Thinking approach is one that creates sustainable solutions and practices, building for the future as well as the here and now. It invests smartly in people’s potential.

Seven Tests of Advantaged Thinking

Advantaged Thinking is underpinned by seven ‘tests’, which define what success looks like for a community, organisation or service:

  1. Talk. Do you choose positive language when talking about people and avoid pigeon-holing and stereotypes?
  2. Understand. Do you always try to learn about someone’s strengths over their weaknesses?
  3. Work. Do you look beyond problems and deficits to develop new ideas and build on a person’s strengths and best qualities?
  4. Invest. Do you focus resources on enabling young people to thrive as well as helping them to cope?
  5. Believe. Do you dream as big for young people experiencing homelessness as you do for your own family?
  6. Involve. Do you put young people at the centre of their solutions and use their own experiences to empower them?
  7. Challenge. Do you actively campaign for Advantaged Thinking and hold disadvantaged thinking to account?

Joel Lewis, Chief Executive of the Foyer Federation, said: “I am thrilled that 10 years after Advantaged Thinking was introduced by the Foyer Federation ,we can celebrate the impact it has had on the lives of countless young people and practitioners in the youth sector and beyond! I have personally drawn on Advantaged Thinking to create meaningful programmes, services and projects that ensure young people have the best opportunity to thrive. Being an Advantaged Thinker takes bravery, humility and energy. Over the last 10 years it is clear that it has struck a chord with so many who are desperate to see services, systems and people working together to build a positive present and an inspirational future for all young people.”

Chas Walker, our CEO said: “Using Advantaged Thinking in the delivery of our supported housing projects really encapsulates the Foyer model and the way we want to work with, and support young people.  At our projects young people are given the opportunity to excel through the Advantaged Thinking approach, enabling them to thrive – and not just survive. We deliver this through our More Than a Room programme. But, we’re aiming to put Advantaged Thinking at the heart of our work with all young people, but it is still a work in progress and there is much more we can do.  We want to embed the approach across all of our youth services and we are starting to use the 7 Advantaged Thinking tests to assess, measure and reflect, to enable continuous improvement and ensure our services are fit for purpose and enable young people to realise their potential.”

For more information about our More Than a Room programme click here or to find out more about the Foyer Federation’s work click here.

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YMCA enables people to develop their full potential in mind, body and spirit. Inspired by and faithful to our Christian values, we create supportive, inclusive and energising communities, where young people can truly belong, contribute and thrive.

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