What happens when we don’t have hope?

Talking Hope has asked its project partners and steering group to contribute guest blogs, sharing their personal and professional reflections on hope.

Our first blog is by Fiona Dyer, interim director of CYCJ:

Since Joining the Talking Hope Steering Group, I have been reflecting a lot on my practice as a social worker (which was some time ago), as well as my role as a manager and also as a mother.

As a social worker I can recall many examples where I was exceptionally positive and hopeful regarding a young person’s future, even when it felt I was a lone voice. I would advocate for them, encourage them in any way that I could and always emphasised the positives, in a balanced way, when writing reports. Yet if I am truly honest with myself, there were also times that I was not hopeful, I couldn’t see a way out for the young person or my attempts to help had been blocked or refused, which I am sure would be evident in the language I used if I was to look back at my reports and case notes. How this impacted on these young people, I am not sure, as I never asked. But if the professionals in your life are not hopeful for you, or have given up trying, what chance do you have of being hopeful for yourself?

There are many economic and social factors which can contribute towards a young person losing hope, including poverty and diverse forms of adversity. For professionals, one of the challenges is to find a way of mitigating against these complex situations. The challenge increases when young people are then imprisoned, as our research has shown.

Research undertaken in HMPYOI Polmont by CYCJ (Vaswani, 2015[1]) clearly highlights the impact that loss of hope can have on young people. All of the young men interviewed spoke of their loss of hope, in relation to their future opportunities and prospects, as a result of their behaviour or imprisonment. The pervasiveness of this loss of hope throughout every story poses both practical and perceptual obstacles to successful reintegration and the attainment of positive outcomes later in life.

“[From] 14 or 15 I thought that [I would be in prison] because my two brothers were already in”

“I knew I would end up back in here…I’ve always thought that since I was a wee guy because of my family background and stuff”

In addition, for other young men, the very nature of imprisonment had a direct and catastrophic impact on their hopes for the future….

“I’m hoping but the only thing is my criminal record getting in the way”

“I’ve not got a plan in my head because I know what I wanted to be, I wanted to be a mechanic, but sometimes it works out different”

Vaswani concludes by saying “…for some of the young men, their experiences meant that a sense of being predestined for prison was embedded in their self-concept from a young age, signalling a chronic loss of hope and ambition for the future” (p30).

The feeling of a total lack of hope leaves you so empty that it is no surprise when young people act like they have given up. If you feel there is no hope for your future what is the point of even trying? Or if you do have a glimmer of hope, but no one is there to support and encourage you, and you hit some inevitable stumbling blocks along the way, what would make you continue on this more positive path? As professionals we need to be supportive of the young people we work with. We need to truly believe there is hope for them; to change their behaviour, to do well, to secure employment/training; to achieve whatever it is that they want to achieve in life; as without hope, where would any of us be?

My job now as interim director of CYCJ is to be hopeful for all children and young people. It also requires finding ways to enable staff who support young people to remain hopeful themselves. While the challenges can be significant, there is already a lot of great practice to build on. I will try my best to support this both through my role as a manager at CYCJ, supporting and hopefully inspiring the amazing people I work with, and as a mother at home with my own two babies, who will all too soon be at the stage of finding their own (hopeful) paths in life.

[1] Vaswani, Nina (2015) A catalogue of losses: implications for the care and reintegration of young men in custody. Prison Service Journal, 220. pp. 26-35.

Introducing Talking Hope Phase II: A Hope Framework for Transitions

Talking Hope Phase I, intended to design and test out an approach to ‘talking hope’ while connecting experience, theory and practice through conversation to support hope with young people considered at high risk, concluded at the end of October. This research generated a significant amount of qualitative data that pointed to the need to focus on young people’s transitions as a key point of fragility. Over the last few months we have been busy securing funding for Phase II. With huge thanks to the Scottish Gov and the Good Shepherd Centre, and to all our partners and everyone who supported Talking Hope in Phase I, we have been given the opportunity to extend Talking Hope for another six months with a focus on the development of a Hope Framework for Transitions.

The overarching aim of Phase II is to develop a dynamic and innovative hope framework for transitions that can contribute to the maintenance of hope during what are often destabilising and uncertain moments in young people’s transitions into and out of secure care. Given the significant changes involved in a young person’s transition from a secure environment to a non-secure environment, and vice versa – spatial, temporal, interpersonal, and emotional changes – we want to explore the dialogical dynamics among risk and restriction and hope and transitions. We are guided by the question: how can hope be maintained and supported during young people’s transitions into and out of secure care, with what implications on service provision?

Furthermore, part of what each of our partners is interested in is not just the young people who are in secure care, but also how we can better understand the support provided to those young people who manage to circumvent it, as well as those who leave it and manage to reach their personal goals. What is it that maintains hope among all of these diverse sets of circumstances?

In answering these questions we are further drawing from and analysing the data we gathered in Phase I with the aim of identifying and building upon emergent themes that will be included in the framework. Some of the things we’re paying attention to are:

(1) Organisational values, processes and culture

(2) Navigating ‘risk’ from different professional perspectives

(3) Young people’s understandings and experiences of hope

(4) What ‘hope’ means in practice (from diverse professional perspectives)

(5) Scarce resource management and hope (funding, time, energy)

(6) Transitions planning and record keeping


Keeping in mind what we’ve learned so far, in Phase II we want to:

Build on the learning so far and further explore hope from the perspectives of staff in key agencies, specifically East Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership, Ayrshire and Arran CAMHS, and the Good Shepherd Centre – and to capture this in the Hope Framework for Transitions.

Engage with young people with current and previous experience of secure care transitions to further understand their hopes, fears and experiences and qualitatively assess how these can be acknowledged and accounted for in a Hope Framework for Transitions.

Through conversations about transition planning and reviewing examples of written plans and recording practices, identify principles for effective transition planning and incorporate examples into the Hope Framework.

-Analyse and improve the language used surrounding transitions and its impacts on feelings of hope using a strengths-based lens.

-Explore the contribution of dialogue and safe conversational spaces, both physical and emotional, to igniting and maintaining hope for all partners, especially during times of decision-making, transition or uncertainty.

Capture this learning in diverse formats and build it into a Hope Framework, including practical and engaging materials for transitions, to be disseminated and shared with key partners and the workforce at the phase II conclusion conference.

To do this we have designed an approach to data collection that will make use of Exploratory Talk and Our Voice, Young Voices principles, and Emotional Touchpoints facilitation strategies, as well as the conceptual model we developed as a product of phase I that outlines important material and immaterial components of hope and its different phases.

The intention at the end of this phase is to consolidate the learning in tangible formats to be shared with relevant practitioners with a view to then continue the work by testing out the framework in diverse contexts involving young people identified as being at significant risk.

We hope you will stay tuned and continue to engage in the Talking Hope conversation as we move into Phase II!

Hope, Agency and Creativity: Building Blocks in Young People’s Pursuit of a Better Life in Secure Care

As this first phase of the Talking Hope project comes to a close, we want to step back for a moment and consider how ‘Hope’ connects with key concepts that have arisen in our conversations with young people in the Good Shepherd Centre and the staff who work with them. ‘Agency’, or, simply put, having control over your life, is a term used frequently by young people and staff. For young people who have almost always experienced trauma in their lives, we found that hope and agency can be recovered through beginning to imagine a better future for themselves, and by being encouraged and given the space to do so. This may have a very short term focus at first, involving small, realisable steps towards that initial goal, and this often involves close collaboration with staff. It is this type of patient and persistent work that seems to have the potential to open up a canvas for young people to imagine, hope for and take concrete steps towards building a better life.

Most of the time we spent in the Good Shepherd Centre was during office hours, resulting in more time spent in education and in the classroom than in the residential care side. While we talk about the education side of secure care more in this blog, it is clear that residential staff are a crucial part of the scaffolding of support that enables hope to come into the picture for young people during their time at the Good Shepherd Centre. On both sides of secure care – residential support and education provision – there is space for creativity in the ways in which staff support and engage with young people, which we have found enables trusting relationships to form, opens up possibilities of self-discovery and self esteem, in order to ignite hope and agency.

It is also important to remember that young people in secure care have been compulsorily detained for their own safety and/or the safety of others. Therefore, one of the key features of secure care is restriction. One might wonder: in the context of such risk and restriction, how can you also create space for hope, agency and creativity? At the Good Shepherd Centre we have been continually impressed by the ability of staff and young people to find ways to experiment creatively within their role. Indeed, in some ways it seems there might be more time for staff to engage creatively with individual pupils that might be less amenable in mainstream education, with observable benefits. There is a professional and personal culture of openness and generosity, which allows both staff and young people to feel comfortable and supported to take chances, make mistakes – and crucially, to learn, develop and grow as individuals, resulting in hope.

It was also encouraging to see teachers able to respond to different learning styles and needs. This makes a huge difference not only to the teachers who are empowered by this freedom in the classrooms, but also to the young people who get to learn about things they care about, in ways they have a say in, and who as a result actually enjoy education – an experience many young people express as a first for them. One example of this is a collaboration amongst the English and Media teachers wherein young people made short documentaries about issues or topics they cared about. These included: homelessness, the care system, secure care vs. psychiatric facilities, self-harm and world war two. In an innovative and participatory form of social reporting, the young people wrote and researched the script for the documentary in English class and then recorded it and added visuals in media class.

 Nearly all young people at the Good Shepherd Centre express how much they enjoy education, and how much they’ve learned while being there. When asked what they would change about the GSC a common response is “more time spent in education,” which itself can be a turning point.

Evidence of the creative and responsive approach adopted at the Good Shepherd emerged in conversation with some of the young people. One young person spoke about the process of becoming confident enough to ask questions in the centre, and how much that changed things for them. They said:

“In the UK what makes it hard for young people is they don’t have much of a say, you have to be 16-18 to have a say, and these young children, it’s new for them. Sometimes, like when I first went into care I didn’t know what to say, I felt claustrophobic, but now I say what I think and that’s just because I’ve had to build up the confidence in myself.”

 They went on to describe their desire to help support other young people coming into secure care, a project they are working on English class:

I want to make an introduction pack for when you first come into secure because I can remember my first secure – I didn’t have no help, no one helped me or told me what was good, what was bad, what was expected. And it’s just, you don’t know what to expect, you’ve lost your freedom you have no family and it is a shock. And I’d just like to say what my experience was and what other people have said, and I would include like the feelings I had and what should be expected, and just hopefully that would give a bit of hope, as we say hope, so that they can do a good start in the Good Shepherd.”

This young person found a sense of agency in finding the confidence to ask questions and critically engage with what was happening to them. That agency then translated into them wanting to help support other young people who might have a hard time when they first come into secure.

The desire to translate personally challenging experiences into support for others was specifically linked to the need for better mental health support by another young person:

“I was trying while I was in here to join the mental health commission to make the mental health services for young folk better because that’s why I’m in here.”

In these testimonials young people expressed a desire to be able to exercise more control, in their lives and in their communities, and to be able to make a difference and change things for the better. They had moved past feelings of helplessness and hopelessness to discover something that mattered to them and that they could set goals towards. In this subtle way, hope is linked to agency for these young people, and their agency is often discovered through being given the opportunity to learn in ways that suit their unique needs, be creative and ask questions. What is required more generally however is that the voice of the young person has to be facilitated and heard in both residential and education settings within the secure care setting. This highly skilled and creative work by all staff, combined with the strengths and emergent hopes of the young people, encapsulates the important relationships between hope, agency and a the pursuit of a better life.

We are now reaching the end of this phase of Talking Hope and will be reporting on our findings soon.  This will include reflections on the role of community-based health and social care partners, too.  You can also register to attend our event on the 30th October at the Good Shepherd Centre to hear more about these diverse perspectives on hope and to see an exclusive screening of our Talking Hope videos made with young people in secure care. Register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/talking-hope-languages-conceptualisations-and-challenges-tickets-49279106133

By Katherine Baxter and Emma Miller


Who Cares for the Carers? Holding Hope Behind the Scenes

Written by Katherine Baxter with Robert Clark

In the context of Scotland’s ‘year of young people’ it is timely for the Talking Hope project to acknowledge the work that residential staff do to support young people. This piece shares insights into what it’s like to work behind the scenes supporting young people in secure care. Given the unique pressures involved for staff working in a secure care setting, we ask the important question who cares for the carers? After all, achieving better outcomes for young people in care requires that the adults directly responsible for them are themselves well supported and as skilled and confident as they can be.

Robert Clark has been a senior manager at the Good Shepherd Centre for 12 years. Robert used to see the Good Shepherd building as he drove along the motorway to Greenock Prison where he worked as a prison officer. When he asked a colleague what it was he was informed it was ‘the bad girls’ home. This has always stuck with him on people’s perception of young people in care and he has sought to counteract that ever since.

Recently I’ve spent a lot of time at the Good Shepherd Centre speaking to Robert and staff. What stands out is the uniquely challenging and skilled nature of the work that staff do behind the scenes to support and engage effectively with the young people there. Robert and the staff have shared reflections about the complexity of the work they do and it seems to me there is a need for the challenges involved to be more widely understood within and beyond secure care. The challenges for staff include:

How do staff remain hopeful that they can make a contribution towards a better life for young people who have often faced significant and sustained adversity?

How do staff maintain belief and pride in the work that they do in the face of misconceptions and lack of knowledge of the work they do in the outside world?

How do managers show leadership and create the right environment to nurture hope for the staff and young people in face of daily challenges of a secure care setting?

Many people might not fully understand what a secure care centre is, why a young person might be admitted or the nature of the work that takes place there. As a consequence, many staff can feel as though the work they do to support young people is either not visible or not fully understood. Staff would like to see more publicity about the skilled, complicated and trauma informed work they undertake on a daily basis, and the success stories of young people who go on to achieve good outcomes. The tendency in some media and policy outlets to report solely negative stories can have a damaging impact on young people in secure care, their families, public perceptions of secure care, not to mention the impact on staff morale within the sector.

So what keeps staff coming back day after day? Staff enthusiastically express how much they love their job, as one said “how amazing it feels when you really connect with and make a difference in a young person’s life, how much the relationships matter and how much it means to see that young people can regain trust in adults… That’s a big deal.” Staff also discuss lots of opportunities for their personal growth, creativity and leadership in learning about how best to support young people. Robert told me a story about how one day he had a phone call from a young person, now an adult, who had left the Good Shepherd Centre 10 years previously. She missed the staff who were always there in her time of need and will never forget the support they gave her in secure care.

Exit from secure care presents as a time of vulnerability for both the young people and the staff. Each time a young person is returned to the community it feels as if everyone is collectively holding their breath, hoping they will continue to hold on to hope for their future, whilst being realistic about what each young person is up against. They are currently in the process of thinking about how to better support young people once they have left secure care given the unique challenges of these transitions.

It’s also important to acknowledge that the staff who care for young people are human beings in their own right – with hopes and dreams of their own, with families who love and care for them, who support them in their work and who sometimes are upset at what they might perceive as the abuse a young person has inflicted on their family member. Staff are entitled to feel overwhelmed and to have it recognised that they can’t always be strong, invincible receptors of young people’s trauma and grief.

So, in answer to the question “who cares for the carers”, it seems part of the answer lies in: carers needing to learn to self-care; mutual support between staff within teams and effective leadership by management which allows for continuous learning, reflection and improvement. Better informed and more balanced media coverage would also help. Finally and most importantly, carer wellbeing is also supported by seeing young people flourish in their care.

Risk, Hope and Opacity: Thinking Creatively About Researching (with) Young People in Secure Care

In our previous blog post we spoke to how conversational approaches might be supplemented by an ethnomethodological approach in our work with young people in the Good Shepherd Centre. Our concern has been to avoid replicating dominant methodologies targeted at ‘at-risk’ youth, which can risk amplifying limited portrayals of young people in secure care.  Existing characterisations include the vulnerable and apolitical recipient of support services; the object of compassion in abstracting national policy constructions, or, within deficit-based social care practices, the dependent victim requiring legal protections, trauma counselling and psychosocial support.

We have tried to think creatively about approaches that might allow these young people to be subjects in their own right. Picking up on some of the best practice we have witnessed around the young people, we have prioritised a strengths-based lens, continually asking the methodological questions: how can individual capacities be unearthed, shared, witnessed and understood with sensitivity and compassion? How can knowledge be produced about these young people, with their involvement as both agents and subjects? What does child-centred methodology look like in practice? How might it be difficult for these young people to speak about hope? And how can research create both a space for expression and help create a climate of possibility?

We are finding that participation in the daily life of the centre is enabling us to more aptly bear witness to and convey the subtle challenges and opportunities for hope in secure care. It is also supporting a far more nuanced understanding of the complexity and humanity of each young person. In the past few weeks, we have considered the participatory activities we have used, and could potentially use, to allow for young people in secure care to share their experiences. Some of the activities so far include a language and representations workshop where young people offered their opinions on how they are being represented in relevant literature and reports on ‘at-risk youth’ and secure care, in which young people seemed grateful for the opportunity to have their voices heard on how they and their situations are being portrayed and spoken about. We also made participatory videos in which young people took the lead in questioning staff at the Good Shepherd Centre about their hopes. Everyone involved, both young people and staff, commented on how it was interesting and useful to flip the power dynamics around and position young people as the ones asking questions. Also, perhaps demonstrating a need to check for authenticity, one of the questions the young people wanted to ask of all staff was what brought them into their work in secure care? Other questions included what they would say to young people who had lost hope and what gave them hope in their own life.

We have plans in the coming weeks to facilitate an arts-based, non-verbal exploration of hope through mural making, and then to support young people in making a documentary that will explore what hope means to them. Our intention here is that we will be able to maintain a strengths-based approach towards exploring hope, whilst allowing young people to engage with this topic on their own terms and in ways that suit their unique needs – and also that preserve their right to unexamined inner lives in research contexts.


Talking and Understanding Hope in Secure Care: The Need for Ethnomethods

Secure care settings present unique challenges, and also unique opportunities, to conversational approaches that aim to unearth and understand lived experiences. Our research and time spent so far at the Good Shepherd Centre has prompted a reflection on some of these challenges and opportunities, and an integration of an ethnomethodological approach to talking and understanding ‘hope’ with young people, social workers, residential staff and mental health practitioners, wherein ethnomethodology is conceived of as an approach requiring immersive and participatory presence in the day-to-day routine of the Good Shepherd Centre.

In an attempt to build trust and relationships with young people before broaching the topic of hope in conversation, our research associate Katherine has been spending a significant amount of time at the Good Shepherd Centre, primarily hanging around in class with young people and participating in a variety of classroom activities. In doing so, she’s also had the privilege to witness and participate in many informal, yet significant, moments and conversations among young people and staff: in the teacher’s lounge, at the centre’s summer concert, on the ride to and from the train station, over lunch etc. She’s gotten the chance to know ‘the feel’ of things, which is an invaluable insight and one not often glimpsed of secure care by outside researchers.

As a consequence, it’s become clear that many of the most important moments and points of conversation in our process of understanding hope from different perspectives emerge entirely unprompted. Furthermore, it has become apparent that given the many challenges that young people in secure have overcome, they may not always feel comfortable speaking about their experiences when prompted directly through traditional conversational methods, particularly when they are being recorded. To give an example, last week Katherine facilitated our first conversation with young people at the Good Shepherd Centre, following an initial process of explaining the project and obtaining their informed consent. What at first seemed like an open conversation changed as soon as the recorder came out, and half of the group decided to withhold their contributions until it was switched off. When asking these young people about their reluctance to be recorded, it seemed as though there was a general fear of anything they might say being used against them, and a general distrust of adults and the system in general. Central to this is the challenge of establishing trust, in any context, but especially with young people who are used to being let down and hurt, and the very slow, careful process of trying to build relationships which allow young people the space to open up to the adult world around them. These reflections reinforce the need for a more subtle, gentle and holistic approach to talking hope with young people, prompting our integration of ethnomethods.

Hope itself seemed to be a challenging topic for young people in secure care to reflect on, resulting in what felt like unease. It raised questions about the extent to which young people can experience hope when they seem to feel they have limited agency in their lives. Further complicating this were the group dynamics at play, wherein young people seemed uncomfortable with speaking openly in front of each other about something as personal and intimate as hope, both out of a concern for being made fun of if they exposed themselves, and out of a concern for upsetting each other if they were to breach difficult or off-limit topics.

These early experiences of spending time at the Good Shepherd Centre have provided a learning opportunity for us as researchers to think through how to structure and facilitate our inquiry, and indeed how conversational approaches might be supplemented by an ethnomethodological approach, to more aptly bear witness to and convey the subtle challenges and opportunities for hope in secure care. We will follow up soon by sharing with you details of some of the innovative approaches we have been using to engage with the young people at the Good Shepherd Centre.

Hope, Humour and Hamsters

hamsters-and-grapesOver the past few weeks we have been busy having our first conversations, starting with residential care staff at the Good Shepherd Centre. The intention was to create a safe space for conversation and reflections on their role in supporting hope in the lives of young people.

Some of the questions we explored in these conversations were:

(1) What does hope mean to you?

(2) Can you describe how you see your role in supporting young people who are considered to be at high risk?

(3) What are the most important questions that you feel no one is asking with regards to the needs of young people who are in and on the edges of secure care?

We had some really interesting conversations that arose from asking staff to explicitly reflect on the role and presence of hope in their work. They spoke of the importance of understanding hope as something that is unique, specific and relative to each young person’s challenges and experiences. Without prompting, staff also emphasised the importance of humour and banter in their communications with young people, and as fundamental to how they support each other in their work.

At one point in the conversation, the residential staff directed me towards the definition of hope posted on the wall. They then proceeded to read it aloud, and remarked on how it really captured the essence of how they conceptualise and operationalise hope in their everyday work and interactions with young people at the Good Shepherd Centre, mentioning that this is a definition that young people were also involved in choosing:

“Hope comes from moment to moment experiences in daily life that show a child that adults can be trusted, that people can be honest, caring and safe. It’s not the sophistication of psychological interpretations of behaviour, but a consistency of kindness that changes a child.”

They spoke about how for one young person, hope was located in the prospect of getting a hamster. They described how she is spending all of her time preparing, planning and taking the necessary measures to be ready and able to take care of her hamster. They acknowledge and express appreciation for the fact that they feel they have the time, support and resources at the Good Shepherd Centre to be able to get to know each young person’s unique personality, needs and hopes – recognising the difference small things like the prospect of getting a hamster can make in a young person’s life.

Thanks to all at the Good Shepherd Centre for taking part!

May Newsletter: Talking Hope Under Way

good-shepherd-centre(Photo: Lovely view from the grounds of the Good Shepherd Centre in Bishopton)

The Talking Hope Project is underway and we are excited to share some updates and information about the project!

To begin with a bit of general info about the project, the broad intention of Talking Hope is to connect experience, theory and practice, through conversation, to find hope with young people considered to be at high risk.

The project is funded jointly by the EU Social Innovation Fund and the Scottish Government, and led by the University of Strathclyde and the Good Shepherd Centre. Dr Emma Miller, senior research associate at the University of Strathclyde, is the PI, and Dr Claire Lightowler, director of the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice at the University of Strathclyde is the co-PI. Alison Gough, who is the secure care national director, is also on the project team, as well as Dr Katherine Baxter who is the appointed research associate for the project. Ali Jones from Iriss will be co-facilitating the conversations and helping us maintain our emphasis on knowledge co-production and collaborative action research.

Amongst this project’s strengths are its partnerships and its potential to harness diverse perspectives, which we hope will contribute to a unique and productive approach and outcome.

Our key partners are:

(1) The University of Strathclyde

(2) The Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (CYCJ)

(3) The Good Shepherd Centre

(4) Easy Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership

(5) Ayrshire and Arran Health Board CAMHS

(6) The Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services

(7) The Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures

Through these partnerships we are interested in supporting more hopeful conversations with and about young people identified as being high risk who are in or have experienced secure care as the basis for promoting strengths based relational practice informed by a Solution-Focused Trauma-Informed Care (SF-TIC) approach. Our hope is to break through some of the negative ideas people hold about secure care and young people who are considered to be high risk, to support conversations among social workers, health workers, residential care staff and young people that will help these young voices be heard, their views understood and their needs met by the people working with them. We want to allow everyone to share their different experiences and views, recognising hope as relational and the reality that no one has the answers, so everyone might benefit from an exchange of perspectives.

This first month the project team has been busy having preliminary conversations about the general structure and timeframe of the project, its pedagogy and methodology, and its output, scope and central intentions. We’ve also been negotiating the ethical and consent measures that will need to taken before we can begin conversations.

We had our first project meeting on May 14th where we began laying the groundwork for our initial round of conversations with young people, residential care staff, social workers and health practitioners, mapping out availabilities and making sure that we are all on the same page with regards to the project remit, structure and expectations. At this meeting our key project partners gathered at the Good Shepherd Centre and spoke about the scope of the project and its potential challenges and limitations, acknowledging the importance of speaking honestly about both hope and hopelessness and not brushing over many of the structural, systemic pressures contributing to hopelessness among those tasked with supporting these young people.  We emphasised the very tight timeframe we are working within (6 months) and the need to keep the project targeted and focused on its remit, with the goal to be able to expand and extend this pilot project with follow-on funding.

At this meeting we also agreed upon the general approach we want to take towards supporting more hopeful conversations – that is to facilitate an informal, safe, dialogic space among young people, social workers, health workers, and residential care staff that will allow for a productive exchange of perspectives, empathy for other’s different experiences and generative learning. It was agreed that the project’s research associate, Katherine Baxter, who will be acting as the key facilitator, will spend a significant amount of time in the classroom with young people at the Good Shepherd Centre leading up to these group conversations to try to build relationships and trust with young people, which will hopefully lead to more honest and insightful conversations in the months ahead.

As a group we then thought through our knowledge exchange and dissemination strategy with the aim of maximising useful links and crossovers between work already being done by each partner organisation. It seems there are many exciting opportunities here, particularly regarding how this project can help to better inform social workers and health care staff about the realities of secure care (which those around the table thought might more accurately be described as a “secure safe haven” or “secure respite centre”). There was clearly a concern about the lack of and misinformation about secure care across sectors, often leading to stigma, fear and misunderstanding.

We have also been busy creating and launching our project website and twitter page. We hope this will expand the reach and potential impact of the project and its findings to those we are not in direct contact with who might find our content and findings useful. We will also use this as a platform to link to and share information about other related projects and resources that we think are worth knowing about.

We encourage you to follow us on twitter and to get in contact with us directly if you have any questions or wish to know more about the Talking Hope Project!


Katherine on behalf of the TH project team