Written by Natalie Maxwell, a Vocational Coach/Life Skills Facilitator at West Neighbourhood House working with at risk youth having a hard time getting a job or staying employed. She shadowed the Toronto In/Out team for a day! Here she talks about her experience….
Shadowing InWithForward was an informative and eye opening experience. At the beginning of the day I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect because I wasn’t entirely clear on what InWithForward has been doing. Other than a few emails advertising for mini workshops I wasn’t sure what work they had done. So I started my day by getting up to date on what they were doing. I read their website at www.torontoinout.ca which explained what they have been doing and all the work they have done. It also set a good base for the day because I was all caught up on their “lingo”.
At first I felt like things were disorganized. It didn’t seem like there was a set plan for the day or that they knew what they were doing…and I quickly realized that 1) I was wrong and 2) they knew exactly what they were doing.
Although it seemed like they didn’t have a plan- they did. They knew the end result they were looking for, but they were discovering new and innovative ways of trying to get that information. They didn’t have a set way of getting it because they didn’t know how members would respond to it. The process evolved throughout the day- even person-to-person it evolved. How we approached people, what the selling points were. It was trial and error and a constant work in progress. It reminded me of what staff would love to do- try new things, see if it works, and then try something else. Things we don’t have time for and are restricted from doing but is necessary to make sure our work is valuable to the participants we work with.
I found the most useful part of the day was the debrief. It really tied things together. Although they were no closer to having the information they wanted, they discussed different ways to gather it, different wording to use, how the wording impacts the members. And I was reminded of why post its are the best brainstorming tool out there. They wrote out questions and ideas to explore and they went from one spot on the table to another as the conversations evolved. The ideas got moved around and went in different places- and they can do that every day until they find something that works.
After reflecting on the day, part of what I realized was the “scattered” feeling of the day may also be typical of the lives of many of the people we work with. Many of them don’t have a set plan for the day, they don’t know how they’re going to get their next meal or get from one place to another but they evolve with the day and the changing circumstances. For me, it was a great reminder that many people have little control over their lives and are stuck within systems that don’t work but with innovative ideas, some persistence and trial and error navigating the systems is possible.
I’m looking forward to going back and shadowing them again, to see where the ideas have gone since I last joined them and how the project they’re working on will continue to evolve to make substantial change.