Being the change we want to see

1 September 2022
young person backpack

Cyrenians work to create change built on the lived experience of people affected by the issues we work on. In this blog, published first on our SCCR website, Ewan Aitken discusses how our person-centred, experience-led approach drives our organisational work to #KeepThePromise and make sure our work with young people meets the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

One of our ambitions at Cyrenians is to influence policy, as that is one of the ways to bring about change, not just in our organisation, but in wider society. In Cyrenians, we call for change informed by people who have experience of the issues involved; sometimes called lived experience. Our work as a co-host of All in for Change is just one example of trying to ensure those voices are not just heard but truly listened to.

We also try to model the change we want to see - the work we’ve done on becoming a trauma-informed organisation, for example, and our strong emphasis on being relationship-based and person-centred. Our work on keeping The Promise  is another. Our youth engagement leader is supporting young people to be heard on the things which matter to them and empowering them so that their views can influence our decision-making. 

What’s interesting is when the policy change we have supported becomes legislation and we have to implement it; we’ve talked the talk but will we walk the walk? The embedding of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which the SCCR was at the forefront of arguing for and working on how to apply is a very good and current example. We argued for it. It’s happened. We now need to make it real in our work right across the organisation. 

The challenge we have in Cyrenians is our complexity. With 60 very different projects across 18 sites including four national projects, how do we do this consistently and effectively? The first thing is to accept the complexity will mean different parts of the organisation have to move at different paces. The cross-organisation, Promise-funded youth engagement work, or the Keeping Families Together service in our mediation services, have been able to forge ahead on this because they’ve had capacity and are focused on young people. 

 Our The Promise Youth Engagement team is working to develop training, a toolkit and other support for staff to help the organisation to embed children and young peoples’ rights in all of our practices. In direct relation to this, the team will also identify internal systems to enable the ideas and feedback we get from young people to influence what we do and how we do it. 

The second is to embrace the idea this is not something being done to us but something which will help us inform our workforce development, how we design services, and, most importantly, enable better outcomes for young people on their terms. It’s a toolkit for change, not a set of rules to restrict activity. We use the Children’s Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment (CRWIA – who thinks up these titles!) checklist to sense-check the quality of what we do and to develop our practice to achieving it. 

Applying the UNCRC across the organisation will be life-changing not just for those we support but all of us. We’ll see the world differently through the eyes of young people. We’ll do our work better, be even more person-centred in our approach and young people are more likely to flourish. What’s not to like?