Last week, we marked the launch of our Blueprint for Change with an online panel discussion.
We know that progress doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and so we were delighted to be joined by three speakers from Bristol organisations bringing about positive changes: Poku Osei, CEO of Babbasa, Anna Smith, CEO of One25, and Jess Bunyan, Development Manager of Rising Arts Agency, along with myself – Caring in Bristol’s Director, Ben Richardson.
It was a inspiring conversation structured around three themes that we have identified as being integral to creating a city empowered to solve homelessness: collaboration and partnership, building a movement, and data for change. Here are four takeaways from that discussion.
1. Partnerships create paradigm shifts
When asked to discuss a partnership they were particularly proud of, the speakers gave an impressive array of answers.
Poku pointed to Babbasa’s City of Change campaign, which saw fifteen of their youth ambassadors challenge Bristol businesses to create new roles in the face of the pandemic, resulting in a staggering 150 career development opportunities for the young people Babbasa work with, whilst Jess highlighted members of Rising’s work with the Bristol Beacon in co-designing the institution’s new branding, a process in which they became instrumental.
Our work couldn’t happen without partnerships – be it the close collaborations of our youth team Project Z and referral organisations such as Bristol Youth MAPS, or the network of suppliers, restaurants, and volunteers that make Cheers Drive possible.
As we prepare to undertake a host of new projects this year involving a multitude of partners, the inspiring examples volunteered by our guests will challenge us to rethink the way we relate to external organisations, and how together we can create outcomes greater than the sum of their parts.
2. Evidence can overturn orthodoxies
As head of an organisation that works with marginalised women who are trapped in street sex work, Anna gave poignant examples of actively working with local media to address stereotypical or harmful narratives that can frequently appear in the press.
Meanwhile, Jess emphasised that tackling an absence of data – exemplified by Rising’s #WhoseCulture research project addressing the data gap on people of colour within Bristol’s cultural sector – is a necessary first step to overcoming assumptions and begin the process of change.
Caring in Bristol is a proud signatory of the End It With Evidence pledge, and one of our four promises to Bristol (as detailed in the Blueprint) is that we will develop evidence to mobilise further change. This is because it is only with holistic, readily-accessible data and evidence that we can fully understand homelessness in our city and equip people with the tools they need to act on homelessness.
3. Given the opportunity, everyone can flourish
Reflecting on the founding principles of Babbasa, Poku said: “talent is evenly distributed across the globe, opportunities are not,” and described the organisation as an “all-weather runway” for its members, one that is committed to supporting them whenever they need it.
I love this metaphor, and similarly, think that the uneven distribution of opportunities is a useful way of looking at a systemic problem like homelessness too.
People experiencing homelessness aren’t passive actors or hapless victims, they are people with tremendous potential pushed into difficult, sometimes extremely desperate situations by an unfair system.
Another of our four promises to Bristol is to safeguard people from ever having to reach homelessness crisis, something we will achieve through local education and partnership worked geared around homelessness prevention.
4. Together, we can create a city empowered to solve homelessness
All three of our panellists brought a such wealth of expertise and experience to the table – it felt like the discussion could have gone on much, much longer – and it was so heartening to see so many colleagues, sector peers, funders, and supporters in attendance. The challenges we face as a city with regards to homelessness cannot be overstated, but the same goes for the ingenuity, compassion, and capacity for action of the people of Bristol, and I genuinely believe that working together, we can create a city empowered to solve homelessness.
Thank you to everyone who participated and attended, and to our Campaigns and Communications Manager Antonia for chairing the discussion.