A resilience state (of ambition) mind

I thought I’d end the year with less of my random musings on resilience, and more reflections on the ideas/projects I’ve come across that I think do a great job of embodying and strengthening resilience characteristics. Today, I will largely be thinking about a project called State of Ambition

So I found out about these guys after attending a breakfast meeting at The Design Council (get me) that I was invited to by the founder of Spark + Mettle (the lovely and inspiring Eugenie Teasley) after attending a Good for Nothing hack day that was aiming to help an upcoming venture called Discoverables. What I like about that scenario is that it is a really nice example of how building networks of mutual support in different ways opens up all sorts of new doors and resources – which is one of the key characteristics we’ve been banging on about in terms of stronger resilience!

Anyway! This breakfast meeting was set up to showcase a number of projects designed to think differently about increasing employment opportunities for young people based less on trying to give them the right skills and expertise, but more about celebrating the fact that young people have a tremendous amount to bring to any given role/challenge, but often the way we think about hiring people hides theses strengths rather than allowing them to flourish. One of the these projects was called State of Ambition, and they had built an offer on the very simple premise that a young person’s networks are probably their single greatest asset to getting into employment and that there isn’t enough out there that both tries to explain this to young people, but also strengthen those networks to unleash their potential.

This theory really struck a chord with me. My first job was with Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise as a VAT inspector believe it or not, and while I think I did pretty well in the selection process, I’d be naive to discount the fact that one of the interview panel knew my Dad, and that my sister also worked for the same organisation. My interview was awful (several minutes into a presentation, you don’t want to be hearing the words “have you started yet?”), but I got the job and haven’t looked back since. With each job I’ve successfully applied for, there has to a greater or lesser extent, been a level of influence through my networks. I’ve spoken with my friends and this experience is not uncommon – it’s not just jobs for the boys at the top of the tree you know(!)

But I was lucky. I’ve not only always had those networks, but even when I didn’t realise I had them, I had people around me (primarily my parents) who could recognise their value and help me to tap into them. As State of Ambition highlight, this is sadly not the case for many young people, so their project tries to address this by helping people who want to pursue certain careers to articualte their passions and strengths, push this through their current networks, and help them to tap into networks they wouldn’t normally even think would apply to them. If you want examples of how powerful this can be, check out some of their testimonials which are truly inspiring.

I think this a great example of promoting resilience, and as always I’ll use the principles we’ve been developing to explain why:

– Brokering social interactions – the project has a really strong emphasis not only on making the most of one’s own community/network (bonding), but exploring what opportunities are availabl to each young person to make connections with new networks that can bring different types of strengths to bear (bridging)
– Unlocking alternative resources – this is a great example of looking to exactly the people they are trying to help for the resources to make this project work. Put very simply, without the young person bringing their own strengths, skills and networks to bear on this project, the intervention could not work. But the great thing about this is that resource is already there, it is usually just locked away by the individual’s lack of confidence or awareness
– Diversifying the “delivery” role – how many training providers are there out there? CV training, IT training, interview training etc etc. All of these basically say “you’re not good at this, but we can make you better at it”. The relationship is passive and transactional and inevitably costly. State of Ambition works much more on the basis of mentoring and brokering relationships, involving the young people in designing the intervention and at the same time getting much more engagement.

From what I can tell, they’ve had a pretty good success rate so far, but the project is still very much in its infancy. And there is an argument to say that what they do is no different, maybe even a duplication of what is currently offered by LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc. I’m not sure – I think there is some validity to the challenge, but I see their offer less as a duplication or addition to a crowded market, and more a friendly and tailored entry into a professional world that is evolving at a tremendous pace. Many young people are already “digital natives” (is that the right phrase? Eek i’m not young anymore), but what will always remain a challenge for each past and future generation is confidence and belief in one’s own strengths, and the professional digital infrastructure that is already out there can be a brutal place that assumes you’re already ready to navigate it. State of Ambition doesn’t make that assumption, but does recognise that if you’re not ready, you at least have all the tools at your disposal to be ready.

And that is why I think it is both a great project, and a great example of strengthening resilience.

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