Under the motto of “Impact through Creativity”, our referral partners challenged traditional thinking and opened themselves up for a more creative approach to better engage with and support care experienced youth.

At Drive Forward, we’re always seeking out new ways to engage with our care leavers more effectively and actively reach out to those dubbed “hardest to reach”. The past eight years have been a consistent learning curve, during which we’ve experienced many successes, but also had to face some setbacks. As a small, specialist organisation, one of our core strengths is flexibility, enabling us to adapt quickly to changes in the environment (which small charity has not been affected by the likes of Brexit or the snap election?) as well as changes in our client group. This is how we went from running a six-week long training course to tailoring our service to the individual needs and expectations of the young people we are working with at any given point and focusing on quality face-to-face support.

Listening more to the voices of the individuals working with us also led us to take more creative routes. To address recurring issues of feeling overwhelmed with work, college, housing and life after care in general, we started offering mindfulness classes in 2017. Eager to find new ways to encourage and motivate young people within a group setting to actively engage, interact and learn new skills, our CEO came across Forum Theatre, an interactive theatre technique used to explore complex issues (-isms like sexism, chauvinism, racism…) in everyday situations. After two pilot sessions in late 2017, we designed 10 independent forum theatre sessions, which we delivered over the course of 13 weeks. The scenarios are all based on real life and the experiences young people have made at work, from dealing with racism and sexism in the workplace, to communicating to your manager that you’re overworked, to being trusted with more responsibility on the job.

“I wanted to know how to deal with any uncomfortable situation without getting angry or losing my cool, I can now control my conversations.”

“Today I learnt that a smile doesn’t necessarily means sincerity.”

“The session gave me insight on life in the work place. It helps me think about what I would do if something like this was to happen to me, and how I would deal with it.”

We were joined by Alex and Elo from ELEMENT, who talked about their arts projects exploring purpose, motivation, and creativity with care leavers. Founded in 2016, ELEMENTS aim to support young care leavers with their emotional health and wellbeing, enabling them to better deal with emotional instabilities and control complex behaviours. Working closely with Leaving Care Teams and personal advisors, their approach is based on building trusted relationships with the young people participating in their projects. Meeting each person individually before starting a six week project and learning about their individual passions and interests, they increase engagement and motivation throughout the course. Using spoken word, photography, painting, crafting, creative writing and performance art as a tool for self-expression and self-discovery, they work with a variety of artists and exhibit participants’ artwork at renowned galleries like Saatchi Gallery, the V&A Museum or the Tate Britain at the end of each project.

We also heard from Zach and Lili, who have both participated in Drive Forward’s THIS IS ME project last year. This Is Me explores the relationship between place and identity as experienced by young care leavers in London. Having grown up in an environment of constant uncertainty, for them, long-term relationships, a secure home and a foreseeable future cannot be taken for granted. The city then becomes a sanctuary of memories created in different places at different times. We travelled across London to capture the unique story of each young person in their portrait. The places carry deep personal meaning, representing an intimate connection only known to the individual. For some of them, this did not only mean revisiting a specific place, but also reliving past experiences and emotions.