The Shaw Trust

The result of this project was the development of a new vision, 'Brighter Futures', for the Shaw Trust and the creation of effective organisational strategies that would motivate Shaw Trust users to gain permanent employment.

Ella was very impressive, most notably the way she led her team and the way she approached the problem with a high degree of professionalism. Ella engaged effectively with a range of Shaw Trust customers and stakeholders to quickly get to grips with a complex problem before presenting a range of impressively ambitious yet practical solutions, many of which have already been implemented. I would have no hesitation recommending Ella to any potential client/employer.
— Chris Perry, Head of New Markets, The Shaw Trust


The backdrop

In the UK today there is a discourse around unemployment which blames unemployed people for their circumstances. Many people buy into this, including unemployed people themselves, which can be very disempowering. In spite of this, many have potential that isn’t being realised and they lack the adult education opportunities to support them.

The Shaw Trust is currently the largest third-sector provider of government funded employability programmes and it plays a crucial role in this context. The ultimate aim of its programmes is to help people get a job and keep a job. We have been delighted to be working with the Shaw Trust to “find out how we can support people with mental and/or physical health conditions towards sustainable employment”. We were also asked to consider the viability of a peer support programme.


The research 

To find out how we could make the Shaw Trust even better, we interviewed people seeking work, staff from various different departments and employers. We also interviewed practitioners and academics in the field of peer support and timebanking and the behavioural insights team in government. We also held three workshops with staff and users to validate and develop ideas. We also looked at research evidence.

How might we help street champions to empower their communities and increase their impact?

Key insights

Our research showed that staff and users were building strong relationships and users really valued the support that staff provided to get them into a job and maintain it. Staff were very positive about users engaging in group activities and users wanting more opportunities to meet and support each other. The key needs were:

  • To help users feel they have strengths and a sense of agency and the confidence that if they take action it will make a difference.
  • To create an achievable future vision which inspires the user and the staff to help them to achieve it.
  • To develop effective intervention strategies for change and a performance framework that measures them, that fits the organisation's core purpose of permanent work.

The solution 

Our solution was Bright Futures, three  interventions that will revolve around a new vision for the Shaw Trust: ‘Creating bright futures together’.  This vision would be the absolute focus of the organisation for both staff and users. This would shift the culture from not just job starts but to helping people build motivation, confidence and skills that will help them towards permanent work.

The long term target will be job satisfaction in permanent employment and milestones towards this will be measured, for example: the identification of a future goal; participation in placements linked to it; attendance at group activities; and how confident a user feels.  Three interventions will help us achieve these milestone measurements:

  1. Working towards a desired future goal: A new framework and series of activities that will help users to identify a future goal and help advisors to coach users towards them. This will add new goal creating tools and adapt the computer software system.
  2. Collective group activities: - that will give users the opportunity to suggest new ideas and have the option of becoming involved in organising and running groups.
  3. More placements: -  that are linked to the goals of the user. These can also be offered inside Shaw Trust offices, in roles such as administration and supporting other users.

Getting started

Bright Futures involves reinforcing the core purpose of the organisation. Because of this the vision would need to be pitched to the board and top management. They would need to hear and agree with the business case for implementing Bright Futures.

Once agreed the organisation would agree a process for refreshing and reinforcing the Shaw Trust overall vision. It would then create a plan for how this would be communicated across the organisation. For example posters, a letter from the CEO, roadshows and communication from line managers at regular meetings.

An office could then need to agree to do a pilot. Computer systems would be adapted, staff would receive some training and measurements and recognition plans would need to be put into place.  Each intervention would then be introduced one at a time. After learning from the pilot the Shaw Trust could scale this up and eventually incorporate Bright Futures into contracts and future services. 


The outcome

The Shaw Trust are happy with Bright Futures and are in the process of incorporating it into their vision and website. Upon our recommendation they are also beginning discussion with Spice to see how timebanking could be used to increase impact by incentivising user to do more activities, skill swapping and placements.


Client: The Shaw Trust
Project date: 2016 April - 2016 June
Project Team: Developed  in collaboration with Estefania Trisotti, Oscar Diaz Maturana & John Makepeace