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Podcast: Kineara director Maria Morgan speaks about her work and vision for the future

Podcast: Kineara director Maria Morgan speaks about her work and vision for the future

Our director Maria Morgan sat down with the team at It Means Something Podcast to speak about a wide range of topics from her work as Director of Kineara, the importance of investing in people, to her vision for the world. 

The podcast brought by Nathan Ardaiz and Joao Fernandes invites “those who are creating meaning in the world such as makers, entrepreneurs and artists” to delve deeper into their journey and the meaning they’re making in their lives. Here, we summarise some of the topics covered in the podcast.  

Creating meaningful change 

Founded in 2012, Kineara set out to create and deliver tailor-made support services that inspire meaningful and lasting change in the lives of the people and communities we serve. Starting with our Rent Support Programme (RSP), which addresses and prevented evictions of vulnerable families in social housing, our offer has expanded to include mid-length tenancy sustainment programmes and educational wellbeing and support services 

Fast forward to 2020, we now several new projects and services in the works including our most recently designed intervention, Resettling, which supports people who have been homeless or in temporary accommodation move back into sustainable housing, and more important and exciting plans for the future.  

Asked how Kineara creates meaningful change, Maria says: “In terms of Kineara, we realise that we’re not going to do it on our own. We can’t do everything, but the best thing we can do is go into a situation, if the individual or family allows, and work with them to understand their barriers, their frustrations, their story. 

“It’s a privilege for someone to let you in their life no matter where they are in life. So, I always say don’t take it for granted that someone’s been referred to us that it’s just a given.” 

As we’re coming out, we start to work on: What support do you need that when we’ve left, we know you can go there? So, it’s important that we have that kind of step-down service after that real intense work. What we’re finding is there are not as many step-down services as we would like because of cuts and other reasons, so when we do find those services our job is develop those relationships between the person we’re working and those organisations.” 

Further to this, Maria explains the meaning of holistic support and how it relates to our work. “We are all part of a system; the family is a system. We all have different roles and different things we bring to the table, so if somebody or something in that system isn’t working, it’s going to impact how we operate. We either shift to accommodate that area that isn’t working well, or we look at what it is that isn’t making it work well because we need you to make the system work well, so it’s that systemic kind of thinking.” 

Describing Kineara to a five-year-old, Maria adds “it’s about “being a friend to someone when they are going through difficult times.” This means “someone you can talk to” and who “will go with you thought that journey.” 

Breaking the cycle of homelessness 

Whilst developing our direct support work, we’ve also been involved in delivering community cohesion projects and innovative participatory research on issues of housing services and improving pathways through temporary accommodation. Back in October 2017 AzuKo, Kineara and Poplar HARCA co-hosted a two-part workshop exploring the latter.  

Working alongside Nathan, we brought together 40 people, from over 20 organisations to rethink how we can improve the journey into and through temporary accommodation and illuminate the experience of those going through this journey, and facing challenges, trials and insecurity.  

It’s important we respect that we’re coming into people’s intimate lives, so they don’t feel you are being patronising.” 

We also undertook research with 14 households, revealing that experiences are dynamic, so services are never working with the same person throughout the lifespan of support, particularly those who are ‘vulnerable’. What’s more, we found that financial insecurity can result from a sudden and unexpected breakdown in paperwork/bureaucracy, physical and mental health, landlord relations and family structure among many others, so services should be aware of the link between money and a range of other factors.  

Speaking about finance (especially regarding finance decisions) of individuals and families we work with, Nathan says, “Some of the research we’ve done with families shows there’s something stigmatising around how people spend their money and what they think is the wrong and right way to do so.” To this end, Maria adds that generally, “It’s important we respect that we’re coming into people’s intimate lives, so they don’t feel you are being patronising.”  

Building on strengths 

Maria goes onto highlight the impact of strength-based support, “The first thing you must do is work with a person’s strength. Some people don’t even have a foundation to build on because they’ve been so crushed, so you’ve got to lay yourself down. Step on me, we’re going to be here, we’re going to support you through that. We’re going to be that strength-base.” 

Not only is this type of support useful for the people we work with, but it can be applied to supporting the wellbeing of our team/ practitioners themselves. “The people at Kineara, they’ve got the passion, the care, they are phenomenalKineara would not exist without them, but I have to understand their capacity, what they can do and where their stop isIt’s been an interesting journey; what’s important is we continue to try and look after ourselves at work and outside of work. 

“Maria has incredible insight into the process of working with teams and creating something, which is really brutal and difficult work. She brings such a beauty and lightness to the whole thing which is infectious. I always learn so much from Maria and I really appreciate her as a friend and collaborator,” adds Nathan. 

You can listen to the podcast here 

Posted by kineara in Community, Education, Housing, Impact
Kineara’s team ‘missionstorm’ day: An update

Kineara’s team ‘missionstorm’ day: An update

Last month, our team decided it was time for a moment of reflection. With several new projects coming up at the end of this year, and a busy 2020 in the works, we knew it was the perfect opportunity to take a step back and take stock of where we have come from, where we are going and make sure that we do not lose sight of our mission as we grow. Rather than a brainstorm, we decided what we needed was a ‘missionstorm’, and this is the task we set ourselves.

As many people working in the social enterprise world will know, new opportunities, connections and projects offer both exciting possibilities and an inevitable challenge. For us, the biggest challenge was this: How do we bring our support services into new contexts without compromising our mission? How do we make sure that we are staying true to our values and putting the needs of those we serve first? How do we make sure our whole team collaborates and contributes to our projects and mission?

Since Kineara was first founded with our Rent Support Programme (RSP), which addresses and prevented evictions of vulnerable families in social housing, our offer has expanded to include mid-term tenancy sustainment programmes, educational wellbeing and support, employment support and our most recently designed intervention, Resettling, which has been created for people who have been homeless or in temporary accommodation to move back into sustainable housing with our support. In amongst that, we’ve still found the time to deliver community cohesion projects and been part of innovative participatory research on issues of housing services and improving pathways through temporary accommodation.

Throughout that time, we’ve kept to Kineara’s ethos: that all our support is 1) holistic, understanding that people’s lives are complex, with often multiple challenges that impact each other; and 2) people-centred and strength-based, so that we always recognise and emphasise the skills, aspirations and strengths that are inherent in everyone.

Nonetheless, as our provision ramps up we knew it was important that, as a team, we were all working towards the same mission, and driving towards the same goal. We looked at how other organisations larger and smaller than ours, both in the charity sector and outside of it, wrote about their mission and what it said about them. And then, we looked again at our own mission and asked ourselves the question, does this still speak to the heart of our work? What really is driving us? What do we really want to see as a result of the work we are creating?

And after some discussion, we refined our thoughts into a new mission statement:

It was then time to take a good look at our values. While it was all very well putting a mission statement together, what good was it if our values weren’t aligned to it? So, we took the opportunity to choose and discuss key values that motivated each of us in our lives and work, to build an understanding of our team’s character and motivations. It was wonderful to see what people felt was most important to them – sincerity, effectiveness, passion, respect, self-awareness, resilience, accountability, justice and collaboration – were all named as key values in their lives and work.

As anyone who works in social impact will understand, it is the passion reflected in the words above that motivates many to commit to serving people and communities in their work. With such a committed team, it was easy to consolidate these shared individual values into a set of principles that will guide Kineara’s approach and work for the next year.

With the revised mission and updated values in mind, we then turned our attention to project mapping. Of course, as a social business with a community focus, project planning is made that bit more challenging because we not only need clear aims, goals, monitoring plans and a valid theory of change, but we also need to make sure each project is also financially viable so that we can be sustainable and continue to grow. This was our jumping point; as a small organisation with multiple projects running together, we felt that honing our processes, roles and expectations would be key for achieving our mission as a team.

So we took the time to envision a life cycle of a typical Kineara project, creating for ourselves a live ‘map’ where we are able to see at what stage each of our team members are needed, what contributions they may make to each phase and how each role intersects with the each other.

This became a really valuable and useful exercise that gave each team member far greater clarity over the important part they play in our project delivery and achievements. We are, clearly, a sum of our parts! In many ways, the exercise was a humbling one which left each of us with a great appreciation for each other’s work, as well as a recognition of how we work together throughout a project to bring it to completion.

Posted by kineara in Impact, Latest
How to support your child as they start secondary school

How to support your child as they start secondary school

Starting secondary is a significant milestone in a young person’s life – new schools, new friends, new teachers and indeed new challenges altogether. Whether you’re a parent, teacher or practitioner, helping a young person through this transition can be one of the most impactful things you do for them. But how can we support them? Here our practitioners, team and friends share practical ways we can help pupils deal with such challenges.

1. Developing an identity

Fitting in, asserting an identity or gaining peer acceptance becomes even more prominent in a secondary school context. This undeniable reality can often lead to a dip in academic progress or intensify challenging behaviour.

“My challenge at school was a struggle between being a good student and getting the grades everyone (including myself) expected of me and wanting to be independent and assert my identity; who I wanted to be in this world and who my friends were,” says Sandra, Intervention Practitioner at Kineara.

Helping young people to express themselves authentically and take advantage of extracurricular activities is just one way of facilitating healthy social exploration. Sandra adds that it’s also important for parents and teachers to try to understand why someone is behaving the way they are instead of just trying to change it.

“Larger classes make it more difficult to have a closer relationship with students, which is where a service like Motivate to Educate (M2E) is helpful. It offers a listening ear and can help guide a student back on track,” she adds.

2. Bullying and peer pressure

Whether its physical, verbal, social, or online, bullying can take many forms. For parents, identifying any changes in your child’s behaviour, asking questions, and building meaningful relationships with their teachers can all make a difference.

Strengthening relationships between the parent and child, parent and teacher, and teacher and child, is one aim of M2E. “I was lucky that I had a good upbringing with parents who gave me a strong sense of self-worth that made me realise my potential. Without it I may have ended up in more serious trouble that would have been harder to return from,” says Sandra.

During the transition, it can be helpful to try to increase your child’s circle of friends by encouraging them to invite home their friends or participate in group activities. Educating pupils and their parents through assemblies, class discussions and workshops can also help to challenge stigma and raise awareness about the challenges that pupils are facing.

“Larger classes make it more difficult to have a closer relationship with students, which is where a service like Motivate to Educate (M2E) is helpful. It offers a listening ear and can help guide a student back on track.”

Reflecting on her own experience, Mel, Comms Lead at Kineara, highlights the importance of having quality support. “For me the main thing was going from a very small school where everyone knew each other to a school with hundreds of kids in each year; this was a bit intimidating at first! The key thing for me was that I had a close-knit group of friends that formed pretty early; they were my peers who I went to for support and we took each other through the whole secondary journey.”

“For pupils who are feeling shy or lonely, we often involve their peers by bringing them into our sessions to participate in group activities such as cooking and baking, which develops the child’s confidence and broadens their friendship circle,” says Gail, Kineara’s M2E lead.

3. Mental health and wellbeing

With 1 in 10 children and young people experiencing a mental health issue at any one time, it is important that we are clued up on the challenges of dealing with mental health, and how we as parents, teachers and practitioners can support pupils. What’s more, a recent Government Green Paper (2017) stated that appropriately trained teachers and school staff can make a difference in addressing mild to moderate mental health problems such as anxiety and conduct disorder, comparable to those achieved by trained therapists.

In delivering M2E, we’ve found that teachers and school staff can support pupils by  developing their understanding of mental health through relevant training such as MHFA courses, as well as receiving support with their own wellbeing. We have also seen how a school benefits from adopting a joined-up, wraparound ethos that focuses on wellbeing just as much as academic outcomes. As part of the culture, schools could consider activities that have been proven to help pupils manage high levels of stress such as mindfulness, yoga and relaxation/breathing exercises.

The people we work with have multi-entrenched needs, so our support must be intentional, therapeutic, adaptable. You’re not seeing a situation or a person as one-dimensional but seeing them in a holistic frame.”

After taking part in M2E, one pupil who was struggling to manage his temper said about the programme: “I enjoy having better relationships with people in school. I use my breathing techniques when someone is annoying me, and I listen to my relaxation before bed and no tech for one hour which helps my sleep.” In this case we found the main outcomes to be significant improvements in the pupils’ overall stress and behaviour, followed by an improvement in concentration and emotional awareness.

There are a plethora of online resources exploring different areas of mental health and wellbeing, from exam stress, eating disorders to responding to traumatic events. We have also written about the real impact of exam stress and why schools need to  focus on supporting mental health during this difficult time.

4. Hidden or complex challenges

For some, personal, hidden, or external challenges will take a toll on social and academic progress through secondary school, including the impact of educational inequality, a lack of adequate support for SEND pupils, family breakdown, or issues with housing. One way of supporting pupils through such a challenge is looking at the ‘whole-person,’ offering empathy and being emotionally available.

“The people we work with have multi-entrenched needs, so our support has to be intentional, therapeutic, adaptable,” says Maria, “When you’re talking to someone, it helps to see that person as a system – in that system is a person, their needs, background, parentage, education etc. You’re not seeing a situation or a person as one-dimensional but seeing them in a holistic frame.”

Maria explains that not everyone offers holistic support, neither does everyone have to.” As a school, for example, it’s about recognising that there are other organisations that can support with intervention on a holistic level. It’s about partnership,” she says.

Learn more about our education services.

Posted by kineara in Education, Impact, Research
Selected as a member of the London Housing Panel!

Selected as a member of the London Housing Panel!

30 May 2019

We are excited to announce that we’ve been selected to be a member of the London Housing Panel, which will bring together voluntary and community-led organisations to engage with housing issues facing London.

Delivered by Trust for London and the Mayor of London, panel members will come together to explore a wide range of housing issues and perspectives from homelessness to the private rented sector, low-income Londoners to social housing; and to help influence policy pledges and priorities.

The panel is comprised of 15 London-based organisations – from homelessness to equalities groups – providing services, representation or carrying out advocacy work in relation to housing. These include Generation Rent, Homeless link, Solace Women’s Aid and other important members.

Director of panel member Kineara, Maria Morgan, said: “We are very excited to be part of this important new initiative, which brings community representation into housing policy decision making. We look forward to working with the London Housing Panel and the Mayor towards inclusive housing policies for all Londoners.”

As we’ve delivered our housing services, our core focus has been in supporting vulnerable people to sustain tenancies and avoid eviction. Through holistic and tailored support, our experienced practitioners work closely with families and individuals facing challenges times and/or with multi-complex needs. We’ve recently launched our new Rent Support Programme Plus (RSP+), based on our proven model of holistic and intensive practice that has seen a 92% success rate of preventing evictions for social housing tenants – find out more about our work and impact on our website.

We are looking forward to sharing our experiences within housing and working collaboratively with other organisations on housing related issues. As an organisation, one of our aims is to influence wider policy on housing, welfare and other social issues that impact the communities we work with; we believe this is a great opportunity for us to help influence policy pledges and priorities by providing our expertise.

Read the full press release.

Find out more about our housing services.

Posted by kineara in Community, Housing, Latest, 0 comments