Opposite my house at the moment is a huge building site which makes for a messy outlook and a lot of noise from dawn to dusk. What struck me most was the huge number of people that turn up each day and then seem to get swallowed up in some big hole somewhere and nothing at all seems to happen except deliveries of materials and several diggers which simply move dirt around from one pile to another. Walking the dog past the site yesterday morning I had a little peek around (as you do) and behind the piles of mud and builders supplies, a vast network of pipes, cables, concrete supports and reinforcing rods had gone in. In the afternoon I looked out of my window and, miraculously, buildings have shot up and at last we can get an idea of how it will all look when completed. It struck me that so much of what we all do in life is unseen, unglamourous and at times nothing seems to happen. The reality, however, is that if things are to get done properly you have to do that slow, painstaking building up of the foundations and connections if what you eventually get is to have any lasting value.
Isn’t that so relevant to the work we do working with people who, for whatever reason, have found the foundations on which they have tried to build insecure and treacherous? Dreams and ambitions so often result in ruin when the groundwork which is needed to achieve them is not in place and the get-rich-quick society has so often created lives which fail to live up to their potential. In Apex we see so many lives damaged by attempts to find shortcuts to happiness, or by actions carried out without a consideration of the consequences. What is often tragic is to see how few are equipped to handle failure or knock-backs despite having often known little else in their lives, and repeating the same mistakes again and again.
Society tends to assume that people who fall foul of the legal system or who struggle to obtain or maintain employment are in some way either deficient or deviant or deliberately dependent, and often it seems that the policies and schemes put in place to ‘deal with them’ are based around such notions. Ideological mantras about being tough on crime, getting people off benefits and into work, or cutting out the scroungers result in systems which are simplistic in terms of what they seek to achieve because the presumption on which they are established is overly simplistic.
People tend, in my experience, to find themselves in less than positive situations because the foundations on which success can be built such as strong relationships, good parenting, helpful role models, nurturing environments, and so forth, have either not been available to them or have proved to be fragile. This is something which has been strongly evidenced around the work on Adverse Childhood Experiences and is equally true in adulthood as in children. If we continue to hope that high volume, rapid throughput, quick-fix systems are going to change our society, then we are deluding ourselves and laying up problems for the future. It is the unglamourous, often hidden, so-called “soft” outcome activities which lay the foundations for success, and this is often slow and messy.
Imagine if people who commissioned buildings decided they just wanted it done quickly with no thought to what it is built upon? It would be disastrous. I wonder why it is then that so often activities aimed at supporting people adopt the same mentality? Maybe we should make sure that the process of commissioning services starts from a co-production basis and includes those who know that it is the preparatory work we do with people which will determine whether any system actually works?