The Power of Suggestion

There isn’t a roadmap for what we are doing at Handcrafted. We have a clear sense of our mission to restore and empower people through training in the context of a creative and inclusive community. We know that there’s always room for improvement and innovation. In formal meetings and casual conversations, we are preoccpied with how we can adapt to do it better. Everyone who comes along to be part of the journey has a stake in that.

Empowering people means not ‘doing stuff to and for them’ but enabling them to take initiative and determine how they will thrive and become the’ best version of themselves’. Over the last few weeks we asked our trainees to give Handcrafted some feedback and suggestions for improvement. After all, if it’s not working for the people it’s here for, what is the point in doing it?

We used a questionnaire to conduct a survey. It had to be anonymous, so individuals could be honest without thinking there might be some kick-back if they said negative things. To add a little incentive we made it a prize draw and everyone who participated held on to a counterfoil to claim their prize if their answer sheet was drawn at the end of the survey. Of course the winner would break their anonymity if they came forward to claim their prize, and that little flaw was one of the first bits of feedback we heard about the exercise. We did our best.

Paul was the lucky winner of the prize draw – a tool kit.  He said “I was surprised when I found out I’d won but I was dead chuffed.  I’m pleased that Handcrafted have made a way to give the lads a chance to suggest new things and improvements.”

In practice, most people were happy to own their comments. As well as asking what they felt was the best thing about Handcrafted and how they had changed since coming, we asked trainees what one thing they would change and whether they had any ideas for how things could be improved. It was extremely encouraging to hear stories of success like “I’ve made lots of new friends and learned new skills, especially house renovations.”

Some of our trainees clearly enjoyed being here enough to suggest we open at weekends or for longer hours. Another thoughtfully added that they felt that the staff needed a kettle in the office! We had interest in expanding our activities to include some basic electronics or car maintenance training.

“Community” was a word that came up repeatedly in responses. It was heartening to see that. It’s come across that we are not just about making things with wood but about doing it together while supporting each other. One suggetion that was right on the button here was that we step away from the workshop and go on outings as a group every now and then. That was easy: it’s been a hot summer and we could all do with a break. Again there were plenty of suggestions. We wanted something relaxed and inclusive of all levels of activity. We have a great list of ideas, and the tester trip was a day out at Hardwick Park on the ‘hottest day of the year’.

Instead of bonding over sanders and saws, we enjoyed the fellowship of Kubb, walks by the lake, tree climbing and yelling at the barbecue to cook faster.

“It’s good to get to know people you don’t normally sit and talk to,” one trainee commented.

‘Handcrafted on Tour’ was a big success. We will make it a regular feature of our life together, although we might not get to see The Gruffalo on the next expedition.

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