LHF has agreed to support the Peoples Recovery Project with a grant of £30,000. We asked David Aula, Chair of the Board of Trustees of The People’s Recovery Project to tell us more about why they set up the organisation.
“Addiction”, according to specialist Dr. Gabor Mate, “is any behaviour that gives you temporary relief, temporary pleasure, but in the long-term causes harm, has some negative consequences and you can’t give it up, despite those negative consequences.”
We are, most of us, cosily addicted to the pleasures and conveniences afforded by modern living standards, and even – complain as we might – to the familiarity, status and predictability of traditional workplaces. And yet, we see, with increasing clarity and force and with exponential acceleration, the negative consequences of organisations that are not changing radically enough to meet the demands of a changing world. Think about where you work, or a service you use, a charity you support… can you think of a time where that organisation appears to be producing the exact opposite results to the ones everyone desires?
And – have you ever tried to change something at work, only to give up after months or years of banging your head against the brick wall of organisational indifference? Infuriating, isn’t it?! Most of us eventually turn that frustration into a jaded ‘realism’ and console ourselves with our ‘compensation’ and the free Nespresso machine. But some of us attempt to change things for good.
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. Buckminster Fuller
Two such insistent change-makers are Ed Addison and Nathan Rosier. After decades of working for large charities to attempt to help people experiencing homelessness, they finally became so frustrated by the systematic barriers created for the ‘clients’ they worked with that they decided to go cold turkey on their stable incomes, seek the support of allies and experts, and take a number of steps (if only there were just 12!) to start creating consequences for people experiencing homelessness and their communities that we actually want to see in the world. They decided to build a new model that aims to make the old model obsolete.
Many people experience both homelessness and addiction simultaneously, in a vicious causal loop. In the old model, the system comprises many organisations (the NHS, Police, DWP, Drug and Alcohol teams, hostels, homelessness day centres and outreach teams) throwing a lot of resources at the symptoms of the disease: reacting to the chaos and crises inherent in both addiction and homelessness. It costs the common purse between £50,000 and £70,000 a year to respond to the emergency needs of each person experiencing homelessness. Ed and Nathan noticed that detox and rehab costs about half that – and, of course, that such treatment stands the chance of creating a platform for people to rebuild their lives completely. “Why doesn’t somebody just demonstrate this as a smarter, more compassionate, more effective approach?”, they thought. Eventually they realised it was them who would need to do the demonstrating.
And this is the story of change in the 21st century. Ed and Nathan are good blokes, but they are not Great Saviours with genius idea. It’s an obvious idea. But they had the courage to risk everything to make good on the idea. And they are – as are many pioneers of the new models fit for our time – leading with humility: they are building communities of support both in the preparatory and aftercare stages of treatment alongside people with lived experience of homelessness and recovery; they are insisting on long-term thinking over short-termist flashiness and are partnering with the London School of Economics on developing a ten-year longitudinal study to assess the effectiveness of this approach; and they are learning every step of the way, from all the various experts (from academics and commissioners, to those who are currently homeless and using drugs) how to cultivate the soil of social change.
Nathan and Ed approached me to be the chair of the board of trustees for The People’s Recovery Project after listening to me host The Unfeasible Podcast, where I interview pioneers who are building new models to make great, big, wonderful, unfeasible-seeming things actually happen. Those interviewees are hugely diverse but they share a few things in common: they believe in Team Human (we may have created a lot of mess in the last few hundred years, but we have what it takes to clean it up); they are not afraid of complexity and recognise the latent power behind the phrase, “I don’t know… yet”; and they believe that how-we -work and who-we-are-at-work plays a central role in what we are able to create at work. That The People’s Recovery Project is inspired by those principles gives me great confidence that in the years to come they will provide the sector with the proof that there is life after addiction: addiction to substances and addiction to bureaucratic safety.
To find out more about the Peoples Recovery Project go to The People’s Recovery Project (thepeoplesrecoveryproject.org). David Aula’s podcast “The Unfeasible Podcast” is available on apple podcasts.