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Noise 246Digital youthwork

From a talk by Simon Glenister, founder of Noise Solution.

Ranked one of the UK’s top 100 performing social enterprises, Noise Solution uses music to engage and motivate people facing a wide variety of challenges. Using the latest research, they’ve developed a music mentoring approach that allows them to digitally capture and share every session with family and key workers.

Simon Glenister, founder of Noise Solution, recently gave an online talk about his journey. Here are some highlights:

My background is as a youth worker, which I did for about 15 years, started off working for organisations like youth offending in East London and various other local authority organisations, working with young people in very challenging circumstances.

And what became quite apparent to me quite quickly were ways that youthwork was working and ways that youthwork wasn't working. The things that were working were to find spaces in which young people could be made to feel that they were good at something. What was not working was when a young person's behaviours were being flagged as worrying or problematic and a professional would say, "Well, you're not doing that very well, and that's not very nice and maybe you should be doing this differently." That wasn't the most engaging way to develop relationships with young people.

The other thing that I found was working really well was not to work with kids in isolation. Involving the significant adults around the person you were working with was very beneficial. Especially if you could amplify to those people, the significant things that young was achieving. They started to change conversations. You started to leverage the thoughts and the words and the actions of those people around the person you worked with, who were more likely to impact. And that's seemed very, very effective.

So those two things, making somebody feel good at something quickly and connecting them to other people were pivotal.

So I set up Noise Solution 10 years ago to try and find something that was more strengths-based essentially rather than a deficit based approach. I was very into digital work - I was also a professional musician with a specialism in music technology. And it seemed to me that that was the perfect thing to engage young people with.

They offer one-to-one mentoring around beat making and music tech - a project that can occur either face to face or entirely digitally.  It is enhanced by our own digital online platform that allows our participants in sessions to capture highlights of that day's session and share what they made and  thought and felt about it onto a digital feed, shared safely with family or key workers.

We're capturing them being good at something, enabling them to see themselves as successful and reinforcing those messages of success with comments from the adults whose opinions they value. We're informed by the latest theory on motivation and wellbeing and measure everything.

We are receiving referrals from statutory organisations like mental health or education, social services, predominantly with kids that they are really, really struggling to engage with. We are creating a space where they can reinvent themselves as being successful against a backdrop where generally the world is telling them that what they're doing is wrong, or there are problems with it. So we're allowing them to narrate a new identity and we're using technology to do that. But at the heart of what we're doing is actually focusing on wellbeing.

When I start talking about Noise Solutions, I say, "Look, park the fact that you see us using music technology. We're not a music technology organisation. We're an organisation that's about wellbeing and engagement. We just happen to use music technology as a prop within that, to get these outcomes, because we know unequivocally, if we impact on wellbeing, these are the outcomes we get. We get better engagement outcomes, education outcomes, health outcomes, social outcomes."

As a youth worker, we're so often working with young people who are de-motivated, unmotivated. How do we shift them? Any intervention where you're either threatening punitive action if you don't get compliance or you're bribing people to do something,  will get you short term compliance but as soon as you take one or any of those motivating factors away, any sort of hope of developing motivation just disappears.

We have three things that we need to focus on when we're designing our interventions:

  • a sense of autonomy - we need to give people a sense of control over what they're doing. 
  • a need to feel competent about something quickly.
  • a need to connect people together - the relationship you have with the person that you work with.

We have professional musicians who we pair with these young people. They ask the young person, "What do you want to do?". Competency comes from the technology in that we can make whatever music that they want and make it sound great, really, really quickly, sidestepping all the issues that you normally have around music education. So we're not interested in scales or notation or reading the dots or any of that kind of stuff. We're using music technology to drag and drop blocks of information to create stuff that sounds great really, really quickly. For piano, we use a shape space method to get people to feel competent at doing that quickly - we can teach 48 chords in about 25 minutes.

We've built our own social media platform that allows the participant and the young person and their musician to capture the micro highlights of every session that they have. And they normally have 10 sessions. At the end of every session, the platform automatically pings the highlights out to whoever the young person has autonomously decided of the important adults in their life - normally parents, carers, social workers, mental health workers.

What we're actually doing is capturing that competence so they can see themselves being good at something, "Oh, there I am being successful."

We do questionnaires at the beginning and at the end, so we can see the impact of our work. 76% of participants show a meaningful increase in wellbeing. 40% of participants are re-engaging with education, work or voluntary placements. Every £1 spent produces £3.34 in savings to local authority services.

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From a talk by Simon Glenister, founder of Noise S, 21/07/2020

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