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Supporting a peer coaching culture at Recycling Lives

Caitlin on site at Recycling Lives -
Caitlin has been supporting the Leadership team to create a sustainable Peer Coaching Culture.

The concept at Recycling Lives was completely inspiring to us. They used their business of recycling waste to help provide those who are homeless, leaving prison or still in prison to find sustainable work and accommodation and to access services. All this within a profitable business that does a dirty job that needs doing. They’re supporting our whole communities to be safer, develop a greater sense of belonging and to have the freedom to make better choices for everyone. We were so excited about this project that we created a special community price and brought in an international team of trainers.


Our client

Recycling Lives is an organisation in the North West of England, who use their commercial operations in recycling and waste management to support and sustain an active programme for the homeless, enabling them to find stability, mental and physical health and to find independence and work. They also have training programmes and work programmes in prisons providing strong training in recycling and waste management skills and supporting ex-prisoners to find sustainable work and housing when they’ve completed their sentences. They also use their recycling lorry network to be active partners in fairshare, redistributing food to areas of need and reducing food waste.


What was happening

The organisation had a diverse network of staff, at different stages of recovery, of integration into society and of skills development.  As the business was successful and expanding into more prisons, they were taking on new managers who didn’t necessarily have as deep an understanding of the service users as in previous years. They might misunderstand certain behaviours, lapses in time keeping, attendance, temper etc. They also had more employees who had experienced the process from prison, to training to working full-time in the organisation and living within the community and these staff members were an untapped resource in the business. 


What did they want to have happen?

Recycling Lives wanted to train 12-15 internal coaches, including ex-prisoners and ex-homeless staff members and managers, so that this group could apply the tools to themselves and keep themselves well and also be an internal resource for the wider workforce.


What we did

We designed a clean, invitation-based programme, with taster sessions for any member of staff interested in a project for developing coaching and mentoring skills. We had a great turn-out and show-cased Clean Language tools and models to over 40 staff. Together with senior management we chose 13 of the volunteers as good representatives of a cross-organisation slice, including managers, floor workers, trainers and administrators.

Before the training started, we conducted Clean Language interviews with all volunteers to find out more about their current situations at work, how they were managing at home, what was working well and not so well and what they were hoping to get from attending the training.

Then, over 10 two-hour weekly workshops, we covered:

  • Invisible architecture: What are your patterns of thought and behaviour, what are your drivers and how are they similar or different to other people?
  • Listening cleanly: Actually hearing the structure of what is being said
  • Asking the clean questions to unpack what’s being said before responding
  • Developing metaphors as co-coaching tools
  • Knowing your stuff and knowing how to tell if your 'buttons are being pressed'
  • Detecting drama and knowing how to move to calmer conversations
  • Facilitating people to move from problem to outcome to action

What happened next

Following the training we interviewed the participants again, asking them what the programme had been like and what differences they had noticed at home and at work. Here are some quotes from the post-training interviews:

  • “People come with money problems. In the past we gave them an advance. Now we get to the root of the problems and get more sustainable long-term solutions to issues.”
  • “It is now easier to get people to work out how they want to handle a situation. Clean Language helps people to be honest about their problem and think about how to solve it.”
  • “It has helped me to make the leap from not knowing anything to communicating with lots of different people from lots of different backgrounds.”
  • “The Drama Triangle has helped with my home life… I’ve learned with family and friends to step away and think about how I could manage things better..”
  • “The course gave me the vocabulary to express my struggle to someone else in a way they could understand it.”
  • “It made me really calm. I can be a hot-head. Now I sit back, listen, take everything in. It unfolds in my head. I think before I speak. I understand people better. There are less arguments and I don’t boss my partner around any more.”
  • “I have seen a big difference in [my colleague] letting the lads come up with their own ideas rather than telling them what to do.”
  • “People get along better… I feel now people are more comfortable to talk about things. Before, people were scared… Now they have someone to go to who’s not going to land them in it.”

The group is now more:

  • ·  Self-aware and able to advocate for their own needs to stay well.
  • ·  Able to manage difficulties in their own lives (e.g., conflict resolution, family issues, debt).
  • ·  Aware of others’ needs and able to listen and support others to find their own solutions.
  • ·  Able to notice when others are in drama and facilitate them out of drama without joining them.

It was wonderful to work with an organisation that costs the public nothing, saves the public money, saves the public from waste products, and has a 93% non-recidivism rate, helping our fellow citizens to fulfil their potential and not be limited by past experiences.


What would you like to have happen?

If you are interested in developing a coaching culture in your organisation and you’d like to make more use of your natural resources, helping your people develop their potential, get in touch and we can discuss how we can make that happen.


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About Caitlin Walker

Caitlin Walker's avatar

Caitlin is a director of Clean Learning and the developer of Systemic Modelling™. She is the author of From Contempt to Curiosity, which details many of the innovative and transformational projects she’s led across our community from the most dispossessed to leading think tanks.

Caitlin graduated in Linguistics at the School of Oriental and African Studies and completed four years post graduate research in ‘Strategies for Lexical access’ including fieldwork in Ghana. She began modelling teaching and learning while at SOAS, volunteering intermediary classes to translate information presented at lectures into different learning styles for the students. At the same time she was a youth worker in Kings Cross bringing these leading edge tools to groups of young people.

She went on to set up literacy clubs in King’s Cross, where children could come to learn to spell. From 1996 – 1999 Caitlin was an Education tutor with the Dalston Youth Project, a Home Office run experiment to offer accelerated learning to at-risk students, alongside mentoring, to keep them in school. She ran these sessions as NLP modelling workshops and achieved excellent results with the students. The project won a Crime Prevention and Community Safety award for Great Britain. In 1999 she was offered the opportunity to develop her work in a business context and she created the ground breaking metaphors@work process. These techniques are available on the Creative Management section of the Open University MBA program and on a 10 week modular course on Practical Thinking. She has co-designed and she co-delivers a Masters Level module in Coaching and Mentoring at Liverpool John Moores University.

She has since developed her modelling skills from small scale group development to whole scale organisational culture change programmes. She designs and delivers tailor made learning and development programs for addressing diversity, conflict, leadership, managing mergers and creating ‘learning organisations’.

Caitlin practices in a variety of contexts. Clients include: Jeyes Group, Liverpool John Moores University, Pharmacia, Hull City Council, South Yorkshire Police Service, Bexley Care Trust, New Information Paradigms, Work Directions UK, Crime Concern, BT, Police National Search Centre, Celerent Consultancy, Carbon Partners, Ealing LEA, and Working Links. She has trained a number of in-house trainers to carry on and develop the work without creating dependency on her expertise. She has systematically tested and developed her ideas in challenging arenas and her robust products have become sought after learning aids.


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