“Bright Futures” is a project focused in strategies designed to motivate Shaw Trust users towards sustainable employment.



In the UK today there is a discourse around unemployment which blames unemployed people for their circumstances. Many people buy into this, including unemployed people themselves, which can be very disempowering. In spite of this, many have potential that isn’t being realised and they lack the adult education opportunities to support them.

The Shaw Trust is currently the largest third-sector provider of government funded employability programmes and it plays a crucial role in this context. The ultimate aim of its programmes is to help people get a job and keep a job. We have been delighted to be working with the Shaw Trust to “find out how we can support people with mental and/or physical health conditions towards sustainable employment”. We were also asked to consider the viability of a peer support programme.


The Research

 Project kick-off with Chris Perry, Shaw Trust  Head of New Markets

Project kick-off with Chris Perry, Shaw Trust Head of New Markets

 Planning workshops with users, members of staff and a third one with all of them together

Planning workshops with users, members of staff and a third one with all of them together

 Workshop with Shaw Trust users

Workshop with Shaw Trust users

 Workshop organised to validate ideas

Workshop organised to validate ideas


Key insights

Our research showed that staff and users were building strong relationships and users really valued the support that staff provided to get them into a job and maintain it. Staff were very positive about users engaging in group activities and users wanting more opportunities to meet and support each other. The key needs were:

  • To help users feel they have strengths and a sense of agency and the confidence that if they take action it will make a difference
  • To create an achievable future vision which inspires the user and the staff to help them to achieve it.
  • To develop effective intervention strategies for change and a performance framework that measures them, that fits the organisation's core purpose of permanent work.


The solution

Our solution was Bright Futures, three interventions that will revolve around a new vision for the Shaw Trust: ‘Creating bright futures together’. This vision would be the absolute focus of the organisation for both staff and users. This would shift the culture from not just job starts but to helping people build motivation, confidence and skills that will help them towards permanent work. The long term target will be job satisfaction in permanent employment and milestones towards this will be measured, for example: the identification of a future goal; participation in placements linked to it; attendance at group activities; and how confident a user feels. Three interventions will help us achieve these milestone measurements:

1. Working towards a desired future goal: A new framework and series of activities that will help users to identify a future goal and help advisors to coach users towards them. This will add new goal creating tools and adapt the computer software system.

2. Collective group activities: - that will give users the opportunity to suggest new ideas and have the option of becoming involved in organising and running groups.

3. More placements: -that are linked to the goals of the user. These can also be offered inside Shaw Trust offices, in roles such as administration and supporting other users.


Getting started

Bright Futures involves reinforcing the core purpose of the organisation. Because of this the vision would need to be pitched to the board and top management. They would need to hear and agree with the business case for implementing Bright Futures.

Once agreed the organisation would agree a process for refreshing and reinforcing the Shaw Trust overall vision. It would then create a plan for how this would be communicated across the organisation. For example posters, a letter from the CEO, roadshows and communication from line managers at regular meetings.

An office could then need to agree to do a pilot. Computer systems would be adapted, staff would receive some training and measurements and recognition plans would need to be put into place. Each intervention would then be introduced one at a time.

After learning from the pilot the Shaw Trust could scale this up and eventually incorporate Bright Futures into contracts and future services. We believe that the innovative methods of helping people to stay in work longer would also help them to win future bids.


The outcome

The Shaw Trust are happy with Bright Futures and have incorporating it into their vision and website. Upon our recommendation they are also beginning discussion with Spice to see how timebanking could be used to increase impact by incentivising user to do more activities, skill swapping and placements.

 Shaw Trust website, promoting Bright futures

Shaw Trust website, promoting Bright futures

 Shaw Trust report

Shaw Trust report


"The level of professionalism was exceptional and (Ella, John, Estefanía and Oscar) represented the RCA and Shaw Trust superbly.

 The quality of the end product was very high. Documents and presentations were of the highest standards and the content was also very good. I was also very impressed with how well they got stuck in to the subject matter and quickly understood the nuances of the service they were trying to improve. This must reflect very well on their collective brainpower as well as the way they are embracing service design methods."

Chris Perry - Head of New Markets, Shaw Trust



Date: April to June 2016

Area: Service Design

Context: Third Term Project - Service Design MA at the Royal College of Art

Members: Ella Walding, John Makepace, Oscar Díaz & Estefanía Trisotti

Extent of the project: 9 weeks, full-time

Tutor: Gus Desbaras

Key Stakeholders: Shaw Trust, Royal College of Art