Peter Anderson is Training Lead at Homeless Network Scotland, and a well know figure in the sector for his work on addiction, Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE) and for delivering top quality training throughout Scotland. Peter retires in December after more than 30 years working in homelessness and related fields. We wish Peter lots of happiness in his retirement and a huge thanks for his work with Homeless Network Scotland.
Below are Peter’s thoughts on how we can all ensure our work is making a difference.
Working for Homeless Network Scotland I was often asked, “We all know the work you do, but what defines you?” As this is an agile, responsive organisation, our work wide reaching and influencing to help end homelessness in Scotland, it can be a challenge to pin that down. Travelling to work on the bus I was reflecting on our role as an assay of knowledge, research and solutions to homelessness when, from the small circle I had cleared in the steamed-up bus window, I saw a poster for a new exhibition in the National Museum of Scotland.
The Galloway Hoard comprises around 100 gold and silver objects from the Viking Age discovered in 2014. Found by a metal detectorist it has been described as, ‘one of the most significant Viking hoards ever found in Scotland’. When excavated it was found to be a varied collection of jewellery from the Viking world, Anglo-Saxon England and elsewhere in Europe dating to the mid-9th or -10th-Century.
The hoard consists of a variety of gold and silver objects including armbands, a Christian cross, brooches, ingots and what is possibly the largest silver Carolingian pot ever discovered. Of course a visit was planned. Among the wonderful exhibits the guides stopped alongside was a large gold decorated pendant, within this frame nested a strange, perfectly shaped piece of black schist. The guides explained schist is common and would not be accorded the status of a gemstone save for its function as a “Touchstone”.
The guide explained the meaning, which was confirmed when a clasp on the pendant released the schist and subsequent analysis of the stone showed traces of gold and other precious metals, a touchstone therefore was used to assay precious metal – gold being malleable leaves a streak on the schist and the greater the streak the purer the gold.
Later online I gazed at the touchstone, not just at its beauty but the ingenuity of our ancestors. What is the equivalent of Touchstones in what we do, whether policy driven or front-line? How do we assay whether our work is 24 Carat or base metal? Too often we see reports on what people have done, how they do it and why, but often no mention of the impact; what has changed as a result?
Applying virtual touchstones to our work at Homeless Network Scotland has helped identify what works and what matters, while measuring the quality of the outcomes for people. We produce regular Impact reports capturing activity and outcomes and everyone can introduce Touchstones into their work triggered by changes in performance, complaints, a ceiling on evictions for example leading to quick assessments and effective action.
Touchstones at higher levels, front line, long term, and short-term can assay and illuminate our work and help us keep on a true north. Lessons from a visit back in time 1000 years, and an exhibition we should all see to help put recent events into perspective.