Our Values and Approach



Learning summarises our entire approach to the work. We believe everyone is engaged in a constant process of learning, and that such a process is fundamental to wellbeing – it is through learning about ourselves and others that we are able to make space for change. However, this is not teacher-student learning, which can create passivity and take knowledge out of its real-world context. Instead, learning rests on people being able to engage with the complex reality of their worlds, worlds only they have access to. Whilst learning is supported with concepts and knowledge frames, it is most fundamentally experiential. This creates ownership and engagement and sets up the course for action as problem solving becomes focussed on lived realities.

Other people can support in that learning process, but only as learners themselves. They need to be willing and capable of learning from the complex reality of another’s world, whilst meeting this with an awareness of their own feelings, assumptions, and meaning-making. This allows them to be alongside someone, mutual learners rather than imposers of knowledge.

The learning frame of mind is an open one that means we are always open to the multitudes of people rather than fitting them into any pre–conceived notions. It allows us to engage with difference rather than fear it, expanding our own horizons through that encounter.

It also means we can be open about mistakes – a learner is not tied to the expectation of expertise, and is more inclined to accept and build on their mistakes rather than hide or dismiss them. Real learning requires such failure, as it provides fertile ground for real growth.

We recognise that this mindset is far from easy. Our brain’s are built to limit the energy we expend, and it is far easier to revert to our pre-existing picture of the world. We often have such pictures reinforced by our environments and our habits. As such, learning can be loaded with discomfort, like struggling with shoes that no longer fit. We try to create spaces that allow us to move through this struggle safely.


Doing refers to the vital fact that this process is active – to be active in the world, we need to be doers. It is only through experience that we discover our own potential and that of the world.

Doing is also pragmatic – where we can do something, we will. Many people have told us how this is often not the case in the services they interact with due to rules, bureaucracy, or tightly–defined practice. We want to support people to take advantage of opportunity in all its diversity – if that means changing a lightbulb, attending a karate group, or a spontaneous singalong in the middle of a meeting, we do what we can to let it happen.

However, doing can be far more subtle, such as being quietly present with someone in silence, or in seeing the need to step back and allow another to fill the space. These both require learning and decision-making, but the result is not more activity but less. ’Doing’ is a process of learning as much as it is an action.

At Likewise, we aim to be the scaffolding for our clients’ and our communities’ doing, providing the space to explore the experiences that might be stepping stones to new ways of being in the world. We do not expect this doing to always feel good – working through discomfort, difficulty, and the sometimes painful process of realising what doesn’t work is a vital component of growth.


These kind of changes are most possible in the context of a community that values you for who you are, as you are, rather than a sense of what you could or should be. When you are valued as you are, risk, change, and failure become safer – regardless of struggle or mistake, you remain valued and loved. This safety means these difficulties are not things to be afraid or ashamed of, and so can be springboards for change. Acceptance and belonging are the bedrock of learning and doing, allowing each of us to make the most of any opportunities or challenges that come our way.

A fundamental feature of belonging and acceptance is in recognising our shared humanity. As people, we all make mistakes and lose sight of what really matters; we all feel sad, angry, scared or judgemental; we all need connection; we can all find life difficult; we can all feel like we are not good enough; we all want joy and laughter, Creating a sense of belonging requires us to recognise and celebrate these features of our lives – they are what make us human, and not something to hide from.


We are all deeply connected through complex webs of relationships. In one sense, this is a wonderful advantage – the more supportive connections we have to individuals and communities, the more likely we are to be supported when the inevitable changes of life make things difficult for us. In return, as we become more emotionally intelligent or more open, we will be able to provide a similar space for the hundreds of others we meet over the course of their lives. On the other side of the coin, we might have an individual or a space that allows us to be ourselves for just a few hours a week – for the rest of their week, our identity and sense of self is at the whim of very different kinds of experiences which may not allow us to feel comfortable in our skin or value us for who we are.

Interdependence is thus a fundamental principle that encourages Likewise to look not just at individuals, but at their context and relationships; to think not just about our own mission, but of ways to influence and change the system that we exist in; and to recognise that our own goals are intimately tied to those of our community. It allows us to recognise that the real causes of and solutions to our personal and social problems lie at both the individual and the systemic level – to maximise impact, we have to be aware of both.


From these principles we derive our organisational practices. There are many of these that support the work we do – below are some of the most important.

Relationship First, Outcomes Follow

Through a relationship, we begin where people are in order to help them on their way to where they would like to go. This has several advantages. Firstly, focussing on the relationship means we are flexible to the outcomes meaningful to each individual or group – rather than being hung up on achieving specific goals, we are given the space to get to know each other, understand each others’ worlds, and from there recognise which outcomes might be the most practical or the most useful. It allows us to give the diversity of needs and wants time, space, and equal value, landing in a place that makes sense and is owned by everyone involved.

Secondly, it minimises the sense of failure and damage to confidence and self-worth if goals are not achieved. It might be disappointing to miss goals, but within the context of a broader relationship they weigh less heavy: the value of people is within the relationship and not based purely on achievement. The relationship is the scaffolding to allow for these ebbs and flows so that people maintain their value and sense of belonging regardless.

Finally, such relationships are both tools to change and inherently valuable. Every one of us is more likely to engage with something if we connect with the people involved – good relationships feel good! They allows to bring ourselves to the space, and so not trip up on expectations of what we think we should be. Instead, these relationships give us the permission to be vulnerable, honest, and open. Good relationships are the pipelines of change, allowing each of us to be ourselves and connect with others so that we can all be more than the sum of our parts.

Naming the Elephant

It is very common at the level of individuals, communities, and systems for fundamental problems to go unnamed – we fear upset, conflict, and retribution. To encourage transparency and to avoid avoidance, we ‘name the elephant’ and call things out as they are. This might focus on naming our own feelings and how they are playing our in our decision-making, talking about client behaviours that might be causing them problems, or pointing out funder dynamics that limit the possibility for honesty. Importantly, we do this in a way that is relational, light, and normalising – the aim is not to make people feel bad but to support a safe look at what is really going on. We want to open these things up together rather than politely ignore them.

Lowering the Tide

This is a concept that makes clear the limitations of the ‘I’ we present to each other – an ‘I’ often formed around the task-at-hand. If the task is to fix a problem, we often present a picture of surety and power; if the task is to receive help, we often present our neediness and incapacity. In both cases, our larger potential is neglected. Consciously considering what lies beneath the surface allows for a more curious approach – asking, ‘what else is here?’ rather than getting drawn into a narrative – and therefore helps uncover the strengths, capacities, and real humanity of a person. In doing this, ‘lowering the tide’ helps us recognise the commonality between us and others and discourages us from being blinded by roles, presentations, and tasks.

Everyone is a Client

Staff and volunteers develop real emotional intelligence working with Likewise, and are able to form excellent relationships with the people we support. What is forgotten, though, is that exactly the same skills needed in those relationships – honesty, learning mentality, interdependent thinking, and acceptance – are the skills that support best decision-making in all aspects of life. Colleagues need and want acceptance; commissioners have complex and busy lives that need to be understood fully in order for productive work; line managers have their own emotional histories that will be played out in meetings. Seeing everyone through the same lens in which we see the client work enables for the same results in all aspects of working life: acceptance, learning, and resulting action that is more likely to lead to the kind of impact we want.

Do No Harm

Many services and charities have an unconscious ethos of ‘we do good.’ Whilst admirable, it can be othering, placing someone as a recipient of beneficence for which they should be grateful: dissatisfaction with the service or failure to ‘get better’ is thus their problem, not ours. It forgets that support services are always interlopers – their very existence is due to the fact that something has gone wrong.

Emphasising ‘do no harm’ encourages us to avoid complacency in our own inherent value and always recognise that whilst we want to be good at what we do, we would much rather that what we do wasn’t necessary. ‘Do no harm’ encourages us to relinquish self-importance and maintain awareness that it is possible for services to have negative impact. It aims to neutralise the service, placing it as a broker for change rather than an imposing force, and recognises the full realities of a person and their need for support.

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