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From ‘addiction’ to understanding – the radical new approach behind Foundation for Change

Special Interest Programme / Partner story

Photo by: Adriana Geo on Unsplash

“A lot of people are carrying shame that’s not theirs to carry,” says Bob Bharij, chief executive of Foundation for Change, a UK charity that is radically rethinking traditional approaches to addiction recovery.  

Today, many people don’t have the space to understand the root causes of their substance use. Instead, they can end up in a demoralising cycle of failure and relapse, with undeserved but pervasive feelings of shame and helplessness. In addition, resources in the UK are under increasing pressure to support people facing addiction issues, and aftercare services are often the first to suffer cuts.

This is where Foundation for Change, a not-for-profit organisation that supports people to reframe their problems by understanding their root causes, comes in. “People need to feel that those working alongside them believe they have the capacity to learn and make changes in their lives,” says Bob. “It’s important for people to zoom out to understand their lives within the context of the social inequalities that have shaped them.”

To this end, the Foundation’s courses all start with a change in perspective. This includes examining a range of societal inequalities, including class, sex, race, and power imbalances. Instead of feeling like they’re being talked at or down to, course participants are met as equals and walk alongside the people supporting them.

“It’s creating a space where people are invited to explore their life experiences, make their own decisions, and trust what feels right for them,” says Jayne Bullough, head of learning and programme development. “Our response is to address power imbalances, not replicate them – and people can feel the difference.”

It’s a view shared by course participant Charlie, who now volunteers in the training and data support department. “I was able to destigmatise my view of myself, so it didn’t matter really what was expected of me,” he says. “I knew I could find the meaning and inner strength just to be me.”

And it’s not just within the courses that this difference is felt. Since 2014, the foundation’s practice-based approach has welcomed 393 people onto courses, with an average completion rate of 74 per cent. Within a year of completing the courses, 81 per cent of people Foundation for Change works with start education or training, and 67 per cent start meaningful volunteering roles or paid work. 

Watch the video below to learn more about the organisation’s work:

This grant falls under Oak Foundation’s Special Interest Programme, which covers a wide range of fields, including environment, health, humanitarian relief, education, and the arts. You can find out more about the programme and its strategy by clicking here. Foundation for Change is an independent, London-based charity that was founded in 2014. It harnesses the transformative power of learning to enable people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction to create better futures for themselves and others. Visit its website here.