Creative Organisational Response to the Problem of Homelessness

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Organisational creativity exemplifies a new and rising research area within the field of organisational behaviour (Shalley & Zhou, 2007). Organisational Creativity refers to "a process creativity can involve continuously finding and solving problems and implementing new solutions" (Basadur, 2004; Basadur, Graen & Green, 1982 as cited in Shalley & Zhou, 2007 p 4). Hence we shall use the above definition of creativity in dealing with an intractable social problem of 'Homelessness' which has weekended the roots of our society. Koestler (1964, cited in Shalley and Zhou, 2007) emphasised the value of ability to recognise new information and to use it in problem solving. Therefore, further we aim to study the profound causes of homelessness and will seek to offer some significant solutions.

PART A

CHALLENGES INVOLVED IN APPROACHING THE PROBLEM

CREATIVELY

CONTRAST BETWEEN HOME AND HOMELESSNESS:

Home is a wide concept which substantiates several ideas which relate to various aspects including comfort, identity, emotions, security, etc (Somerville, 1992). On the other hand, in contrast to home, "Homelessness is a condition of detachment from society characterized by the absence or attenuation of the affinitive bonds that link settled persons to a network of interconnected social structures" (Glasser, 1994, p 3 suggested by Bahr, Caplow and Sternberg, 1968, p 494). Homelessness is a highly "ambiguous" and "intangible phenomenon" (Neale, 1997).

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From the above definitions we can conclude that homelessness has been personified as a highly complex issue which is not restricted in any sense and hence has many different realities to it. The issue of homelessness is just not confined to "houselessness" (Cooper, 1995) but it has diverse prospects.

Furthermore, inculcating in mind that we have to deal with the widespread social problem of homelessness with a creative approach we as a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) in the United Kingdom (UK) endlessly aim to provide the basic services to the homeless people. There are several reasons behind people being homeless hence we as an NGO endeavour to cater the needs of all categories of homeless people without any kind of discrimination. It can include young boys and girls, old aged people, disabled people, males and females. Not only this but we also plan to appoint some highly qualified Psychologists and Councillors who can improve the mental state of such people and advice them for a better living. However, by extension we shall discuss the nature of homelessness.

NATURE OF THE PROBLEM OF HOMELESSNESS

The number of homeless people estimated worldwide is known to be between 100 million and 1 billion (UNCHS, 1996 as cited in Speak & Tipple, 2005). Homelessness has widely been accepted as a social problem which not only is confined to individual but the society as a whole. By Law of Nature every person is born equal then why shall some lead a luxurious life and the others suffer?

Our study has found out that due to homelessness immigration takes place at a high rate. UK soaks up 17% of the asylum seekers (Doherty, Edgar & Meert, 2004). This proves that the homeless people are in such a miserable condition that they are compelled to even migrate from their own country.

CAUSES OF HOMELESSNESS:

The causes of homelessness are visible as well as invisible and they comprise familial conflict, drug addiction and problem of alcoholism among youth, including homeless people who do not have a house since birth, old age homelessness where old people are compelled to abandon their houses and live in old age homes. This is a pitiable condition and heart breaking to see people ill-treating their old aged parents especially when they need them the most.

The most likely causes of homelessness in Britain relate to a series of key processes like (Cloke et al., p 24):

'Loss of job, leading to rent or mortgage arrears'

'Crisis, involving relationships breakdown, domestic violence'

'Release from care, like from armed forces'

'Benefit traps, especially involving teenagers and asylum seekers'

'Shortage of affordable, secure rented housing'

For or many years in the UK the studies placed emphasis on structural causes of "single homelessness' (Drake et al., 1982 as cited in Burrows & Qulgars, 1997) The same kind of debate never existed in relation to homeless families in UK who were victims of similar circumstances (Glastonbury, 1971 as cited in Burrows & Qulgars, 1997). Such biased situations have all the more increased the problem of homelessness.

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CREATIVE ORGANISATIONAL RESPONSE TOWARDS THE PROBLEM OF HOMELESSNESS, WORKING OF MANAGERS AND OBSTACLES THAT MIGHT HINDER THE PROGRESS OF THE WORKING

STAGES IN GROUP WORK:

As a group of members working together for the issues related to homelessness made our task more difficult. To work creatively on such topic, certain conflicts aroused with different problems, which made our process more challenging. Different factors obstructed our way while approaching creatively to solve the problem of homelessness. We followed seven steps to work successfully in a group, as mentioned by Kurland (1982 as cited in Mink & Oven, 1987). These are (1) need (2) purpose (3) composition (4) structure (5) content (6) pre-group contact and (7) agency context. These areas are not only a check-list, but also represent themselves as a part of key elements of thinking dynamically and creatively. These steps are explained as:

Need-

There are different types of homeless people with different needs. Forming a group for them involves identification of common need for same kind of homeless people and arranging their needs together. Groups should be formed which identify the basic necessities like food, protection, etc.

Purpose-

Purpose can be defined as the second basic requirement of identical people and identifying their needs of any kind is the purpose of the group. This will enhance self-efficiency and motivate the homeless people.

Composition-

Decision regarding who is included as a member of a group, number of members who will form the group, whether the group is open or closed, will basically depends on the nature, characteristics and potential of the group members. Homeless people may require more attention, care and affection from the members in order to actively participate in the group.

Structure-

The homeless people need a patterned and well-devised structure in order to organize their lives and hence in order to supply them with such a structure, even our group should be cohesively knitted and should a balance its timings and goals to be achieved.

Content-

All the homeless people respond most readily to flexible, consistent and persistent involvements from workers. It requires active creative approach of the workers to encourage a homeless person to give air to their grievances.

Pre-group Context-

The origin of the group members is another important aspect. Different homeless people come from different backgrounds and it is difficult to adjust with each of them easily until the group members get along with them.

Agency context-

Agency refers to a place where the group members work together in order to help the homeless people. Emphasis should be laid on the nature and type of agency, its work preferences to achieve success.

EXPERIENCE OF WORKING IN A GROUP:

While working as a group of managers for an organisation, it was not so easy to follow these steps and convince every member to work in agreement. As managers, we also have to care about the interests of homeless people; and how best can we solve their problems. There are certain conditions on which group creativity is defined and without following those conditions, it is not easy to produce group creativity. Anderson and King (1990) listed some points to attain group success while working creatively to solve a problem. These are 'leadership, cohesiveness, group longevity and innovation.' Anderson and King further assert, that the probability of creative outcomes may be highest when leadership is democratic and collaborative, structure is organic rather than mechanistic, and groups are composed of individuals drawn from diverse fields or functional backgrounds. Group cohesiveness and longevity represent group characteristics whose relationship with creativity, though seemingly important, is problematic. Furthermore, some evidence suggests that there prevails a curvilinear relationship between group cohesiveness and creative performance (Nystrom, 1979)

ADOPTION OF VARIOUS TECHNIQUES IN DEALING WITH THE PROBLEM:

Firstly, we adopted the group problem solving technique of Brainstorming which is used in almost all the organization. Brainstorming is a technique in which all the participating members are made free from negative feedback, so that they can think freely on the topic and can come up with new, different and innovative ideas and their explanations. Certain rules are followed to apply brainstorming technique, which are (Mink & Owen, 1987, p 216):

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'The problem is stated and the group is expected to provide various solutions'

'All the participating members are asked to express their thoughts and they are noted down so that everyone else can see them.'

'Neither of the solutions is evaluated when it is stated. Critical evaluation is postponed and the main target is to promote high interaction'

'Ideas are not necessary to be serious; they can be fancy, humorous and wild so that a mixture of emotions can give a new dimension to the process of problem solving.'

'Adding new ideas is encouraged and welcomed'

DRAWBACKS AND PROBLEMS OF A GROUP WORK:

Although brainstorming is a good technique, yet it has certain drawbacks. It is found that, not all individuals turn up during the brainstorming session. These sessions can encourage some people to participate enthusiastically so that they can easily speak out their ideas, but some people who are present do not take active part in the discussion because of their hesitant nature. Hackman and Morris (1975) postulated that group performance is reduced due to 'processes, coordination or motivational losses.' Process losses result from errors in task-performance strategies. Coordination and motivational losses can result from poor integration of group members' efforts or from reward systems that reinforce inappropriate behaviour. On the other hand, motivational gains can occur from social facilitation or production pressure coming from other member (Griffin, Sawyer & Woodman, 1993).

As brainstorming does not result in active participation of all the members, therefore we follow some different techniques in our organisation, which are not 'worn and tired' and help us to work efficiently towards the problem of homelessness creatively. Hence, our problem solving group can be made more effective by imparting training to all the group members about problem solving skills (Bottger & Yetton, 1987). In fact, it appears that increased achievement on creativity tasks by interacting groups over nominal groups is due to the groups' ability to assign more weight to responses of the most able persons (Bottger & Yetton, 1982). Hence with training members become more efficient in their respective job and they can be more innovative in their work and therefore can think critically towards a problem and analyse all its prospects logically. In this way, their problem-solving skills are enhanced and the efficacy level increases. Interacting groups composed of persons with above-average problem-solving ability were better able to identify and, thus to give more weight to higher quality solutions than groups composed of persons with below-average ability (Bottger & Yetton, 1983).

Another technique which our group followed to improve their problem-solving skills was Nominal Group Technique (NGT) (Mink & Oven, 1987), which is a highly structured method for giving problem solving alternatives and it gives higher number of group decision outputs. In NGT, each member of the group participates equally and produces better outputs than brainstorming. In this process, all the members are divided in a group and in each group a leader is assigned the task of outlining the steps which have to be followed during the discussion. After exploring the idea and discussing it with the rest of the group each member is given some time to think about the problem raised and is asked to summarise their opinions without indulging in any kind of discussion with the other group members. Now every group member is accessible to an open discussion by giving their own explanations and clarifications and discussion and evaluation can take place on this basis. Each member discusses the pros and cons of all the points in sequence. Everyone in the group silently assigns some rankings to all the points made. On the other hand, the group leader after compiling and observing all the rankings, declares the idea(s) with the highest number of rankings as the group decision (Mink & Oven, 1987)

Apart from these techniques, we made an effort to identify the explicit knowledge of the group members in order to apply it towards the group's objective of solving the problem. Group provides an arena in which all the members work in strict coordination and apply each other's knowledge to enhance their own. This increases their efficacy level and provides a better solution to the problem. This shared knowledge leaves a positive impact on the outcome of the entire process. The role of social information in the work place is now well documented (Griffin 1983; Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978). Social information consists of verbal and non-verbal cues and signals that people provide to others regarding what factors they value in the workplace and how they evaluate those factors in their current situations. In support of the above idea, Social information has been known to have an affect over a number of different individual, perceptual, attitude and behaviour patterns. (Griffin, 1983, Bateman, Griffin, Head & Wayne, 1987). There are some conflicts and arguments which are made regarding the impact of using social information with the creative processes in organizations. For example Bateman, Griffin and Rubinstein (1987) investigated the extent to which different types of tasks were more or less susceptible to the influence of the social information. (Griffin, Sawyer & Woodman, 1993). Also, they deduced that perceptions of unstructured problem solving tasks requires greater amount of creativity as more susceptible to social influence than perceptions of structured tasks which required less creativity.

Group creativity is a collection of creativity of each individual functioning in the group. Group creativity is influenced by the formation of the group (such as diversity), characteristics and functions of the group (group size) and all the processes and procedures followed in the group (such as problem-solving skills, social information in our group) and the influences we got from our organisation.

There are mainly two types of groups in an organisation, namely formal and informal groups. In most of the creative studies made by researchers, they have considered formal groups only, but we have chosen informal group pattern. In our informal group, same process occurred as those in informal group. There may be an argument that all the individuals may excel in generating new ideas within an organization and may affect directly on the creativity of the organization. Although, there is a support to the argument but individuals functions better within informal groups. That is the only reason why we have taken informal group pattern instead of formal group pattern. It is hard for an individual to work in a complicated social system without realising the value of working in informal groups but our groups made great efforts to solve this problem.

OUR POSITIVE APPROACH:

On the whole, creativity as a process helped us in opening up numerous possibilities and led us to contributing to our project in a completely innovative manner. With numerous ideas flowing in regarding the issue of homelessness, we had to understand the fact that certain problems and issues can easily be dealt with if individual creativity is taken into consideration. After completing this assignment, we as a group have learnt that even though thinking and bring out concepts was uncomplicated task, the selection and the implementation of those ideas was exhausting. We also learnt that participation and confidence are duly required when trying to work creatively. This is because there are certain concepts and ideas which are dull yet correct for the case and bringing those ideas out into the group requires a certain amount of self-belief.

Another factor about creativity is that many people need to discover their creative skills in order to bring out the innovator in them. Normally individuals would not prefer taking an initiative towards anything related to creativity. This is why positive reinforcement and suspension of critical judgement is required.

We as a group aim to establish 'homes' for homeless people by supplying them not only with the basic requirements of life but also providing a happy and a comfortable environment. We would organise plays, campaigns, rallies which would play a great role in waking up the people and will surely motivate them to contribute to the cause of homeless people. We will follow are logo and promote the cause, Homelessness is not a congenital disease, it is inflicted by 'we', the people and hence we shall make efforts to eradicate it from the root.

PART B

DEALING WITH CREATIVITY AS A GROUP AND PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED:

Working together in a group requires a greater degree of convergence in which every member of the group must share his thoughts independently. To adopt a creative approach for our group towards this problem was very necessary because we, as an NGO, were working for the improvement of homeless people and it was not possible for us to work with old traditional methods. A new thinking and new creative approach was the demand of the condition and it was required to think critically towards the problem. Group discussion means that all the members of the group participate equally and come up with several ideas on which the whole group can narrow down to bring a new, different, creative and brilliant idea. The task involved a lot of home work to be done by whole group and in response to this task we did some research on the topic so that each member could gather adequate information about the topic so that we could have appropriate data. We followed Brain mapping technique in our group, such that each member could generate new creative ideas as much as possible. Brain mapping technique allows participation from the individuals who may feel shy to put their ideas in front of the group members. In this way we ensured active participation of all the group members.

Group discussion leads to the group creativity as it is the common term of agreement of all the members. In our case, we found it very difficult to work creatively because there were certain conflicts on the topic and sometimes we were not in a position to make an appropriate decision on the topic of the discussion. Also, creative work requires engagement of all the members as a group, which is another major difficult task. According to the principles of our group, unless we have a detailed discussion session on the topic, we cannot come up with a distinct creative work. It is not easy to have a detailed discussion every time because all the members are engaged in different activities and to get a common time for discussion was the major problem. In order to adopt a creative approach for this assignment, we as a group tried to penetrate into the mindset of a homeless person and read numerous case studies on homelessness which helped us to reach the depth of the problem. Viewing numerous videos of people living in shelters helped us in attaining an overview of this social problem.

After completing this assignment, we as a group have learnt that even though deep thinking can bring out concepts which are simple in nature but the selection and the implementation of those ideas was exhausting. We also learnt that participation and confidence are duly required while working creatively. While working creatively many issues came our way; the cultural diversities and different backgrounds posed a great problem. Since we were from different cultures we certainly had different opinions for each other's concepts and approaches. There was also a communication barrier, which was an obstacle since English was the second language of the whole group. But the bottom line is we enjoyed working creatively and now we know the literal meaning of being creative.

LEARNING AND KNOWLEDGE GAINED AS AN INDIVIDUAL WHILE WORKING CREATIVELY:

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Every human being has his own style of working and has the tendency to follow it. But when an individual works uniquely, the work done by him is said to be Creative. So Creativity is defined as the work which an individual does apart from his routine actions, which involves new and different approach towards the work and the way in which the work is done.

Before the starting of this programme, I was not aware of my ability to think creatively. Individually, I realized that if I expand my limits of thinking and look at the problem differently, my mind itself would produce innovative and creative thoughts. These thoughts are not only helpful at the workplace, but also help in building one's self confidence.

While working creatively on this task, many things came in between which helped me focus on the task and improve it, but some things made the task extremely difficult. Many things learned during the course not only helped me in gaining only ideas but also suggested how to get the best work done. Individually, brain-mapping helped me a lot to get different creative and innovative ideas. I came to know that possessing knowledge is not the only tool to get the best out from self, rather if an individual can manage to apply his possessed knowledge in proper direction then he can easily generate some new creative ideas with best solutions for his task. Attending workshops (especially with guest members) helped a lot in developing a creative approach and the activities performed during workshops gave first hand practical knowledge, which turned out to be major support while working on this assignment creatively. These activities also helped in bringing out the hidden talents, which were not realized by me before these workshops. Working in a group was also very helpful, as discussions on the topic always generated new place for the improvements. Somehow, managing time and coordinating with the group appeared a hindrance in my process to work creatively. As group discussion was very important part of this task and to get a perfect time slot for discussion appeared as the main problem.

Throughout the assignment I realized that I possessed creative ideas before also, but was not able to recognise them. My ability to realize my creative and innovative thoughts developed during this program and I found out how to use my knowledge in a proper direction and how to execute it successfully, not only in the assignment but also in day-to-day life. New and different approaches are the basic requirements to work innovatively and creativity teaches how to use resources efficiently, and while completing this assignment, I realized that I have developed this creative approach in me. It gave edge to my thinking skills and also taught me how to work creatively as a part of a team, which seemed to be difficult before this task.

MY ABILITY TO BE CREATIVE AS AN INDIVIDUAL:

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An individual's ability to think that he can be creative is creativity in itself. Creativity has no established definition; anything we do with the use of our own ideas is termed as creative. Therefore, creativity is a term coined by people themselves. For instance, I am talking of creativity right now so all these thoughts which I am writing down are highly creative. While working on this problem of homelessness as a group, I came across a different "me". I started discovering my concealed art of being creative. While doing the research I observed that I had the ability to structure the information with immense creativeness, I could offer various ideas to the approach of the subject as a whole, I could follow the organised pattern of the assigned topic, I had the potential to pick up the most appropriate information and utilise it in a creative way. I noticed that I was capable enough to categorise my way of working under Walla's (1926, as cited in Shalley & Zhou, 2007) model of the creative thought process which identifies four stages- Preparation, Incubation, Illumination and Verification. I followed these steps and proved out to be highly creative.

CONTRIBUTIONS AND OBSTRUCTIONS IN THE WAY OF MY POTENTIAL FOR CREATIVITY:

The task of working as a group was not an easy one. We were working in a group of three and the most important thing which was required was that we had to manage the meeting time and work in the most coordinated and disciplined manner possible. But this whole idea was a big obstruction in my working as an individual because firstly we faced schedule conflicts and secondly, our cultural backgrounds varied which at a point led to chaos but was helpful in the end as we worked on the basis of each other's knowledge taking advantage of different educational backgrounds and proved out to be creative. Problems are meant to hinder our ways but the winners are those who show a back to the problem and make their way through and so did I. I tried to act as optimistic as possible and kept up my patience which helped me endure the toughest times. I also read great number of articles based on creativity which helped me a lot and contributed to the task as a whole.

MY RELATION WITH CREATIVITY AND THE IMBIBED KNOWLEDGE:

After working on this assignment I can relate myself with the creative process to a great extent. I started discovering my art of being creative from the time when we had magnificent sessions in the creativity lectures which assisted me in finding my talent. Especially the brainstorming sessions, the cafe workshops, the intense knowledge shared by our special guests helped me a lot as I actively participated in them and hence they increased my self-confidence and boosted my morale. Creativity as a process taught me the program of creative stimulation called 'synectics' (Gordon, 1961 as cited in Shalley & Zhou, 2007) which follows on two principles - make the familiar strange and make the strange familiar. Initially I was not familiar with my creative ability but now that strange concept has become extremely with me.

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After completing this assignment, I have learnt that even though I knew what being creative was, Ii have realized that almost every activity in my daily life consists of at least a minimum level of this process. In other terms, creativity is not limited to being used in just an organisation or on art. It is used in almost every aspect of life even though it is hard to recognize. Also, this assignment enabled me to "discover" my creative side. I found out that apparently I am able to think very creatively while I am doing other creative activities such as playing a guitar or even cooking. I also realized that my organising skills could be used to carry out tasks in a creative manner. Also, I discovered that Ii needed to work on two important factors, namely time management and focus on tasks. After doing comprehensive research and also cutting out the distractions by studying in the library, the creative ideas started flowing. Working in a group in the activity sessions, which took place in the weekly lecture, helped me in attaining numerous creative thoughts related to the assignment and also provided me the necessary motivation.

The high level of cooperation and support from my group members was one of the main drivers that helped me in being creative. New ideas given by each individual was taken into serious consideration and there was no negative or critical assessment being done in the group. Even though there were some ideas which were of minimum or of no use at all, everyone in the group pushed each other to contribute more and more ideas, which lead to strong sense of motivation. Also, since all members of the group belonged to different cultures, the pool of our ideas was rich in diversity. Certain members of the group bought up ideas using cultural perspectives, which enhanced the quality of ideas. This motivated me in brainstorming, using my cultural background and hence generating potential ideas.

The second driver would be the social problem of homelessness itself. Being bought up in a third world country and in a subcontinent which suffers from homeless that is widespread because of wars, famines and natural disasters; I felt motivated in trying to find out creative solutions of the problem.

In my opinion, the process of creativity has no boundaries or limits. It can be used in every situation at any given place or time. It can also be said that creativity can be used when trying to look at things from a different perspective. This assignment has made me realize that the process of creativity is not at all complicated. I have also learnt that virtually everyone in this world is creative, the only issue being that most of us have not "discovered" it yet.

CONCLUSION:

Loneliness is a stressful experience and damages one's emotional, physical and spiritual well being (Cacioppo and Ernst, 1999 as cited in Rokach, 2005). We as a group of members in an NGO tried to study the problem of homelessness and were deeply touched. We just prayed if there could be some miracle and this social problem could be finished from the roots. On the other hand, working in group proved out to be of great help. We learned the importance of a structure while working, the process of planning and most importantly a disciplined way of working in coordination. The assignment helped us in enhancing our negotiating skills, communication skills and even our team-work skills.

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