Sustainable work and the future of public services: A conversation about creative criminal justice with charity Only Connect

SIX has moved office! At the end of October 2016, we relocated from Somerset House to Cubitt Street, five minutes walk from Kings Cross. We are now sharing our office with creative criminal justice charity, Only Connect. We spoke with OC’s executive director Mat Ilic to find out a little more about their work.

What does OC aim to do?

OC is London’s creative criminal justice charity and we exist to enable Londoners, with experience of the criminal justice system, to live fulfilling, harm-free lives.

How successful has OC been in achieving its aims?  

If you take last year as a snapshot, we recruited around 300 people from prisons into our membership and around 1 in 6 of them got into sustainable work. One of our fundamental principals is to build relationships with people who historically have not had the best opportunities in life. Although the conditions are really hard in the external environment, we take a lot of pride in what we do.

How do you measure impact?

Our principal means of measuring impact is through what we call REPS, which stands for reach, engage, progress and sustain. This is our overarching architecture for measuring how we are working across the population of our client group. Although it’s not perfect, it’s something that allows us to look at things universally across our different and varying programmes.

Which big questions keep you up at night? 

Similarly to most or all charity leaders, I only ever really worry about people and money. People in terms of firstly, my colleagues, secondly volunteers and of course our members, as we call them. I think a huge amount about their welfare, wellbeing and whether they’re best resourced to do what they need to do collectively. In terms of money, I think about this in all of its forms. For instance, when it’s coming in, how it’s coming in, what the expectations are for that particular sum of money coming in, and how long term and sustainable it is.

What is your vision for the future of criminal justice? 

Frankly, it’s the same as what I hope all public services will become, which is more human. I’d like to see all public services built around the expectations of individuals and communities. They would be locally accountable, so that they’re not in some sort of distant bureaucracy in central government. Additionally, public services should genuinely unlock capacity, rather than constantly run around, trying to delete problems; so they build on people’s strengths. I believe they also need to open up networks of volunteers, and bring additional resources into the system.  

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us.