21 March 2014

Friday 21 March 2014

At London Youth, we work closely with our members to support them to be effective organisations. We do this because we all want to deliver great outcomes for young people. So, in the interests of practising what we preach, I wanted to share a story from inside London Youth about our efforts to be better as an organisation.

I'm a member of London Youth’s Leadership Team. I’m proud to say this as we’re only a few months old.

We’re an eclectic group. Many of you will know the staff who deliver our programmes for young people in London – Zoe our Head of Sports, Natasha our Head of Youth Action, Steph who runs Talent Match and James who runs Build-it; and you’ll have come across Esther and Gary who look after Membership Development through training courses or the London Youth Quality Mark.

Then there’s Tony and Martin who run our residential centresHindleap Warren and Woodrow High House. Less high profile but equally important behind the scenes are some not so familiar faces – Vanessa on People and Planning and Information, Dimitrios on Learning, Brian on Finance, Christine on Safety and Safeguarding and Shiv who’s our Head of Comms; I’m also in this last bit, I do fundraising.

Leadership Team now comes together monthly to catch up. We’ve also given ourselves a shiny new mission statement to keep us on task:

·         Bridging strategy and reality – supporting our Directors in the Senior Team to develop strategy and making sure the learning of delivery teams feeds into this

·         A united team, uniting teams – making sure we’re aware of others things London Youth are doing beyond our immediate roles

·         Bringing our organisational principles to life; and these are honesty, collaboration and being committed to continuous improvement

Prior to going away on a residential together last October, we didn’t have a clear identity or a sense of common purpose. We did meet regularly, but this was only to receive information from our Senior Team to pass on. Communication outside of these meetings was ad hoc, and we were if we’re honest, too focused on our individual areas of delivery.

One of the reasons we decided to do a residential together was that this is something we encourage young people from our member clubs to experience at Hindleap and Woodrow, and something we build into our new programmes when we’re working with our members to design them. We think residentials bond groups of people together – young or old, giving them the opportunity to find out more about each other and share experiences together that wouldn’t otherwise happen in every day life. We’re not encouraging young people to drink as much wine as we did, but sitting round a table getting to know each other and collectively committing to an adventure away from your everyday context is important.    

Five months on from our resi we’re still finding our way as a newly named and newly invigorated team. We have to find the balance between passionately suggesting improvements to our Senior Team and giving them the space to make decisions on strategy; and, we now struggle to condense everything we want to talk about into our half day get together.

But, as we were discussing on Wednesday, young people’s needs are evolving every day, and we sincerely hope and believe that changes we’ve made to our group at the heart of the organisation, will help us to be even better at supporting and challenging young people to be the best they can be. And we can’t encourage others to make their organisations even better if we haven’t done it ourselves.

Thanks to Ian Lawson from Cass Centre for Charity Effectiveness for facilitating our residential. Follow us on Twitter @Shiv_angee @zoemellis @dtourountsis @esther_thom @quietfundraiser @therealstephl @natashadf @englandsriviera