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11 March 2015

Learning how we can better articulate how our diverse offer fits together

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Nothing in life is simple. And when you work for a charity that is both a membership organisation and a direct delivery one (to say nothing of the myriad of programmes and projects we undertake or the two residential centres we run), describing what you do is certainly not simple. It’s a challenge I have faced since I joined as Programmes Director.

One’s ability to synthesise information coherently is one of Howard Gardner’s five minds for the future – cognitive capabilities that will be needed by the leaders of tomorrow. I guess some people have this, or work hard at developing it, but for me the clarity has come through our work on understanding our impact.

Back in 2013 we started a learning journey to understand the impact our work has on young people. And because the most important people to understand this were the youth workers and staff themselves, we let them lead the process. They stated their programme goals, defined their outcomes, interventions and assumptions and used these to create and measure against theories of change. Close to two years in we are proud of what we have learned (and achieved) and fruits of this labour are detailed in our organisation’s first Learning Report. But a nice, and somewhat unexpected, consequence of this work has been the clarity it has given me, and others, in describing our work.

Letting the staff who deliver our programmes define the outcomes they thought their work achieved, started to show the nucleus of an answer to something we had been thinking about since Hunch. In Hunch we said that good youth work works; that structured activities, delivered in places that young people choose to go, with adults they trust, can lead to great outcomes for young people. And surprisingly for us, whether it was our Sports Development programme, Getting Ready, our youth action work via Athan 31, or supporting young people into construction careers though Build-it, our colleagues all thought that above all we supported young people to deliver confidence, resilience and relationship skills.

We know it is early days and we don’t have all the answers – but part of what is exciting about this work is that we now have something we can discuss with our member clubs, and we are committed to working with them to help them understand how they can show the value of the great work they do with young people.

In the meantime, whatever programmes we deliver with and through our members, we can now say with some assurance that they lead to an increase in young people’s confidence, their resilience and their relationship skills which in turn will help them grow up healthy, active in their communities and help them to go on and lead fulfilling careers. For something so big that feels pretty simple.