How collaboration could save your service and what you should do about it
We all know that this is a challenging time to deliver services to young people. We have less money (£260 million has been lost to youth services in Oxfordshire alone); less people (3660 youth work jobs were lost between 2012 and 2016 nationally); and less physical spaces (600 youth work centres have been lost nationally). Despite this, young people need us as much now as ever before. More on this can be found in our Impact Report.
So it is clear that the only way we can survive is by working together. Collaboration could save your service for these key reasons:
1. Capacity sharing – do more with more
You may be the best detached youth work organisation that has ever existed, but are you experienced careers counsellors? Are you experts in LGBT related mental health challenges? Do you know all there is to know about meeting the needs of people with physical disabilities or additional learning needs? Could you confidently explore different financial services that might help a young person navigate tax and national insurance problems? Well guess what…by working with others you could do more for the benefit of more young people!
2. Young people accessing joined up services
Wouldn’t it be great if young people knew that by reaching out to you they were going to get support and advice from the right people? Young people (like all of us) can get sick and tired of having to constantly meet new professionals and spend time and energy going over the same stuff seemingly getting nowhere. By working in partnership with other organisations we can alleviate that stress and look for opportunities for young people to get the best support available.
But also, if you are well connected you are better placed to help a young person find an opportunity that really speaks to them – as budding artists or musicians, or carpenters, or motorbike engineers, or exploring new places through volunteering overseas, or taking up yoga, or doing their coaching qualification to coach a girls football team….and so on…..and so on…. If you know what’s out there and have good relationships with other organisations your young people could change their lives.
3. Be more attractive to funders
The big one. Funders like to maximise the impact and reach of their money. That is fact. One of the best ways to demonstrate that you will be able to do this is to commit yourself to working in partnership with others to deliver a joined up service to young people. Collaborative bids sound scary but I promise you, you will be more attractive to funders by working with others. The Big Lottery Community Fund Thames Valley Manager told us this at the Annual Conference in February. It’s not rocket science and with good working relationships, creative collaborative bids are the way forward.
What should you do about it?
Get yourself out there! Seek out opportunities to meet people that you could collaborate with. And importantly, try not to just go with the obvious. So if you want to help some young people manage money better, why not try approaching some accountants, or local bank branches to see if they could help. If your young people are keen to try break-dancing why not reach out to some local dance instructors and see if they can help. Do you know that young people in your area are struggling to find suitable housing? Perhaps there are homeless charities that have specialist case workers that could go in on a collaborative bid to offer that support?
Put yourself about at networking events and forums. Oxfordshire Youth has two principle opportunities for this: the Annual Youth Work Conference on the 9th November, and the Children and Young People’s Forum. The conference is open to anyone interested in helping young people make the best of their lives. The next meeting of the C&YP Forum is on the 28th November and is for VCS organisations only. Come along and start to build positive relationships.
And finally, offer your knowledge and expertise to others and find reciprocal relationships. People are more likely to want to offer their support to you if they know that you can offer support to them. After all we are all interested in offering young people the opportunity to make the best of their lives.