It’s always good to challenge yourself, but perhaps I’m being too adventurous?

I’ve been with Oxfordshire Youth for a year now, so no doubt you’ve heard my name already, but three months ago, due to staffing developments, my role changed and now, as Member Support Coordinator, I’m heavily involved in supporting our member organisations where they need it.

Of course, being somebody with drive, what started off as a simple task, quickly ballooned into ‘how many of our 100 members can I visit?’ I suppose the bonus is I’ve not given myself a time limit so that really helps, but I’m doing quite well.

Why would I even subject myself to this though? It takes a lot of time when you cover a county as large as Oxfordshire, doesn’t it? Well, yes, but that’s why it’s exciting. We have youth work taking place in the heart of Oxford, but also in outlying villages and it is great to see what youth work looks like where you are, what the needs are of your area and meet you in your spaces.

As a youth leader of a club that is also a member of Oxfordshire Youth, I can appreciate that it can sometimes be difficult to contact us ‘after hours’ or attend some of our training and networking events, but I’m hoping that by coming to you, I can work creatively with your team to overcome these barriers and help tailor the support to your need. What is key to remember is that my visit is not an Ofsted type thing. You know your area, you know your young people so it’s not up to me to tell you to do it differently, but to explore with you how we can keep your provision exciting and engaging whilst also continuing to develop.

The three months I’ve been doing this have been busy but exciting. I’ve been able to touch base with long-standing members and new ones, including some of our performing arts groups such as Gobo Theatre Foundation, who are doing great things, as well as Rose Hill who seem to serve virtually all of their community.

In the South, Chalgrove Youth Club, Chinnor Youth Club, Club SC, Watlington Youth Club, and Woodcote Youth Club are starting to work together as a partnership, which allows ideas to develop and spaces to be shared. Club SC have just completed and submitted their Ambition First Steps Quality Mark portfolio and Watlington aren’t far behind.

Other groups who are making great progress with their Accreditation include FAAAZE in Faringdon, Yellow Submarine in Oxford city, Leafield Youth Club, and Long Hanborough Youth Club.

What these visits have done is allow me to not only see where individual groups need support and what we can do about this, but answer questions outside of office hours and then, on my return, get the relevant staff to make contact. This has resulted in more activity bookings, greater interest in the Young Leaders Programme scheme and groups beginning to be more empowered in terms of DBS, procedures and policy development.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working alongside other agencies locally to see how we can develop intergenerational work locally, and there are some exciting conversations taking place already which could not only benefit older people and younger people but  communities as a whole.

The eagle-eyed reader will notice that I’ve not made it 100 clubs, but hey, it’s quality not quantity, as they say, and I feel that we’ve made some great progress these past few months.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with you all and am looking forward to the many visits that I already have booked in for 2019. Have a peaceful Christmas break. You so deserve it!