Guest Blog – Roy Peach, Kennington Youth Club Leader

Who doesn’t love a Top 10 list?

If one pops up on Facebook I’m usually the first to see how my life can be enhanced, or not as is often the case. Type into a certain search engine today ‘Top Ten Tips’ it presumes I want to know how I can improve my life through upcycling, governors, and the grand national. Not all at once I hope. I’d like to point out this has nothing to do with what I search for in between dealing with our partner’s enquiries! Apparently, Top 10 lists are out of fashion anyway. Odd numbers are in!

As I’m always going on about my own youth club in the office – heck, why not? It’s a useful reference point – I was challenged to create my list of Essentials for Running a Youth Club. You don’t have to agree with mine, but humour me, as you may find a little nugget in here that’s handy.

 

1. Don’t run before you can walk

Whether you are a new group just setting up or established and wanting to start out on a new project, it can be tempting to go from nothing to wanting to throw open the doors, unfurl the banners, have a big marching band and scream from the rooftops ‘hey, we’re here’, but there are a lot of things that need to be considered. Who will have keys? How do the alarms work? Is there heating? Lighting? Tables? Chairs? Toilet roll? Make a list of what you want and need for it to be successful.

If you’re up and running but had that sudden spark of an amazing idea like opening another evening, lowering the ceiling, or installing a petting zoo, remember that none of these are any good if you’ve not fully thought things through. Get your ideas, make lists, and quadruple check them before progressing.

‘It takes real planning to organise this kind of chaos’ – Mel Odom

 

2. Policies and Procedures

Don’t start hating me for using those words. It’s vital you have the relevant policies and procedures in place before you start. In fact, things will change and need adjusting and amending as you progress. In fact, you should be looking at revisiting and reviewing these practices annually to ensure best practice. Take it as fact that if you don’t have policies and procedures in place you’re leaving yourself wide open to all manner of issues and problems.

‘But where do we go for help?’, I hear you cry. ‘Never fear, OY is here’ as they swoop down with their cloak of support, offering templates and advice. Remember though, whilst these documents are useful, they are only templates. It’s not enough to open the document, print, and sign. They need to be adopted and agreed upon. What works at one club may not work at another. If you’re sat there thinking you’re sorted because you’ve got a Constitution, think again. Codes of conduct, Health and Safety policy, Safeguarding policy, Data Protection policy, Complaints and Grievances policy, Fire Evacuation procedures, Recruitment policy, and these are just a few. The joys of completing this paperwork cannot be comprehended! It’s a must though.

‘Paperwork wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for all the paper. And work.’ – Darynda Jones

 

3. Power of the Committee

Never underestimate the power of a good committee. These can be hard to come by. Why? Mainly because when you ask somebody to be Chair they think immediately of the time their manager asked them to sit in a three hour meeting which could have been done in one whilst they spoke in monotone and they realised they actually enjoyed the brick pattern in the wall behind them.

But you need them. You need Officers for two very good reasons. Firstly, they can bring a wealth of expertise even though they’ll do that thing of saying ‘who me?’ and secondly, having a committee in place allows you to focus on dealing with your young people and less on the business side of things. The best way to recruit adults is by being personable and approachable. Throw yourself out there with an ‘I need Volunteers’, you’ll scare them off with that ginormous capital V. Better to identify the skills required for a particular role and find people with those skills. Of course, if you’re really not sure how to recruit, you contact Oxfordshire Youth and they’ll run their Recruitment workshop for you. And if you’re running a committee meeting, keep them short. Send reports and documents out in advance so meetings and actions are swift. I enjoy meetings less than an hour. The fastest AGM I’ve been at? 21 minutes. Beat that!

‘I don’t know who you are, but I will look you up on Facebook, and I will find you, and I will recruit you’ – said nobody from the film Taken

 

4. Tech is your friend

It’s the modern way of doing things. You might not like the beasts of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, nor the idea of everything being on email but it’s the way the world works now so you need to be on it if you want to have any impact. How it’s used depends on your IT policy and Safeguarding policy (see point 2 above), but being able to share photos, videos, and information quickly is vital to a forward-thinking group. You could be as crazy as we are at my group and do Facebook LIVE videos every so often. Parents love to engage, especially if it means not stepping foot inside the building, although it can be a good starting point for getting them across the threshold too. Not tech savvy? Turn to your local library or even recruit somebody to support you. ‘You don’t know anything about setting up a website do you? You do? Amazing! I don’t even need you to turn up and mingle with the youngsters. Deal done. Thanks!’

I changed my computer password to ‘incorrect’. That way, if I ever forget it, it will always tell me ‘your password is incorrect’.

 

5. No I in Team

The old adage stands true. This doesn’t just relate to the committee. You need to make sure you have the right amount of adults in place so that you can actually open. This depends fully on what you are doing, but the general rule is 1:8 or 1:10. Personally I like to run with one extra as it means you’ve a spare body in case of any issues. Remember what I said about asking for Volunteers? Don’t. Find a friendlier word. Helper is quaint, and be specific. Do you really need a Secretary who has to give up all of her time or can you be creative and get a Minutes Secretary and a Membership Secretary? Less commitment makes life easier.

Don’t forget you’ll need to consider those DBS forms and Safeguarding training as well as ensuring you always have a minimum of two first aiders present at each session. If you want a happy team, get the adults on board. Email them the programme at the start of term, plus the week before to remind them what they’re doing. Ensure they arrive 15 minutes before you open the doors for briefing and can raise any issues. Let them feed into the debrief too. Don’t forget the thank you either. It doesn’t cost anything but means so much, especially if the evening’s been stressful.

‘Teamwork is less me and more we.’

 

6. Plan for Fun

Known as organised chaos, you need to plan something, anything, for your young people. OK, have Open Access nights with things like table tennis, pool, and darts out, but throw in pancakes around Shrove Tuesday, Easter Egg decorating, Christmas cards, or even a Christmas meal; either cooked in the hall if facilities allow (life skills being learnt) or a meal in town can be a great experience. On the Christmas meal front, it’s amazing how accommodating Pizza Hut can be when you arrive with 20 young people – just contact them in advance.

You don’t have to have minute detail with programme planning and have something on every week, but craft, worksheets, basic cooking, or simple life skills and activities can be great to share and open up discussions allowing you to truly understand and appreciate your young people and their abilities.

‘If you don’t do a lot of stupid things when you’re young, you’ll have nothing to talk about when you’re old.’

 

7. Equipped and ready for action

Perhaps you haven’t currently got the funds or space for lots of fancy equipment but you’ll want something available, even if it’s a grab bag of soft balls and bean bags. Other stuff? You’d be surprised but that thing of ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get’ is true. We’ve been fortunate to have been gifted board games, dart boards, and even XBoxes. People will happily put things to charity but if you ask, invariably they’ll deliver. Don’t just ask for ‘stuff the kids will enjoy’. Be specific, otherwise you’ll end up going to the rubbish tip yourself with everybody’s odds and ends.

On the equipment front, don’t forget the essentials such as First Aid kits. Get someone to be in charge of restocking them. Hark, there’s another job for a helper. Other things to consider are wobbly table legs and screws loose from a pool table or door handle. These are small things but get overlooked.

‘I have come to the conclusion that buying craft supplies and actually using them are two different hobbies.’

 

8. Youth Led

Whatever you’re doing it should be youth led. If you open a youth provision as some ageing person in town has said that the local yoof are a nuisance because they’re not obeying the ‘only two in the shop at a time’ rule, you’re doing it for the wrong reason. Why are you doing this? What is the benefit to the young people? What will they get out of it?

Once you’ve got these questions in mind, no matter their age, it’s time to think about how they can run the provision. OK, you need the adults, but let the young people plan the activities, do the attendance register, or run the tuck. Sign them up if they’re old enough for Oxfordshire Youth’s Young Leader’s scheme, get them to vote in a Youth Ambassador who sits on the committee meetings, and remember, if you’re advertising to get them through the door, connect in the right way. That thing about using social media? That’s a good start.

‘You have brains in your head, feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself, any direction you choose’ – Dr Seuss

 

9. Run a rainbow!

Random final one but makes sense. Think of a rainbow here in several different ways. Run a group that accepts everyone for who they are, have posters up to make the place bright and exciting, but also informative. Contact NSPCC for their poster pack. It’s a great resource and you never know who’ll need it. If you can paint the walls, do. You don’t have to go all out stereotypical graffiti art, just bright and exciting colours helps. Paint doesn’t need to be expensive either. There are lots of recycling schemes and Wilko’s isn’t badly priced.

On the rainbow front, think of the atmosphere you want to create. Do you want a space where the young people just come in and ‘do’ or do you want a shared space where young people can learn, grow, have fun, engage, inspire each other, share skills, ideas, and ultimately feel welcome? If your adult team stand in a corner of the room with arms folded, then it’s time to mix things up. No matter what your age, you can be young or young at heart and getting involved as much as you can will help you get out just as much as the young people.

Friends are like rainbows. Always there to cheer you up after the storm.’

 

So there we are. My suggestions. Hope you liked them. Anything sparked your imagination? Do you have any other essentials or tips? Email Oxfordshire Youth on members@oxfordshireyouth.org, share on their Facebook page, and if you’re stuck for guidance, check out the members area of the website or give them a call. Oh, and if you fancy linking in with us at Kennington, I’m always happy to share ideas, meet up, or welcome you to our club. I don’t profess that we’re the best, but then it’s not a competition this youth work business. It would be great to hear from you. Feel free to email me on youthclubkennington@gmail.com or visit our website www.kenningtonyouthclub.com