We live in such a fast changing world, one where many of the things we took for granted just five years ago have changed beyond recognition. We are seeing many diverse responses to this change among young people, from those who are abandoning mainstream media and traditional values, to those who are embracing a hyper-connected world and all the complexities it entails. The issues affecting young people are ever changing and the support from youth organisations needs to adapt to remain relevant, innovative yet sustainable.
In this changing environment, collaborative working is vital and at UK Youth we feel very strongly that it must extend beyond talk to involve tangible public actions built on trust. Not because we need to share funding, or to meet government or public expectations, but because we all share a common purpose that requires massive collective effort.
At UK Youth our delivery model is based on this kind of partnership – with young people, with vibrant and diverse youth organisations across the country, with employers who hire young people, with government in support of the next generation, and with communities working to strengthen society. We aim to be a connector, bringing these stakeholders together and partnering with them to identify what young people need, what works and what doesn’t, and how we can apply best practice on a national scale.
With this model, we’re able to identify the on-the-ground needs of young people, co-create and co-deliver initiatives that are relevant and effective. One example is our flagship financial education programme Money for Life, which inspires 16-25 year olds to make the most of their money. It was created after feedback from our network highlighted that many young people were struggling to read a pay slip, understand online banking, or manage benefits and loans, and youth workers lacked sufficient financial confidence themselves to offer support. In response we co-created a flexible multi-channel programme supported by Lloyds Banking Group as part of its ambition to help Britain prosper. Young people are involved in everything, from content creation, website and app design, to training methodology and promotional campaigns. Taking a co-creation approach has ensured the programme meets needs that have been explicitly expressed by young people and uses approaches and tools they actually use, leading to high participation in local training sessions, good take up of the money saving app, and successful social media campaigns like #ThriftyShades.
In our experience, working together benefits all those involved. Young people develop their life skills in the process, become more motivated and expand their social networks; youth workers and volunteers thrive in an increasingly gratifying work environment that is more in tune with young people’s expectations; and communities profit from stronger mutual support systems.
While the issues affecting young people and youth services continue to change, we need to acknowledge that we’re in fact doing more with less and address the current landscape together. We need each other, because two heads are better than one, and a whole sector is better than a single organisation. If we are honest about our organisational strengths and weaknesses, identifying where we can add value and where we can’t; we will ensure young people get the best outcomes.
UK Youth is one of nine youth organisations partnering to deliver Creative Collisions 2017.