A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
In this week’s blog, Youth Focus: North East Chief Executive, Leon Mexter, looks at different leadership models in the youth sector and states the case for a National Youth Trust.
We all know that things are changing. Today’s youth sector is very different from the one that needed to be ‘transformed’ back in 2001. At a local level, the constitution and direction of youth service delivery has been through some seismic changes. The traditional boundaries between professions and sectors have become blurred and redefined. We are now working in a world where scarce resources have forced us all to think differently. The establishment of local Youth Trusts, Young People’s Foundations, and Youth Mutuals shine a light on the changing nature of local service delivery to young people.
These new structures are not only affecting the direction of service delivery but also providing a strategic framework for leadership and collaboration. Although still embryonic, these new structures are already beginning to create a degree of coherence to local delivery, bringing together partners from across different sectors in a collective response to the needs of local young people.
A number of themes are beginning to emerge from the different models. For example, terms such as coherence, collaboration, co-production, or leadership are beginning to be defined by local partners, including young people. Some of the strongest models are those that have the direct involvement of young people in both the development and governance of the new model. These issues have not been addressed without struggle and debate. The models addressing these key themes are still in their early days of demonstrating impact, but they are beginning to make a positive contribution.
So if this is happening at a local level, can the model be applied at a national level? Could we look at a new structure that brings together the different elements of services to young people in a coherent and collaborative approach? A new structure which offers leadership both within and from the sector – leadership which creates transformative policy that produces outcomes. I believe most parties would welcome a new structure that brings some congruity to the sector nationally. So, why don’t we establish a National Youth Trust?
A National Youth Trust could bring some logic and consistency to the national youth sector, without compromising the independence of individual organisations. Many of the emerging local models are multi-agency, multi-partner initiatives which have individual independence enshrined within the structure; in a number of examples, the new structure is actually governed, as well as delivered, by the partners. The establishment of a National Youth Trust creates a whole, which is greater than the simple sum of the parts. A new national structure offers the opportunity for strategic coherence, clear leadership, and a single point of entry into our sector.
The work of the trust could be themed – workforce development, evidence and impact, regional networks, local youth services, young people’s participation, supply chain development, and each partner can bring their expertise in these areas. The governance of the Trust would be made up of regional and national representatives, as well as young people from each of the 10 English regions. The Big Lottery’s Talent Match programme has 50% decision making being undertaken by young people. Why not our National Youth Trust?
The structure need not be top-heavy, or expensive. Each member organisation could offer time to support the core functions. A central team would need to be appointed, but this could be achieved largely through secondments. Membership and chairing of the governance group could be done on a rotational basis. Each theme group could be headed up by the organisation that has the clearest remit in a given area and greatest expertise. The costs could be very low, if all members were willing to cooperate and collaborate. This would not seem unreasonable if the mission of the National Youth Trust is to improve the lives of young people in England – surely something we all subscribe to?
So why don’t we explore the idea? There is little to lose, and a great deal to gain. To gain greater cohesion, collaboration, and leadership at a national level must be the ambition of the whole sector. I propose the establishing of a representative group to explore the concept of a National youth Trust. Any seconders?
Leon Mexter, Youth Focus: North East