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, Leon Mexter from Youth Focus: North East expands on his positively received Establishing a National Youth Trust blog and includes further details such as who could be involved and what the National Youth Trust might do.
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-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 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 nine English regions. The Big Lottery’s national Talent Match programme has 50% of decision making being undertaken by young people. Why not our National Youth Trust?
And 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?
There are clear benefits to developing a National Youth Trust. It provides better co-ordination of our work across the country, there is a single point of entry to the youth sector, provides a robust collective voice to inform the development of youth policy, brings coherence to the national picture and places young people at the core of its work.
This is my starter for ten.
I see its fundamental elements to be:
Young People – are at the heart of a new way of working. Nine young people’s places would be made on the National Youth Trust governance group, working alongside professionals. Two young people from each of the nine English regions would be sought, operating via a ‘buddy system’ to ensure there is a wider pool of young people able to influence the debate and developments. Each region would have one voting place on the governance group, but both young people from each region could attend, depending on the logistics and costs. Support to the young people could be provided by the British Youth Council and the Network of Regional Youth Work Units.
Governance group – as outlined above, there would be nine voting places for young people on the National Youth Trust governance group alongside nine representatives from organisations whose mission is to support young people. I see membership being drawn from national organisations such as NCVYS, NYA, Ambition, UK Youth, Step up to Serve, The NCS Trust, Youth United, the British Youth Council and significant regional youth organisations such as Regional Youth Work Units and London Youth. Ensuring that there are strong links to national youth policy, a co-opted place on the governance group would be offered to a representative from Cabinet Office. The governance structure would ensure that 50% of decision-making for the National Youth Trust was in the hands of young people.
Themed groups – would be in place to develop the key areas for our sector. These groups would be co-ordinated by the organisation with the best fit for each theme. A starter for ten would see the following areas being developed: workforce development (ETS group), evidence and impact (Centre for Youth Impact), regional networks (Network of Regional Youth Work Units), development of youth work (Institute of Youth Work), uniformed groups (Youth United) and young people’s voice (British Youth Council).
Frequency and co-ordination of meetings – National Youth Trust meetings would be held on a quarterly basis, moving around venues across the country. The co-ordination role would be held on a rota basis by the member organisations, switching on a six-monthly basis. Regional meetings and sessions, convened by member organisations prior to Trust meetings, would enable a wider constituency of local and regional organisations to have the opportunity to inform the National Youth Trust.
Annual standing conference – would enable organisations to reflect on the work and impact of the National Youth Trust and to inform its future direction. Standing conferences for young people and for professionals might run alongside each other.
There are a variety of ways that a National Youth Trust might be developed. The suggestions above are offered to stimulate debate and hopefully kick-start a process that enables all organisations that support young people to work in a more effective way at a time when the need to do so has never been greater.
Leon Mexter, Youth Focus: North East