Prevista, in partnership with our strategic partner GRIT, created a unique opportunity for young Londoners (aged 15-18) on our Youth provision programmes via an initiative called the Youth Congress.
Both Prevista and GRIT, through their 40 years’ experience of working with disadvantaged Londoners, realised that both organisations needed to ‘raise the bar’ and support an innovative programme which would both challenge and bring the best out of young people.
It was recognised that young people are unfairly labelled both in their communities and by the very programmes that professes to support them with disempowering labels. These young people have all experienced varying disadvantages, isolation and disconnection, and have challenges in their life which had prevented them from fulfilling their potential. However, in our experience these young people all have potential, energy, creativity and passion.
Prevista and GRIT saw the need for a paradigm shift in the collective way which youth services saw and supported young people. We felt that they should focus on what was really needed which was resilience. Resilience is required to shed a victim mindset and adopting a powerful one, where every day is full of opportunities and choices for the young person to become the person they want to be.
Prevista and GRIT’s partnership went beyond just supporting a few young people onto a programme, but was in fact a call to action which was started by the collective network these organisations had. Prevista’s Youth Provision Supply Chain Partners and stakeholders joined together to offer financial contributions, resources and manpower to kick start the programme.
Their mission was this:
To create opportunities where young people become the driver of their own lives, and not victims of their circumstances. That their voices shape the opportunities for themselves and their peers.
What we did
From January to July 2017 under the banner of the Youth Congress initiative, we engaged over 175 young people through focus groups across London which were facilitated by a number of stakeholders including our Supply Chain Partners who were delivering provision to over 6000 young people.
In those groups we had conversations around the issues that they faced in their communities, and what were the things they would change if they could:
- Some spoke of the challenges and constant threat of crime and gang culture where sometimes the only protection was join a gang or carry weapon;
- Some spoke about the motivation and what attracted their peers to crime;
- Some spoke of the need for education reform and questioned the current usefulness of education in preparing them for the world and opportunities of tomorrow;
- Some spoke of media representation, stereotyping in the language of the entertainment industry;
- Some spoke of voting reform and their perception of those in politics;
- Some spoke of predatory behaviour they have seen and experience from both peers and adults;
- Some spoke of solutions to these problems and what they would do to change things;
We ran an experiential event facilitated by one of our Supply Chain Partners Eammon Madden and Louise Hiller from Inspirational Youth, who led presentations on gamification. leadership, team playing, communication skills. The purpose of the event was to facilitate cultural shift from the world of education to that of business, with young people cultivating the concept of taking charge of their educational experience and skills through working on projects that could lead to the desired careers; The event was supported by Alex Denvir from Hammerson, one of our local contributors on the DWP Youth Engagement Fund programme from the Croydon Partnership.
The next stage of the Youth Congress involved inviting selected young people to participate in a six day Residential coaching exercise in Yorkshire. As part of the selection process for the Residential we created an orientation exercise where the young person would find out more about the programme and decide whether or not they would like to participate. They identified personal goals they wanted to work on for nine months including; finding a job, improving relationships with parents, building self-confidence, dealing with anger and other emotions. The young people attended a ‘pre-course’ workshop where they met each other and the volunteers who would be supporting them for the first time.
The residential was a rollercoaster of emotions for many of the young people who engaged in challenging conversations, designed to have them take a ‘no kidding’ look at themselves. They were brave and courageous in opening up about the things that had happened to them, about mistakes they had made and how they wanted to move forward. As the days progressed they began to share more of themselves and work with the volunteers who were there to support them. On day 5 of 6 the young people were matched with their ‘Committed Partner’, a life coach, who would work with them for the next 9 months. Young people and coaches alike were reminded that powerful coaching starts with willingness and a commitment, and that whilst there will be times over the next 9 months when likes and dislikes will impede their progress, what matters most is the commitment to keep working through it together.
When the young people went back to the communities that is when the hard work really began as the only thing that has changed at this point is the young person themselves. They had a Committed Partner and the wider Youth Congress community who were ready and willing to support them towards their goals.
The Follow through
Every month the young people met as part of a community with their coaches to reinforce their commitment and share their progress at one of the Youth Congress sponsor site: Newham Training and Education Centre (NEWTEC), whose Chief Executive, Pat Edwards, not only offered the use of the centre for the entire duration of the programme but was also was a Residential and follow through coach himself for one of the young people.
The young people were supported by their life coaches on a weekly basis to remind them of their commitment to their choice. Each month had a theme that reinforced their learning, through listening to key note speakers and were engaged through a variety of opportunities that were available including Frontier Trainings, an international training company, that is a world leader in experiential learning and provides training in public speaking. Other young people accessed a record studio which Shabaz Ferozdin from one of our Supply Chain Partners, Groundwork, facilitated to make music recordings and more.
Some of the young people were inspired to make a difference in their community and their peers pitched to a panel of judges for a grant (sponsored by Prevista) to fund their projects which they will seek to deliver in the coming months.
Sometimes ‘Impact’ is not always quantifiable. But it should be noted that there is a legacy in the choice that these young people have made. A choice to come together to deliver a message that young people care and that each young person matters.
The Youth Congress was sponsored and supported by a wide community of training providers, local businesses, Local Authorities (including Waltham Forest, Croydon, Newham) which ran 14 days of training and development IN which the following participated:
- 25 Project and operational managers;
- 30 Youth Service practitioners;
- 63 volunteers (including those who went in on the residential and committed partnership)
Prevista employed two apprentices on creative media apprenticeships Eli Martin-Green and Bria-Olivia Salmon who captured and documented the Youth Congress journey. Below is a short film showcasing this journey the transformation of the young people involved for you to watch and enjoy.
What is next?
What started as a strategic plan between Prevista and GRIT has now evolved to include many local stakeholders and organisations who are passionate in improving the lives of young Londoners. Prevista and GRIT have both made a commitment to invest in another Youth Congress, due to be held in Autumn 2018. If you or your organisation are interested in joining this growing community of organisations, please contact our Managing Director James Clements Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org