Last week saw us facilitate our first all-day training for youth practitioners that introduced our ‘Asking Good Questions’ framework for learning, evaluation and continuous improvement. It was an incredibly positive day for us, as we saw the group of over 40 youth practitioners and evaluators really engage with each of our six ‘good questions’, prompting thoughtful reflection, challenge and debate. More than anything, we were heartened by the level of energy with which participants spoke to each other, in pairs and in groups. At points we had complaints from the group next door about the noise!
There is of course a lot of rich feedback for us to take from the day, to absorb, reflect on and incorporate into improving both the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of the training and support we offer. This was the first outing for the content, which has taken us a long time to frame, test and refine. Over the coming weeks we’ll be working on that within the team, and doing our best to ‘think in public’ as we iterate and refine our approach. For now, I wanted to share three initial reflections I took from the day:
1. It’s about time
At a few points in the day we asked the group to respond to some questions via an online poll. The answers to the question below felt revealing. Rather than prioritising more resources, they indicate that there’s an appetite for youth organisations to be encouraged and enabled to focus on adopting a consistent set of approaches, and, crucially, to be able to invest the time they need to use them well.
For us, this involves teams of youth practitioners regularly collecting the information that is most relevant to understanding their work, and having the time to reflect, together, about what they can do to make it (even) better.
2. Change is hard…
A truism, but it bears repeating. We know that every youth organisation we work with is trying to navigate their way through competing pressures on their time and resources: trying to support practitioners to focus on the young people they work with, as well as meeting the various reporting requirements of their funding… understanding that building a collective evidence base would be great, but also wanting to protect what feels unique about how they do what they do… feeling exhausted by the prospect of bringing in ‘another new thing’.
…but it’s happening.
The responses below bear all of this out - and yet, we also saw in the energy and engagement of this group that there is a demand for change.
We think the contribution we can make is to both support and challenge youth organisations – collectively - through this process, over the long term. This includes helping them connect and learn from each other, because…
3. …Community matters.
At the end of the session we asked the group to note down one thing they would start, stop, continue and change from now on. The responses were thoughtful and encouraging – for example, start ‘making more time for reflection’, stop ‘collecting data if it doesn't tell us anything’, continue ‘networking and learning from other organisations’, change ‘how we ask for feedback from young people’.
These responses suggest that our approach resonated for the people in the room, and that there was a resolve to ‘take it back’ to their colleagues. We also know that, in practice, building and maintaining momentum for learning across a team can be a lonely business. The encouragement, solidarity and practical advice that groups like this can give each other is invaluable. We’re committed to providing more opportunities for practitioners to come together and draw energy and inspiration from each other in this way.
On which note - tickets for this day sold out really quickly, and we subsequently had lots of requests from others who wanted to join us. So, we’ll be doing it again – in the first instance, at our offices in Hackney, in January. If you’re interested in taking part in this training, or you would like to talk to us about running a training session in your area - just fill in this short form.
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