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Step by step - reflections on the youth sector data standard, v 1.1


Back in April, Ed, our Director of Practice Development, marked the launch of the first version of the youth sector data standard  by referring to the old joke about asking directions and being told that “you don’t want to start from here”.  We have now moved on - from here to there - and can present the results of our second survey, building on and expanding that first version.   

The key difference this time around is that we gave respondents the option of identifying their organisations. This is a significant step, as it allows us to much more accurately assess how representative the responses are of the sector as a whole. More than 80% of respondents chose to identify themselves. This is far higher than we anticipated: we are enormously thankful to all those who have given their time to complete the surveys and trusted us with their information.

We have taken great care to separate out all identifiable data from the other responses: an anonymised dataset can be found here and an analysis of the data with charts here.

Like a traveller on a well-worn path, some of the results from the second survey were anticipated. Organisations, despite having far fewer staff and volunteers to work with were shaping a more online, remote offer. The challenges of dealing with the anxieties and mental health issues as well as basic needs of young people and their families in the context of a new, socially distant world with uncertain finances have been expressed before, for example, in our “Just One Question” series of surveys. The alarming reduction in numbers of young people with access to provision continued to present itself – in both cases only roughly 15% of organisations have mostly re-engaged with their pre-pandemic number of young people. Although this road is well known, without a doubt, it still makes for a difficult journey.

The next step forward we wanted to take with this version was to be able to comment on change over time. Ideally, we would need to know how different or similar the organisations who shared responses with us were across the two surveys, to make sure that the differences don’t simply reflect differences in composition of our respondents. As we intentionally made the first survey anonymous, to encourage as many respondents as possible, our approach was to compare subgroups within the surveys who shared similar characteristics – the largest of these subgroups being charitable or social enterprise organisations working at a local scale. 

Within this subgroup a similar pattern emerged as with comparing all organisations.  We compared the results of the two surveys and found that the overall picture was still that characterised by ongoing loss of staff, loss of volunteer capacity and constrained ability to re-engage with previously engaged young people.

However, there was an indication in the post lockdown survey that the financial outlook for these small organisations may be improving slightly. For example, the proportion of organisations reporting high risk to their reserves dropped from 29% to 15%.

These steps towards comparing change over time are tentative: the question remains whether we were looking at the responses of two different sets of organisations or a partial mix of those who completed the first survey. In order to be more sure-footed, we need to be able to ensure we are comparing like with like.

Encouraged by the large majority of respondents being willing to trust us to hold their identifiable data securely, in our next iteration we are therefore intending to repeat the request that organisations identify themselves. By sharing your organisation’s name, as well as your charity or company registration number, we can offer you and your peers much more insight. Your organisation can contribute to a bigger, more accurate map, and you will be able to compare your experience with others like you. Our promise and commitment to you is to store your identifiable data securely, and share all of your data in an easily available and understandable form.

We look forward to updating you with our progress on this journey, and the route to our destination continues to become more clear with each step.