Just one question
Just One Question is a weekly survey designed to understand and amplify the experiences and priorities of those working with young people in the UK.
Every week, we post just one question for youth practitioners, taking less than 30 seconds to respond.
In partnership with UK Youth, we’ve launched a three month pilot project on #JustOneQuestion, the weekly survey amplifying the voices of youth practitioners in the UK today.
The survey is an unrivalled opportunity to directly receive feedback from those working with young people at grassroots level, with weekly questions selected from a wide range of topics such as evaluation needs, training obstacles, funding/delivery barriers, experience of work and provision quality. This platform allows users to register and receive immediate feedback on how others have responded, as well as a follow-up ‘final score’ via email once the survey has closed, and reminders to complete each weekly survey.
How do I get involved?
Each week, a new question will go live at 16:00 every Wednesday, and stay open until 13:00 the following Tuesday. We’d like questions to be suggested by peers and partners – this is very much a collaborative effort in order to highlight your priorities and experiences as practitioners. If you have a question that you would like to pose to your colleagues, please email your suggestions to us as at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week's question:
How much time do you have each week to access new ideas through reading, podcasts, webinars, etc?
Do you have a staff member/s dedicated to evaluation within your team?
[29/09/21 - 05/10/21]
This week we heard from 63 respondents, who could each select one answer.
Evaluation capacity across the youth sector is very mixed. In our day-to-day work at the Centre, we can work with individuals in a wide range of different roles, each with varying levels of responsibility (and time) for evaluation work. These roles can also be changeable, often fluxing with project and funding cycles. For this week’s survey, we are digging into this a bit further, askeing #justonequestion participants how evaluation resourcing looks within their team/s.
The largest proportion of this week’s respondents (46%) told us that evaluation is shared across the roles of different team members. Those who shared additional comments said:
“We are such a small team we don't have the capacity for a lead. The co-ordinator and the trustees make sure it happens.”
“Each staff member evaluates their own Project.”
“We did have a part-time role who was focussed on this work but now they have left we have decided not to fill the post but have spread it across a number of roles within the team.”
“Evaluation is part of every role but we don't have anyone leading/dedicated to it.”
25% of respondents do have one person whose job it is to focus on evaluation, but this only forms a proportion of their role. One person added:
“It's a very small part of one staff member's role. We find evaluation very difficult to resource properly.”
10% have more than one person dedicated to evaluation, but only 3% have one person for whom evaluation is the main part of their role.
For 16%, there is nobody in their organisation who focuses on evaluation. A few comments built on these responses:
“Everyone has to do a little bit of evaluation to their work programmes, but we don't have a dedicated role for this.”
“Our organisation has one paid staff member who covers everything!”
Do you have more thoughts on this topic? Let us know at email@example.com.
[22/09/21 - 28/09/21]
When did you last read an evaluation or research about youth work?
Thanks to the 66 people who shared a response this week! Participants could select one answer each (plus share any other comments that they wanted to). The majority of this week’s responses came from those who manage projects (36%), senior leaders (32%), and those working directly with young people (23%). 4% are trustees or administrators and 6% are in other roles.
The largest proportion of participants (39%) had read an evaluation or some research about youth work very recently, within the past week. 20% had read something within the past month and slightly more - 24% - had read something within the past six months.
3% had read an evaluation or research within the past year and for 12%, it has been more than a year. One further respondent couldn’t remember!
Responses by role type were fairly similar; 33% of those working directly with young people had read something within the past week, alongside 43% of senior leaders and 42% of those managing projects. All role types were more likely to have read something within the past week or month (60% of those working directly with young people, 62% of senior leaders, 54% of those managing projects.)
We didn’t receive many comments this week - one person noted a specific report that they had read within the past month (the NYA report on young people and rural youth services) and another commented that they felt there is ‘not enough published.’ One person added:
“It's really important to keep abreast of current research to inform practice and to keep learning.”
To round off this series, we’re asking you do you have a staff member/s dedicated to evaluation within your team? Let us know in the usual place.
[15/09/21 - 21/09/21]
Have you ever worked with: Young Evaluators, Young Researchers, Young Inspectors/Assessors, None of the above, All of the above, or Something else?
This week we heard from 74 survey respondents, who could each select as many responses as they liked. 35% of this week’s contributors are senior leaders, 26% manage projects, and 24% work directly with young people. A smaller proportion of respondents are trustees, administrators, or in other roles.
It’s worth remembering that respondents could select multiple answers in this survey; we therefore looked at people’s individual responses when doing this week’s analysis. Based on that, this week’s survey tells us that 55% of respondents have worked with young people in at least one of these roles. 24% have worked with young people in all of these roles and 35% have worked with young people in more than one role.
For those who have worked with young people in only one of these roles, more people have worked with Young Inspectors or Assessors only (9%) or Young Researchers only (9%) than Young Evaluators only (1%).
In the ‘something else’ comments, practitioners told us they have also worked with Youth Councillors, UK Youth MPs, and Young Advisors or a Youth Advisory Board. Several people have also worked with Young Commissioners.
One respondent reflected on the different skills and experiences involved with these different roles, and how there can be crossover between them:
“I work with a youth parliament. I think our members could be considered researchers as they are focussing on three campaigns - three issues that affect young people - through this process they are doing research.”
“Not with this official title, though we get our young people to do this work unofficially!”
One person who selected ‘Young Inspectors/Assessors’ asked:
“Depends upon the content of what the young people were actually involved in?”
These two comments raise some good questions about the types of roles available for young people, and how consistent (and perhaps meaningful) they might be across the sector:
“We've had some wonderful young people play a large role in assessing, advising and researching work done by the charity in an older role.
I think getting more cross sector support on how organisations can start developing these processes would be desirable.”
However, 41% of respondents have never worked with Young Assessors/Inspectors, Young Researchers, or Young Evaluators. In addition, one person who had worked with Young Inspectors or Assessors and Young Researchers noted that they had “only done work with the above 10+ years ago.”
Thanks to all who shared a response this week. If you’d like to share more about your experience of working with and supporting young people in one or more of these roles, do get in touch! We’re really excited to work with the Young Evaluators Panel as part of our #iwill Youth Voice work, where young people will play a key role evaluating the impact of youth voice within the #iwill Fund, and look forward to sharing updates from that as we go on.
In the meantime, let us know what you think about this week’s #justonequestion.
[08/09/21 - 14/09/21]
How optimistic are you feeling about your work with and for young people over the next three months?
This week we heard from 67 respondents who could each select one answer.
As the NYA's Covid-19 guidelines for youth work in England moved to ‘green’ readiness level in early September, young people returned to school and the UK Government issued the COVID-19 Response: Autumn and Winter Plan 2021, we were interested to understand how optimistic youth practitioners and professionals were feeling about their work with and for young people in the next three months.
Overall, over two thirds (76%) of respondents were feeling optimistic about their work with young people in the months ahead. However, there remains a sense of wariness amongst many respondents of the risks and challenges they face.
The largest group of respondents (43%) felt ‘somewhat optimistic’ followed by one in three (33%) who felt ‘very optimistic’. Generally, comments suggests a measured optimism about their work, one respondent commenting:
“… really exciting to get back to what we were doing pre-pandemic, but incorporating lessons from the past 18 months. I feel like we've been lucky to be able to make a big difference and impact to YP who really deserve it in the next 3 months!”
Another echoes similar views:
“Excited about more opportunities opening up, but very nervous about being asked to go back in person before I am feeling comfortable”
A respondent who told us they are ‘somewhat optimistic’ voiced their concerns moving forward:
“It has been great to get back to face to face delivery but because the last 18 months + has been so disrupted I am concerned what staff may have to deal with as we welcome back all of our young people, and also for the staff themselves and their own wellbeing as we get back into the new normal.
Whilst broadly optimistic, there remain a number with uncertainty and concern with just over one in ten feeling ‘somewhat pessimistic’ (9%) and ‘very pessimistic’ (3%). One respondent who told us they are ‘very pessimistic’ stated:
“Working in the Youth homeless sector, rising fuel bills, rising rents, rising food prices and reduction in UC payments to look forward to.”
One person who selected the ‘something else’ option voices their measured concerns about the coming months:
“Still too uncertain to feel optimistic but face-to-face is starting up again, so there is some hope.”
[01/09/21 - 07/09/21]
How confident are you that you have sufficient knowledge about data protection in relation to your work with and for young people?
This week we heard from 60 respondents, who could each select one answer.
Broadly, confidence in data protection is high - with 88% indicating that they feel very (23%) or fairly (65%) confident that they have sufficient knowledge about data protection in relation to their work with and for young people. One person, who indicated fairly high confidence, also added:
“More work to focus and support smaller Bame & faith groups.”
8% are not very confident, and just 2% are not confident at all. One person who told us that they are ‘not very confident’ commented:
“Data protection has always confused me a bit and I take advice from manager if unsure.”
One person, who selected the ‘something else’ option, posed some additional questions:
“Just discussed issues about photo consent and images for films? No definitive agreement amongst us? Also images put on social media sites as opposed to images for posters or flyers and duration of storage of these and reprinting rights?”
The new and comprehensive EU General Data Protection Regulations were introduced in 2018, and are still retained in domestic law in the UK as the ‘UK GDPR’, although organisations within the UK must now comply with the Data Protection Act (2018), which sits alongside the UK GDPR. Whilst the initial updates may have felt like a lot to navigate, organisations and practitioners have now had some time to get used to and adopt the updated expectations for good data protection practice, which is perhaps reflected in this week’s responses. However, there will always be specific scenarios that need careful consideration - especially as we continue through a period of digital provision and new delivery formats. Zoom and other digital platforms present a whole new set of data protection considerations - from sharing content from chats and breakout rooms, to screenshotting online sessions and sharing these on social media.
You can access more information about the current regulations and expectations for data protection on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) website here. There’s also some helpful advice specifically on consent in this digital youth work guide from UK Youth, the National Youth Agency (NYA) and the Mix, and the NYA provides a detailed safeguarding and risk management hub on their website.
[25/08/21 - 31/08/21]
What are the top potential benefits that you see in offering heritage, arts, and cultural opportunities for young people?
We heard from 56 people in response to this week’s survey, each of whom could identify up to three top potential benefits.
The most popular response this week was ‘young people exploring their social, cultural, and community heritage’, with 57% of all respondents selecting this answer. Responses related to identity, belonging, and community cohesion were generally quite popular, with 41% of respondents selecting ‘working with young people to change perceptions and narratives’ and 39% choosing ‘increasing young people's sense of belonging in their communities’. 29% also chose ‘young people exploring cultural diversity & commonalities.’ One comment expanded on this theme:
“I think all the benefits above are desirable, but ticked those I think are most important. [Young people exploring their social, cultural & community heritage; Increasing young people's sense of belonging in their communities; Young people exploring cultural diversity & commonalities.}
I think providing young people with an opportunity to explore their culture & heritage is crucial in creating an inclusive environment. Communities where differences are celebrated and understood are supportive of one another, and enable young people to thrive.
Offering 'cultural capital' opportunities to young people allow[s] them to understand others, build up knowledge of different communities, and empower them to be proud of their own whilst being inclusive of others. "
Responses related to outcomes and positive changes for young people were also popular, with 39% selecting ‘young people developing their artistic & creative aspirations’ and just over a third of participants choosing ‘young people gaining transferable skills or work experience’ (34%). One practitioner shared an example of how a heritage activity had benefited one of the young people that they work with:
“We are part of the Kick the Dust programme run by the Heritage Lottery [Fund] and the main focus was about removing barriers to the heritage world. In fact the participation by young people has done what any positive activity would do and has engaged them, improved self confidence and self esteem. With one young person who was electively home educated because of anxiety and mental health now gaining a place in college to realize his aspiration of working in the heritage industry.”
Another participant also highlighted the potential benefits for organisations and communities, as well as the young people engaging in heritage, arts, or cultural opportunities:
“"Agree with all of the options but two main points. None of the options really mention things like benefits in terms of improving mental health or educational attainment. Secondly all the options are all primarily from the lens of benefits to young people . There is also a different lens that could be used: the potential benefits to heritage, arts and cultural organisations. These benefits would include:
- Widening audience
- Longer term sustainability
- New and diverse creative input
- Discovery of new talent
- Meeting aspirations around wider community benefit
- More engaged volunteers and staff through working with young people
Offering young people opportunities will be [of] benefit [to] young people but can also be transformative for organisations and our cultural life.”
Whilst 30% selected ‘working with young people to tackle participation barriers in arts, culture & heritage’, fewer respondents selected ‘young people engaging as curators & creators’ (11%) and ‘young people engaging as audience members & visitors’ (4%) - although it is not surprising that participants generally favoured more tangible benefits for young people and communities.
Finally, 4% told us something else; predominantly a desire to select all of the responses (and more!)
“All of the above to differing degrees and so much more to each individual child, group, experience and opportunity, to experience life.”
“All of those things!”
Many thanks to all who took part this week. We’ll be reflecting further on these responses further in a session with Kick the Dust participant organisations next week - if you’ve got more thoughts, please don’t hesitate to let us know in the usual place (firstname.lastname@example.org) and stay tuned for this week’s new question!
[19/08/21 - 24/08/21]
Who in your community would you like your youth organisation to collaborate with more, to support your work?
This week we heard from 49 survey respondents, who could each select as many responses as they liked.
59% of respondents would like to do more collaboration with schools. Back in October 2020, when we asked ‘are you/is your organisation collaborating more since the start of the pandemic?’, only 6% of participants reported that they were working more with schools compared to pre-pandemic times - but many commented on the challenges of doing so. Respondents noted how it was becoming ‘increasingly difficult to work with schools due to all the extra stress on schools at the moment’ and how ‘it [was] harder to collaborate with secondary schools as we [we]re in a lockdown area and the local schools [we]re not allowing access to external people.’ One practitioner also shared how they could ‘no longer just pop into school and speak to the SENCO or family liaison.’ Though we are no longer seeing full lockdowns, there are still Covid-19 precautions in place and this is likely to impact how schools can partner and collaborate with others in the community.
53% of respondents would like to do more partnership work with other youth organisations. A large number of participants would also like to work with local businesses, other voluntary sector organisations, and health providers (each 43%), as well as other statutory services (39%) and sports facilities (31%). Back in October 2020, 40% of respondents were already collaborating more with voluntary sector partners, and 13% were also doing more collaboration with health services. Findings from the first data standard and other reports highlighted how many practitioners had led or were involved with emergency response work in the local community (for example, by delivering well-being packs or food parcels) either independently or as part of local Covid-19 hubs, in the earlier stages of the pandemic.
A smaller number of this week’s survey respondents also indicated a desire to partner with police or social services (each 24%) and faith leaders (16%). Several additional comments also highlighted a desire to partner with other organisations or individuals:
"Elected Members, Office of Police and Crime Commissioner, Health Commissioners, MPs, more departments within the County Council, local and national funders."
“Hopefully all of them! We have existing 'multiagency' meetings with most of the organizations mentioned and area management teams from the local authority.”
“Friends of Parks.”
“Running life skills and employability/entrepreneurship projects for young people.”
Finally, one participant felt that collaboration should enable young people to “have a voice with all their community and its groups.”
As is often the case, this week’s survey prompts further questions - for example, as we approach a new term, with no lockdown but with the impact of Covid-19 still very much a reality, will it be easier for youth organisations to partner with schools for youth provision? Has increased collaboration with partners such as voluntary sector partners or health services sustained into 2021, or was this more of a one-off to respond to emergency needs and the immediate pandemic crisis? Are there particular needs that these collaborations would seek to address through partnership approaches?
If you have more thoughts on this topic, or examples of these types of collaboration in practice, please do let us know at email@example.com.
[11/08/21 - 17/08/21]
In what ways is youth voice reflected in your organisation?
Firstly for this week, an apology! We made a mistake with the survey and initially did not allow participants to select more than one response. This was not ideal, given that we had asked you “in what ways is youth voice reflected in your organisation?”
We’re really sorry for those of you who weren’t able to respond properly, and are grateful to the participant who flagged the issue with us after the survey had launched.
Although we fixed the issue, some participants would not have been able to select all of the responses that they wanted (although some did add their additional options by using the ‘something else’ comment box, so we have manually updated the metrics based on these specific responses).
The many comments that we received indicating that people would need to select more than one response, in order to respond to the question properly, do indicate the multiple ways in which youth voice is embedded and prioritised across organisations:
“We would be ticking the all of first 7 boxes here [...] and I am not prepared to select one over another in terms of importance"
“I could have ticked a number of these, young people contribute to decisions about our activities, inform our strategic direction [...] speak at local and regional level, are involved in commissioning other young people's services and are involved in research and evaluation activities...…. so it was difficult to just tick one.”
“"All of the above - apart from international level.”
From a brief look at the metrics, we can see the highest number of responses for ‘young people contribute to decisions about our activities & provision’, followed by ‘young people's ideas inform (elements of) our strategic direction’ and ‘we provide platforms for young people to speak or take action at a local level.’ About a third of respondents noted that ‘young people are involved with research and/or evaluation activities’ and slightly fewer selected ‘young people are involved with our organisation's governance’ and ‘we provide platforms for young people to speak or take action at a national level.’ However, as already noted, a number of participants indicated that they would have liked to select more options, and we cannot be sure which ones they would have chosen.
That said, one person who said that their organisation provides platforms for young people to speak or take action at a local level, that young people’s ideas inform (elements of) their strategic direction, and that young people contribute to decisions about their activities and provision, also said:
“I think it's disappointing that young people in our organisation are not part of the governance. It's something youth workers are trying to push with trustees, who are reluctant.”
Another respondent who said that young people’s ideas inform (elements of) their organisation’s strategic direction said:
“We really should do better!”
We will have another go at this question in a few month’s time, to see where practitioners are at, and will make sure that people can respond properly next time! Thanks to all who participated and shared their thoughts regardless - and we hope to hear from you in the new survey here.
[04/08/2021 - 10/08/2021]
Has your organisation furloughed any staff during the pandemic?
In the UK, the furlough scheme is planned to finish at the end of September. Over this month and next, the Government is also further reducing its contributions to employee furlough payments, with employer contributions rising from 10% to 20% (prior to July 2021, Government had paid the full 80% of furloughed staff’s salaries).
We asked this week’s question to gain a little more insight into what impact these changes might have on youth sector organisations - with 69 participants letting us know the extent to which their organisation had taken part in the furlough scheme.
For almost equal numbers of respondents, furlough is no longer (or never was) a ‘live issue’ - with 39% reporting that their organisation did furlough staff, but that none are currently furloughed, and 38% reporting that they did not need to furlough any staff in the first place.
“We have generally been busier than ever, with additional projects, workload from Covid, etc. and have been 20% more productive.” [Respondent who said ‘No, we didn't need to furlough any staff.’]
“It was something we discussed and agreed with the staff who were furloughed, so they were involved in the decision.” [Respondent who said ‘Yes, but no staff are currently furloughed.’]
“Not all staff were furloughed and not all at once but we needed less staff at once for small group work and less sessions overall so reduced hours for most staff in the second and first lockdowns.” [Respondent who said ‘Yes, but no staff are currently furloughed.’]
One participant, who was not able to be furloughed, highlighted the personal challenges of working through the pandemic and how furlough - should it have been possible - would have proved helpful:
“I wanted to be furloughed as life balance was tricky being a single parent who was home schooling whilst working from home. However, because the organisation is small this was impossible to do. Think it adds a different dimension considering the life implications when the organisation needs to continue functioning (cannot furlough) but staff have difficulties in maintaining and juggling all their 'roles' in life.”
For 14% of respondents, however, there are still some staff that are furloughed at their organisation - with experiences of the scheme being mixed:
“It was great that youth workers were given essential key worker status and that funders were so flexible which meant that the majority of our staff team of 20+ were not furloughed. It was just a couple of roles e.g. music tutor and sports apprentice where we had no choice!”
“Volunteers were used to backfill a lot of this work (and weren't always made aware this was the case!)”
7% told us that their organisation was not eligible for the furlough scheme, for example those based at local authorities or with a workforce made up entirely of volunteers, and 1% didn’t know.
How does this compare with other data about the impact of Covid-19 on youth (and other) organisations?
The numbers of youth organisations who had or still have furloughed staff is broadly consistent with previous data. For example, research by UK Youth (based on survey responses from 1,759 youth organisations in late November 2020) found that 34% of organisations had, at that point, taken part in the furlough scheme. This report found that organisations that were least likely to participate in the furlough scheme included those that operate in London, small organisations with an annual income of less than £5,000 or £5,000-£49,000, and voluntary or community groups. Small organisations and voluntary and community groups were also significantly less likely to report that they had or that they were going to reduce the number of paid staff members.
“Further research is needed to understand this fully, but it is proposed that smaller organisations, and particularly voluntary and community groups, are more reliant on a voluntary workforce alongside a very small number of paid staff. Consequently, furloughing or reducing the few paid members of staff these organisations do have is simply not a viable option for reducing expenditure. Furthermore, many youth worker roles may be unsuitable for the furlough scheme as many are short-term or zero-hour contracts or linked to the delivery of specific programmes, which may have been stopped during the pandemic. It is proposed that other short-term financial support schemes such as deferring VAT payments or payment breaks on loans may have also aided youth organisations to reduce expenditure.”
The impact of Covid-19 on England’s youth organisations - UK Youth, March 2021
Findings from the Centre’s work on the Youth Sector Data Standard were also similar, with the first and second versions (April and July 2020) both finding that around 40% of participating organisations had furloughed staff.
Beyond the youth sector, at the end of June 2021 provisional figures showed that 28% of all employers had staff on furlough, down from 30% at the end of May 2021 - suggesting that average furlough rates were just slightly higher in the youth sector.
With employer contributions increasing, it will now be more expensive for organisations to keep staff furloughed - so there will likely be some tricky decisions to be made over the coming months. In additional, whilst 77% of this week’s participants reported that there are no staff still furloughed at their organisation, this survey does not give us a full picture of current workforce capacity - for example, how many staff are absent due to sickness or self-isolation, or have been made redundant over the past year? With factors such as these, plus the need and demand for summer activities, many practitioners are still managing the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
[28/07/21 - 03/08/21]
Choose two words to describe how you are feeling about your work with young people right now:
This week, 74 respondents chose two words to describe how they are currently feeling about their work with young people. 17 people also shared an additional comment.
It’s the fourth time that we have asked this particular question, with previous check-ins happening in March 2021, September 2020, and July 2020.
Where are we now?
The top three responses selected this week are optimistic (45%), excited (38%), and motivated (32%). 23% of practitioners reported feeling frustrated and 11% are feeling nervous, whilst 12% are feeling prepared. 8% are feeling confused and 4% are feeling indifferent.
How does this compare to previous points in the pandemic?
Compared to earlier this year, in March 2021, we can see a small increase in the number of practitioners reporting that they are feeling confused (up from 3% to 8%) and nervous (up from 5% to 11%). Feelings of confusion seemed to peak in September 2020 (19%), whereas reported nervousness was highest earlier on in the pandemic in July 2020 (22%) - as we might expect with so much still unknown at that stage.
Slightly fewer practitioners now report feeling prepared than in March 2021 (down from 16% to 12%), although this is not as low as September 2020 (9%). Again, this might be expected as lifting restrictions for the summer mean that some new activities can now take place (or restart) and as practitioners navigate yet another new context for delivery.
More practitioners are now reporting feeling excited, with an increase to 38% compared to 28% back in March 2021 - this is now at a similar level to September 2020 (37%) but has not yet reached the peak of 47% in July 2020. Simultaneously, fewer practitioners are now reporting feeling frustrated; this has continued to reduce from September 2020 (35%) and March 2021 (29%). One participant shared more insight into their excitement, as well as some trepidation about the months to come:
“Excited for the summer programme, we have some nice trips planned, I have some good mentoring going on. I am unsure how September will pan out, we are feeling the pressure to get the numbers up in the new school year after Covid but unsure how especially with the uncertainty of further restrictions.”
Finally, levels of motivation (32%) are similar to those reported in March 2021 (31%) and September 2020 (29%).
“Completely motivated - our youth club volunteers are very excited and emotional about restarting the power of young people and the idea of maintaining fun is something that was not just [a] desperate need for young people but staff too. I have seen an increased want to be creative about modern sessions rather than recycling sessions. Great fun ahead! (Community run youth centre with two JNC qualified resident volunteers).”
What do the comments say?
15% opted to tell us something else. Generally, the words shared are more negative, including:
- Limited and limiting
The following words were also shared specifically alongside the ‘frustrated’ option:
A few comments provide more insight into specific concerns and experiences, which reflect an incredibly challenging year for many working in the sector:
“Slight concern about [the] size of the need amongst young people and risk that post pandemic the funding won’t be available to meet the demand.”
“We don't get to do youth work. We do meaningless work with no change and possibility of impact.”
Some practitioners did also share words such as ‘defiant’, ‘ready for change’, and ‘inspired’, demonstrating how feelings of frustration can play out in different ways and how, as ever, each individual’s feelings about their work with young people will be mixed and complex.
“Excited on a personal/local level; frustrated at a structural/regional/national level.”
We’re really grateful to everyone who let us know how they are feeling this week. For those finding work particularly challenging at the moment, we really hope that things improve soon and that you can find access to some support, if needed, in the meantime. The Youth Work Support website, for example, has brought together a short guide for supporting youth workers here.
If you’d like to respond to or build on any of the insights shared above, do let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org. We also hope you’ll take part in the new survey launching on Wednesday 4 August, in the usual place!
[21/07/21 - 27/07/21]
Which Covid-19 precautions do you still have in place? Select as many as apply:
This week we received 325 responses from 69 participants. 20 respondents shared additional comments, sharing more insight into some of the Covid-19 precautions that they are currently taking for youth provision, and how things are changing as restrictions are lifted.
It’s worth noting that what is advisory, optional, and a requirement for both youth provision (and day-to-day life) looks a little different across the UK - so rather than trying to establish the extent to which people are following any rules or guidelines, this survey was intended to gain more of an insight into the practicalities of delivery at this time. For more information on the current guidance for youth provision across the UK, see organisations such as the National Youth Agency (NYA), Youthlink Scotland and Youth Scotland, Youth Work Ireland, Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services (CWVYS) and the Welsh Government, and the Youth Work Support website.
91% of this week’s respondents are still implementing increased hand washing/sanitising and 75% are also maintaining increased venue cleaning. Other measures that are being maintained at a notable scale include social distancing (61%), face coverings inside for staff (58%) or staff and participants (54%), and restricted group sizes for provision that is taking place inside. (51%).
The number of people implementing other precautions then drops, with 16% of respondents maintaining restricted group sizes outside as well as inside, 16% using ‘bubbles’, and 16% continuing to avoid residentials (although this last response is irrelevant for those organisations who do not offer residentials, so the figure should be interpreted with that in mind). 6% reported that they are offering digital provision only. In addition, 10% of respondents told us that they are increasing ventilation in the spaces that they use for provision.
Participants to this week’s survey also told us about a wide range of additional precautions that are being put or kept in place, including:
- Avoiding activities that require close proximity or contact
- Reducing face-to-face visits
- Lateral flow testing
- No social groups outside
- No travel
- Reduced group sizes
- Reduced time for activities (e.g. changing)
- Young people remaining seated during sessions
- Young people providing and signing their own risk assessments
- Holding activities outdoors wherever possible
As we know, the lifting of compulsory measures does not mean that they will stop happening across the board, for a number of reasons including concerns about ongoing safety, and the potential for provision to be severely disrupted due to cases of the virus and of isolation. Many of the worries that people reported last July will still stand, to some degree.
“Many are recommendations rather than enforcement, but most are adhering to the recommendations.”
“Until the isolation rules change in August, the risk of multiple staff being taken out and the provision closing entirely is too high to drop all precautions.”
“Freedom day does not exist in council buildings and areas of increasing positivity rates....we are not as irresponsible as those in power.”
“Still working with consistent groups so that when the inevitable happens we will only have to inform some. We have also limited changing to under 14 minutes and a limited number at a time.”
“Still continuing as pre ‘Freedom Day’."
“Staff and young people are encouraged and advised to continue to wear masks but mask use has definitely decreased among both groups.”
This is to be expected, and is in line with some wider data about public behaviours - for example, 69% of people polled by YouGov in the UK report that they are still wearing face masks in public spaces (at its peak this was 77% in February 2021) and 42% said they were ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ scared that they would catch Covid-19 (this is up from 33% in May, and at its peak was at 62% at the start of the pandemic in March 2020).
The impact of Covid-19 continues, with practitioners still having to navigate many additional factors and decisions about delivery. We’re grateful to everyone who took the time to share a response and/or a comment this week, and hope you’ll join us in the next survey to let us know how you’re feeling about your work with young people, right now: www.youthimpact.app.
[14/07/21 - 20/07/21]
We received 28 responses this week. With football dominating the headlines and television in recent weeks, we were interested to know if and how this had permeated your work with young people. However, it turns out that the Euros have not been at the top of everyone’s minds, with 50% of respondents reporting no difference!
“Not at all, they don't like football.”
“Not in the slightest.”
“Is this about football?”
25% of respondents did note that the football had prompted conversations with young people about racism, particularly in relation to the racist abuse faced by Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka in the wake of the final match, as well as players ‘taking the knee’ to to highlight racial inequality discrimination.
“Discussion with young people about the racist abuse; young people spoke to us about their disgust in the way three young men had been racially abused. They also spoke about how proud they were of the players, and the England team. Said their message to the players would be "hold your heads up high".”
“Platform on which to discuss BLM [Black Lives Matter] and anti-racism education.”
“We are having more conversations about racism and its impact.”
“We discussed the debate around 'taking the knee' and the racism that came out of the defeat, but the young people in general aren't that interested in football, so the defeat in the final hasn't affected them.”
“Yes it has been an opportunity to talk to young people about racism, taking the knee, racial abuse of footballers on social media.”
"Yes, many young people have chosen to stay at home, although we have tried to offer an area where they can watch matches. One positive it has given us is a great debating tool, on how racism is very much apparent at the moment in sport."
One person also mentioned more general discussions about ‘behaviour’, and another reported that the conversations above had prompted their organisation to go further and “[implement] further anti-racist work into groups and policy.”
7% of respondents noted a change in young people’s moods or attitudes:
“Generally raised the [young people’s] spirits and emotional wellbeing.”
“Made them upset we lost.”
Finally, a couple of respondents also noted practical implications for their provision:
"One group we deliver football with have been engaged in our activities, but luckily they haven't clashed with any matches. Other groups still aren't open due to restrictions, so the Euros have
“We had to alter things around a bit to accommodate matches. But we also did football themed activities as well.”
Thanks to all those who shared their thoughts this week, and we hope you will join us for our next question, which focuses on the changing nature of delivery as restrictions are further lifted across the UK. Let us know your response in the usual place at www.youthimpact.app!
[07/07/2021 - 13/07/2021]
As we come out of lockdown measures, do you plan to continue providing online youth work?
This week, 80 participants shared a response.
As we approach another major milestone in the easing of lockdown restrictions on 19 July, will online youth work stick around?
We last touched on this topic back in mid-March. At the time, the large majority of respondents (78%) said that they intended to keep some aspects of their provision online, with many expecting a blended approach for young people - offering both online and face-to-face activities. 4% of respondents intended to continue offering online provision in all of the ways that they had been to that point and, conversely, 11% expected to get rid of all aspects of online provision. 4% were still unsure.
For this week’s survey, we broke the responses down more to give us further insight into the results. Four months later, we can see fewer participants intending to maintain some sort of online provision, with 64% overall giving a ‘yes’ response of some variety.
Many people within this group (49% of all respondents) told us that they would maintain online activities ‘for certain activities that it works well for’. Previous surveys had indicated that there are some particular areas where practitioners have felt digital delivery has been more effective, including family support, group activities like sports, cooking or art, peer-to-peer support, targeted group work (for example, with young carers) and 1:1 support, counselling, or mentoring - although the numbers here were relatively low. Others have also reported wider benefits from online provision, such as removing accessibility barriers for young people who might not otherwise be able to access provision. Comments from this survey reiterate these points:
“Offering as a blended service to increase accessibility where young people are spread geographically/young parents/managing disabilities.”
“Hybrid provision will be offered to support our wider geographical catchment, and to reach more isolated and rural young people.”
“There are many challenges that online work overcomes - length / cost of travel for staff and young people as an example. We will be monitoring though to see if young people reject these activities when they could be engaging in more physical activity.”
“For very socially isolated or anxious young people doing [activities] online is a great ice-breaker and a chance to meet others in a safe online space before meeting in person.”
“Digital provision was so valuable, and for some of our young people it's been a lifeline. We would like to carry on with a digital offer alongside our in-person provision, especially to reach and support our most geographically and socially isolated young people.”
The rest of the ‘yes’ respondents caveated their answer, noting that their online provision will remain ‘only because [they] invested heavily in digital infrastructure’ (3%) or ‘only until everything can be face-to-face’ (also 3%).
20% of all respondents said that they will not continue to offer online youth provision. This group comprises 18% who told us that the young people they work with do not like it, and 3% who have struggled to provide the digital infrastructure needed to provide it.
“We work with kids for whom internet connection is not readily available so we will be face to face as much as possible.”
“We have stopped providing online youth work many months ago now as we didn't get much engagement although we now don't have much face to face either and are hoping things will pick up come [September]. We will continue using Instagram and Whatsapp to communicate more though which we didn't do before.”
Finally, 10% of all respondents told us that they are, as of yet, undecided or still unsure about continuing to offer online provision. This is a slight increase from mid-March.
6% told us something else, with most noting an ‘only by exception’ approach with virtual applying to a small number of activities or as a back-up.
“Occasionally. We've found it's a good back-up. Although all our provision is now back to face to face, this week we had several [young people] and staff isolating, so rather than cancelling we went back online for one week. Online sessions also mean that some young people can access occasional extra sessions that they might not be able to attend otherwise, so we'll probably continue to use it as an occasional service or back up plan.”
“No, probably not as we are a locality based service and most young people can access our provision face to face as easily as online and we value the social interactions that you can't get online for our work.”
“Rarely but on occasion with certain groups of youth volunteers.”
“Very little planned as 'in-person' services & face to face work are our priority & contracted services. Online stuff is primarily used to promote services, keep young people updated on what we're doing, but is used to share other information & signposting.”
The sector has invested a huge amount in building systems and support for online provision. As the context and technology develops, there will be some need for this investment to continue in order to ensure the virtual provision that does continue remains high quality - though this will likely be a challenge as face-to-face provision returns as a priority.
“Whilst national support has been withdrawn for remote learning, many local meetings are still going ahead in this way (now just with less support).”
[30/06/21 - 06/07/21]
How do you feel about gathering demographic data from the young people that you work with?
This week, 83 participants shared a response.
What are we talking about?
Demographic or ‘user’ data is one of six types of data that you can gather to better understand the impact of your provision. It is administrative data that identifies which type of young people are engaging with the activities that your provision offers:
- User data - the characteristics of the people who access your provision
- Engagement data - the extent to which people use your service over time and how
- Quality data - the quality of environment and staff practices that which can be reflected on, celebrated, and improved
- Feedback data - what do young people think and feel about provision? Whether the people who engage with your service have the experiences and feeling that you intend
- Outcomes data - whether people have developed specific and malleable skills, traits, and states while engaging with your service
- Impact data - the long-term difference achieved by individuals, families, and communities themselves. Seldom the result of a single service or intervention
Demographic data can capture some characteristics of young people engaging in activities, to be used in combination with engagement data (which captures which activities young people are engaging in and how often). By collecting these data types in a consistent way, you can gain a more insightful picture of young people's journey through provision. Depending on how the data is collected, you may also be able to explore the relationship between these characteristics and feedback, quality and outcomes data.
Demographic data might include:
- A unique user ID (so that different bits of data can be linked to an individual young person without providing tier name or another identifying feature)
- Age / date of birth
- Date first registered with provider
These example measures are taken from the Youth Investment Fund shared evaluation framework for open access provision.
How do youth practitioners feel about collecting demographic data?
Although we saw a wide range of responses to this week’s survey, there are a number of common themes that came through from the additional comments. We dig into these in more detail below.
54% of respondents replied that gathering demographic data is ‘critical to understand who is accessing provision.’ Those providing additional comments along with their response spoke about the importance of demographic data for increasing youth voice and the reach of provision...
“It's critical to ensure we are reaching a diverse mix of young people, particularly those who would benefit most, and to inform our outreach and promotions.”
“Young people are usually missing from most other official data gathering exercises, which means their experiences are not taken into account.”
...and of thinking carefully about consent and the basis for collecting data:
“[It] must be provided by parents (for under 18s).”
“It should only be gathered if it is needed and will be used - too many generic forms that ask for everything but don't then get used for anything.”
Respondents also acknowledged that whilst being of critical importance, gathering demographic data can be challenging:
“It's hard but as long as it's done proportionately and simply and the reasons are explained, I don't think it's *that* hard. I'm not a practitioner so I never have to collect it myself...but [I] hear anecdotally that young people are quite used to filling in forms and don't necessarily see it as an imposition.”
“Demographic and outcome data is extremely difficult for small organisations to collect and analyse.”
24% told us that they know gathering demographic data is important, but they don’t know how best to approach it. Again, respondents flagged the importance of listening to young people’s thoughts and feedback, and of being accountable to them, when it comes to data collection:
“And young people need to have feedback. They are constantly being consulted, but never hear the outcomes.”
A number of respondents who told us that they are unsure how to approach demographic data highlighted issues around it feeling too sensitive or intrusive, particularly for young people at formative life stages:
“YP often don't know their demographic data - it stems from wider conversations about
identity which YP can often find hard to answer, as they are in the process of identity forming.”
“As part of the general forms it isn't too bad but sometimes we have been asked to call round to update our information, e.g. who is on benefits, and this can feel weird to ask but thankfully most parents have been happy to answer. Over time the information we are trying to gather has [gotten] more and more and I worry that some parents might give up registering their child if forms are too long and intrusive.”
“I definitely think it's important to see and understand who is accessing provision, which can then incentivise research to find out why/why not, but I also understand that it can be a very sensitive subject.”
One respondent also flagged issues with capacity and expertise to effectively act on the data that is being gathered:
“It's crucial to understand whether we are meeting the needs of the community, and to identify whether there are barriers to accessing the provision we are offering. However, we don't have the expertise & staff time to gather demographic data and, more important, identify a plan to make our demographic more representative of the community we are in.”
Overall, 4% of respondents told us that they find demographic data too difficult to gather, and another 4% believe it to be too intrusive.
16% said something else, offering a wide range of opinions through the comments. A number of participants noted that they would select ‘all of the above’ and that demographic data (and data gathering more generally) can feel like a complicated issue:
“I think all of the above apply. it depends how much information we're trying to get.. and why!?”
“It can depend on what type of work you are doing. When you start to collect data and then act on it you move away from a service that has open access and [is] based on young people attending voluntarily. On the other hand it can be beneficial to highlight gaps in provision but then the result becomes targeted to fill that gap. This then raises more questions surrounding how voluntary the process is. Is it then youth work?
There are lots of issues that arise surrounding consent and if the young people we work with truly know what they are giving consent for and how their data will be used. As practitioners are we clear and do we have firm enough boundaries surrounding this?”
A number of participants returned to the issue of consent and responsibility for data processing - with one person commenting ‘we don’t need it, so we have no lawful basis to collect it.’ Throughout the responses to this week’s survey, there is a sense of duty to ensure that any data collected has a clear plan behind it, and that it is both collected and communicated in a way that makes sense for those whom it should be serving:
“It can be critical but equally you must know who is getting the data and for what reason? Not because of data protection and privacy although that too is important) but because the data can lose nuance and crucial human narrative.”
“It's needed to understand who is accessing provision, but too often funders and partners want it in tick box format rather than letting young people define their own identities.”
“Understand the importance of gathering demographic data from young people I work with, however, it sometimes can be a barrier for young people and do not want to further engage in services or provision as a result.”
As a sector, there is perhaps work for us to do in articulating and agreeing how and why demographic data can best support quality and inclusive provision for young people. There is, for example, a strong case to be made for (consistently) collecting and analysing basic demographic and diversity data in order to identify inequitable access and outcomes. To demonstrate this in practice - the Youth Investment Fund (YIF) found that whilst provision was successful in attracting and engaging with a broad range of young people living in some of the most deprived areas of the country, there was a gender bias towards males, with girls and young women from ethnic minority backgrounds underrepresented to a greater degree than their White female peers. Notably, Asian girls and young women were least represented in the cohort of young people attending YIF provision based on the sample used.
As this week’s responses demonstrate, however, we still lack capacity for consistent and helpful engagement with user data across the youth sector - and there is also a lack of consensus among practitioners about how and why we might seek to do this:
“It’s not my job, but I don’t know whose it is. I think it’s a good idea but people are reluctant to gather and use the data.”
“We need this and absolutely should have this information. The question has a very negative framing, not sure why? Why is gathering demographic data something bad, difficult or intrusive?”
How much time do you spend on your training and professional development per month?
[23/06/21 - 29/06/21]
77 people shared a response to this week’s survey. Of those respondents, 36% are in senior management roles (CEOs or Directors), 29% are managers, 17% are youth workers/practitioners, 4% are administrators, 4% are trustees, and 10% are in a variety of other roles.
At the end of January this year, 46% of survey respondents told us that they’d been able to join more useful training and support than before the pandemic - but just as many said that they only want to join if it’s really important or relevant. 13% wanted to join in with all of the training and support opportunities that were available. 12% reported that they had less time training and support than before the pandemic hit, and 13% had been flooded with opportunities that they were not interested in.
Past surveys have also indicated demand for training in specific topics, such as digital youth work and responding to increased and emerging needs of young people, following the pandemic:
- What training would be most beneficial to you right now? [25/03/21] and [24/07/21]
- Do you feel that anything is currently missing in safeguarding training for youth work? [31/07/20]
We also explored initial Youth Work training and qualifications in May.
Building on these insights, from this week’s survey we were interested to know how much time, on average, those working in the sector are actually able to dedicate to their ongoing professional development and training.
Whilst 21% of this week’s respondents told us that they are able to spend about one day per month on training and professional development, significantly more (62%) can commit only ‘a few hours, when [they] can.’ Those who shared additional comments told us about some of the specific challenges they experience in being able to access or prioritise this area of their work:
“There is little in the way of CPD [Continuing Professional Development] available for my role”
“I wish I had more hours a month to spend on training and CPD! Being part time I find it really hard to prioritise CPD - I WANT to keep learning and developing, keeping up to date, but I don't always have the ability as I feel I'm always working reactively not proactively.”
“As a volunteer, much of this involves screenshotting things on Twitter and note-taking from them in batches! There is very limited formal CPD.”
“There are certain training that my employers may request I attend. I attempt to do online training or videos that contribute to my development when I have spare time. This was more common during lockdowns with less other work to do but I am busier now so CPD falls by the wayside.”
These responses suggest a couple of different challenges; firstly, that some do not have the availability (time or bandwidth) to engage in ongoing training and professional development due to the delivery demands of their role. For other respondents, however, there is an indication that they would like to do more if they could find suitable opportunities.
A relatively small percentage (6%) spend no time at all on professional development, however only 4% have a professional development plan that takes up multiple days per month. One participant, who gave this response, shared more context:
“I am studying an MA in Counselling as I think there is a genuine need for young people to have access to counsellors who have youth work experience.”
A couple of other respondents, who selected ‘something else’, indicated that they were also able to spend a more time on their CPD that the majority of this week’s respondents:
“Usually about 2 days per month - some planned, some of current interest and aligned to work outcomes.”
“I am a new member of staff, so training and CPD is a huge amount of time. Moving forward it is likely to be 1 day a week.”
“Varies pending availability (mine & development ops) & relevance. Also depends on whether this just refers to Youth Work or all related development (e.g. First Aid, food Safety, IT skills etc) and if this means attending training / on the job learning & development etc.”
It is worth considering the variety of roles held by those responding to this week’s survey (see a summary at the top of this commentary) and that with more data, we could draw additional insights from the relationship between different types of roles and responses to the question.
Regardless, the survey indicates that a large number of practitioners are not able to access significant or consistent continuing professional development opportunities. CPD is important for a number of reasons, including the experience of workers, retaining individuals within the sector, and ensuring consistency in quality of provision.
There are lots of organisations offering training and CPD opportunities and, although this list is not exhaustive, it could be a good place to start for anyone looking to build their (or their team’s) development plan:
- The Centre for Youth Impact Regional Impact Network partners, who offer a range of opportunities for members
- The UK Youth network provides access to events, campaigns, training, peer support, themed networks and programmes
- The National Youth Agency (NYA) offer information on training routes, skills for practitioners, as well as a resource hub and the Youth Work Curriculum
- Youth Access Resource Hub for Practitioners, including training and CPD opportunities
- The Youth Work Support website offers opportunities specifically related to lockdown and the pandemic
- Events and opportunities from the Institute for Youth Work. You can also register with the network for more opportunities
- Resources available from the Federation for Detached Youth Work
- Organisations in Scotland can also refer to this Youth Work Induction checklist from YouthLink Scotland
We also regularly share events and other opportunities in the Centre for Youth Impact monthly newsletter, which you can subscribe to here.
If we’ve missed something that you’d like to share with peers in the sector, please do let us know via email@example.com.
[16/06/21 - 22/06/21]
How effective are the mechanisms you have in place for young people to influence the content and delivery of your provision?
This week, following the launch of our final report from The Listening Fund Scotland, we returned to a question last posed in June 2020. The question focuses on the effectiveness of any mechanisms that you might have in place to enable young people to shape both the content and delivery of your provision.
78 people responded to this week’s survey, each selecting one response.
What did the results say?
Looking at this week’s survey, a significant proportion of respondents (41%) feel that their current mechanisms are either extremely or very effective, with the majority (54%) feeling their mechanisms are either somewhat or slightly effective. Just 1% felt that their mechanisms were not at all effective, and 3% told us that they do not have any mechanisms in place for young people to influence their current or planned provision. 1% told us ‘something else.’
When we compare this to responses taken last June, we can see a slight increase in confidence:
- Extremely effective: up from 6% to 8%
- Very effective: up from 21% to 33%
- Somewhat effective: up from 31% to 33%
- Slightly effective: down from 31% to 21%
- Not at all effective: down from 6% to 1%
It is worth noting that the June 2020 survey was asked specifically in relation to online provision. For many at that time, this was the only type of provision taking place - and it might still have felt relatively new or in flux as practitioners responded to the ever-evolving pandemic and changing lockdown restrictions (the Listening Fund Scotland report noted “disruption to processes of
upskilling, practicing and embedding new listening skills in partners’ work with young people” as a consequence of the pandemic.)
As new forms of delivery have become the ‘norm’, or indeed as some pre-pandemic provision has begun to resume, have there been more opportunities to develop and embed new mechanisms for listening and responding to young people’s feedback?
What did the comments say?
Those who answered ‘extremely effective’ spoke about young people gaining skills through provision, in order to facilitate or co-deliver sessions, and about ‘co-design[ing] everything.’ One participant shared:
“Our project has been Young People led since 1979. No decisions are made without proper collaboration. We co-design everything, otherwise - what would be the point?”
Two additional comments from participants who responded ‘very effective’ also gave examples of how their mechanisms work in practice:
“We ask our young people this very question, so I feel confident with my response. However we can always make progress to ensure all young people have the same level of influence.”
“Our Youth Opinions group are our youth participation/ voice group. They do peer monitoring visits to our sessions and provision as well as feeding into our Board of Trustee meetings. We also look to make sure youth voice and young people help co-design and influence all of our delivery as a 'golden thread' through our organisation.”
We received the most comments from those who had selected ‘somewhat effective’ as their response. A couple of respondents noted that ‘there is always room for improvement’, despite ‘pockets of excellence.’ Others gave examples of what their current mechanisms are:
“Constant feedback from young people, reviews of staff and young people.”
“We have [a] youth participation officer, training for practitioners on youth voice, and it [is] central to how we deliver in most places.”
“I think the mechanisms we have are quite [informal] e.g. conversations rather than a formal process.”
Several people noted that Covid-19 had disrupted their usual activities (and, presumably, opportunities to implement their regular mechanisms for listening):
“Normally it would be very effective but because of the restrictions we are not running our sessions at full capacity so therefore not able to offer our complete programme.”
“Due to Covid, our face to face groups had to be suspended for now and the uptake for an online social group has dropped off since lockdown restrictions have been lifted.”
Finally, two participants noted that their mechanisms do not necessarily work for or engage all young people that are accessing their provision:
“We have a Young People's Progress Group which gives young people a voice to steer the organisation, and have a hand in planning and delivery. It is typically 'uncool' so the young people that get involved tend not to be the young people that would benefit most from being involved in something like it.”
“Very good (in most parts) for those we work with regularly. Lacking, for those who haven't yet engaged with us.”
A focus on the representativeness of listening practices, as well as engaging young people in the whole process, were two key themes in the recent Listening Fund Scotland report - see pp.14-17 for more reflections on this.
Those answering ‘slightly effective’ noted areas where they felt young people could be included ‘more deeply’ - for example, through recruitment panels - as well as challenges that they are facing in implementing effective listening activities, such as having no fixed venue. This participant noted that their mechanisms are ‘very fragile’ and, again, that Covid-19 restrictions were limiting their capacity:
“Creative and inventive idea[s] built around our outdoor provision are all we can do at present.”
Whilst this week’s results indicate a slight increase in confidence in this area of youth provision and work, there is still more to do! For more insights on this topic, including what has changed for partners and young people who have developed their intentional listening practices through the Listening Fund, and what the Fund has told us about enablers and barriers to meaningful listening practice, do give the Listening Fund Scotland final report a read. We’d love to hear your thoughts (firstname.lastname@example.org or @YouthImpactUK on Twitter).
[09/06/21 - 15/06/21]
To what extent do you feel confident supporting young people to take action against racial injustice?
This week we heard from 72 respondents, who could each select one response. Below we share a summary of the results, which will be followed by further commentary from the UK Youth Young and Black campaign team over the next week. As part of their work, UK Youth has developed a set of resources designed to support youth organisations with creating safe spaces for young people to discuss racial inequality. These resources were created in response to countless requests from youth workers and organisations for guidance, specifically related to conversations addressing Black Lives Matter and anti-Black racism.
Alongside the analysis below, we have shared additional reading and resources that could build on some of the topics and issues flagged in this week’s survey (although we appreciate that these resources barely scratch the surface). That said, we are excited to see the growth of resources co-produced with young people. If you have any more resources that you would recommend or that have supported your own practice, please do let us know at email@example.com.
47% of this week’s respondents said that they feel fairly confident supporting young people to take action against racial injustice, and 17% feel very confident. Conversely, 29% do not feel very confident and 5% do not feel confident at all. Just 1% were not sure how they felt.
One respondent, who indicated high confidence, noted that ‘anti-discriminatory work is an integral element of youth work’ but felt that ‘such work may have been marginalised through focus on targeted youth work, including 1-1 work.’ The core value of an anti-discriminatory approach was also echoed by another respondent, who felt fairly confident, commenting that ‘it has been fundamental throughout my youth work career.’ This principle is recognised in the Institute of Youth Work Code of Ethics (“4. We work in a fair and inclusive way, promoting justice and equality of opportunity, challenging any discriminatory or oppressive behaviour or practice”) and clearly prioritised by practitioners, although there is always work to do unpicking, reflecting, and acting on what this can look like in day-to-day practice.
See reflections on How can youth and community work respond to a community-led movement? and also a youth work and art project that aimed to facilitate conversations about race and racism with young people and their communities.
Another respondent, who also felt fairly confident, told us that they ‘have supported young people on other social justice issues (climate, arms trade), although less on racism’ and that their ‘main concern of late has been [young people’s] wellbeing, given isolation.’ They said that ‘some young people have become more politically active, but some have disappeared from online spaces so it's hard to verify wellbeing let alone their appetite for action.’ The respondent also highlighted that they tried to be conscious of their own positionality, as a white man. Unfortunately we have not received enough demographic data to run any meaningful analysis for this survey, however it is important to note that the demographics of respondents will inevitably have bearing on responses. Each person will have a unique relationship to issues of racial injustice. One participant, who does not feel very confident supporting young people to tackle issues of racial injustice, also questioned whether there is sufficiently diverse representation in youth work and activism across different minoritised communities.
Two workers, both of whom are not very confident about supporting young people to take action against racial injustice, indicated that their particular context meant that they ‘don’t encounter racial disparity regularly’, with one flagging that this meant ‘despite any prior training it has not been refreshed through work.’ They highlighted that ‘it would be good if there was more mandatory training for youth workers around this topic - the kinds of issues that [young people] face, legal implications, where they can get support, who to talk to, etc.’
This is a really important point to raise, and takes us back to anti-discriminatory work being core to youth work, with a commitment to supporting young people to take action against issues of racial injustice and being actively anti-racist - even if practitioners perceive that these issues don’t present in their settings. One participant also noted that ‘depending on the situation, [they] would be able to support young people in the youth centre setting’ but ‘if young people wanted to take action outside of that setting, [they] wouldn't know where to start or how to support effectively.’
Anti-racism resources for all ages is a project and extensive collation of tools to support anti-racist work with young people, compiled by the Augusta Baker Chair, Dr. Nicole A. Cooke, of University of South Carolina. The Black Curriculum - a social enterprise in the UK that aims to deliver Black British history all across the UK - also offers a wide range of virtual and in-person programmes to schools, young people and organisations to promote the importance of Black history, including downloadable learning resources.
Our recent report on the Listening Fund in Scotland includes reflections on how organisations can develop more equitable listening practices with the young people that they work with. Critically reflecting on representativeness and bias in who we listen to and how we listen to them could support youth workers who feel that their own positionality limits their ability to understand and support young people to take action, or who feel they do not encounter issues around racial equity in their setting.
You can also build awareness of community led organisations such as Spark & Co, who provide direct support and information for communities in the UK disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 crisis, by sharing information, education & opportunities (with over 800 vetted and verified resources in their directory.)
Finally, we recommend taking a look at this report from the Search Institute which explores the relationship between developmental relationships, social and emotional learning, and creating equitable environments.
We’re really grateful to all those who shared a response and comments this week, and also to the UK Youth Young and Black campaign team who will be following up with some additional thoughts on our blog. We hope to explore some of these topics in more detail with future surveys - if there’s something you’d like to contribute, please let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org.
[02/07/21 - 08/07/21]
What does the ‘power of youth’ mean to you?
Last Tuesday 2 June was Power of Youth Day 2021. In recognition of that, we posed a question to explore the topic with the #justonequestion survey community, with open responses meaning that survey participants could share thoughts in their own words. We received 52 responses to this week’s question.
There were some strong and consistent themes across this week’s responses, which we’ve brought together below.
Making change in the wider world and shaping the future
People responding to the survey spoke about how ‘the power of youth’ can refer to young people making change in the world through specific actions, attitudes, and opportunities.
“The ability of young people to enact real change - in the world, in ways of thinking, in ways of doing - by challenging existing structures and barriers and developing solutions. Open-mindedness, passion, and dedication are the greatest strengths of young people.”
“The power of young people to impact change such as school strikes, protests, engagement with climate education.”
“Driving forward change today to influence the future for others.”
“Meaningful influence over policy and activity.”
Supporting young people to develop skills and confidence for leadership and influence
Building on this theme, multiple comments also made reference to supporting young people to act on these opportunities for change-making, through work that supports young people to develop the relevant knowledge, skills, behaviours, and mindsets, and also by encouraging young people to recognise where they could influence and input.
“To me it means harnessing the skills and positivity and lived experience of future generations and tapping into those skills and insights to make positive lasting changes.”
“To shape and build their own future with morals and empathy [If they are shown these qualities.]”
“That small changes, from individuals who don't perhaps even know their impact, can make a huge difference. Mobilising the future generations to understand the impact and power they have is so important to changing the future we want to see.”
“Young people hold other powers but they are often oblivious to them. Youth is wasted on the young - as someone said.”
Related to this were comments about enabling access to meaningful opportunities to take responsibility, and to genuinely influence change and decision making.
“Young people have responsibility and take on lead roles in project planning, running projects [and responsibly]. This is backed up with training and support for young people. Youth Voice is embedded at a strategic level.”
“[Young people] make a meaningful and informed impact on issues that have an impact on them. This also allows young people the opportunity to widen their thinking on other issues they want their opinion to be heard.”
These themes refer not only to issues in wider society, but to young people having control of their own lives, and influencing decisions - in an informed way - that directly affect both them and those around them. There were many comments to this effect.
“Young people are in control of their lives.”
“Ability for a young person to make informed decisions about what they want to achieve.”
“Young people at the forefront of decision making that affects them - nothing about young people without young people!”
“Young people to be encouraged to have a say/ take charge of their life, by taking actions to improve their environment/community. Which in turn will increase access to resources and decrease inequalities for young people and [give] them hope for a brighter future.”
“Young people feeling and being empowered to positively affect their and their peers’ lives agents for social change.”
“The ability to shape, influence and create, be that on an individual level in terms of their own lives or collectively, the power young people have to shape society.”
“Empowered, informed and participating young people, in their own lives, their families and their community, which includes but [is] not exclusive [to], education, health and geographical area, their environment and the world.”
There were also many comments specifically about voice - that we need to listen to, celebrate, and amplify young people’s voices.
“We need to work together with young people and have young people alongside us, to build a better future. Also Young people deserve to have their voices heard, questions answered & be involved in decision making. Young people's involvement, efforts to help others in different capacities should be recognised & celebrated.”
“Giving the young people a voice and the ability to show what they can do.”
“A collective voice championing young people and the impact they can have on society.”
“Listening, hearing, and helping young people act on their ideas, thought, feelings and concerns, in their own form without leading or directing other than to ensure [safety and security], and guidance on legalities that they may be encountering, so allowing them to move things forward.”
“Opportunities to demonstrate the impact that comes from unlocking young people's agency, voice and empowered decision making authority.”
“The power of youth means to me that young people are always united, and undivided so they have a voice and they can empower others to make choices!”
“The conviction held by (some) young people that they know their own minds, have a strong sense of what is right and are not afraid to voice it or act on it. As a youth worker I want to support those who struggle with this to grow in confidence, to find their voice - to amplify it.”
This comment bridges to a number of additional comments, which spoke about recognising the unique contribution that young people can make to our communities.
“Hope, energy, and an implicit understanding of their world. Less encumbered by cynicism, young people have the collective potential to create the world anew.”
“Power of youth is a collective power young people can exert when they work together, consciously or unconsciously to enact change (e.g. Pimlico Academy and the racist rules), when they don't have the tired old cynicism or realism of their elders, when their sense of injustice is still strong and they are more willing to accept change and diversity, and they believe in a better world rather than what we are stuck with and when they ask why can't you change this and that and it will not accept answers like it cannot be done or it has been done before... It can be a riot, violent, structureless or an organised climate strike...- whatever it is - it should be heeded... and like never before it is needed!”
“Valuing, including and celebrating the diverse contribution that young people embody and bring to society.”
“Fresh thinking, ideas and passion.”
“A voice of freedom and justice.”
“The resilience and voice of young people.”
Finally, a number of comments reflected on some potential barriers to ‘the power of youth’ -
“I don't think youth hold much power. Every election there is talk of "youthquakes" but it never happens. Most YP can't or don't vote so their opinion is of little consequence in the corridors of power.”
“A reminder that political education is often lost but should be at the forefront of our work with young people.”
Related to this, one person noted a need “where necessary [to] hold those in positions of power to account for the impact of their organisations on the lives of young people.” This and a number of other comments above nod to the need to work in meaningful partnership with young people in creating change.
Appropriately, we’re excited to be launching the final evaluation report for The Listening Fund Scotland this coming Monday 14 June. The Fund supported youth-focused organisations to develop their listening practices, to better allow young people to have a great say in shaping the provision they receive and be agents of change on issues affecting them. The overall findings highlight that listening ‘actively’ is not easy, but also provide some key points of learning and best practice in capturing, acting on, and amplifying young people’s voices - to harness the power of youth.
Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts this week! If you’d like to share any additional thoughts, just let us know at email@example.com.
For our next survey, we are building on some of the themes in this week’s survey, and work being led by UK Youth’s Young and Black campaign. We’re asking ‘To what extent do you feel confident supporting young people to take action against racial injustice?’ Let us know your thoughts in the usual place.
[26/05/21 - 01/06/21]
In your primary youth work role, do you currently work alongside volunteers in your youth provision?
In honour of Volunteers' Week, we thought we’d explore the extent of volunteering in youth organisations. 73 respondents completed this week’s question – telling us roughly what proportion of their team is made up of volunteers, and offering up some interesting insights into who fulfils these voluntary roles and how this has been impacted by Covid-19.
What did the responses say?
The responses give an overview of the extent of volunteer involvement in youth provision, and show a fairly even spread across the spectrum. The largest majority of respondents (36%) told us they have at least one volunteer within their organisation supporting their youth provision. This was followed by around one in five respondents (21%) not working alongside any volunteers. Around the same again (23%) represented the other side of the coin, where at least half (7%), more than half (8%), or all of their team (8%) were made up of volunteers.
This week’s question is also interesting for understanding who our survey is reaching, as 10% of respondents told us they are volunteers themselves. Given that last week’s participants spanned frontline workers (25%), managers and senior leadership staff (62%), trustees (5%) and those in other roles (7%), we are encouraged by the breadth of voices Just One Question is capturing.
What did the comments say?
The spread of volunteer involvement shown in the responses above is reflected in the comments. Whilst one respondent noted that “sometimes volunteers do come but it is very rare”, another suggested that “most of the youth provision is run by volunteers, supported by a few paid staff”. In addition, the comments also give some insight into the who, why and when of voluntary roles within respondents’ organisations.
Notably, four respondents spoke about young people fulfilling volunteer roles. It was seen as an opportunity for them to gain employment experience and “as part of their personal and social development”. For one organisation this included young people who had come through their provision, and for another volunteering formed part of the Level 3 Youth Work course they ran, on which 16-18 year-olds are enrolled.
In this way, we can see the value that volunteer opportunities hold in terms of continuing to support young people through a youth work approach. Providing volunteering opportunities for young people is one way to help them mobilise their social capital – the resources they have access to help them improve their lives or achieve their goals (whether that be in gaining a youth work qualification, embedding themselves in a community organisation or furthering their facilitation skills). The Search Institute advocates a relationship-centered approach to understanding social capital, whereby it is the resources that arise from, or through the relationships young people hold that can be a catalyst for opportunity. Where youth work organisations design their volunteering opportunities through a Developmental Relationships Framework approach, there is even greater potential to create positive outcomes for young people.
Other respondents pointed to drawing upon volunteers for particular parts of their provision, with one commenting that:
“We work with volunteers for some of our projects, but not for our regular provision.”
Another stated that there is:
“A mixture depending on the club, some fully staffed; others supported by volunteers.”
As one respondent pointed out, “our volunteers are all young people who have differing levels of commitment”. The variety of ways that volunteers are involved (for example not contributing to regular provision) may possibly be a consequence of needing regularity of staff to provide consistency for young people, and the skill and experience level required for delivery of provision.
Finally, six respondents commented on the impact of Covid-19 on the involvement of volunteers within their organisation. Three respondents suggested that prior to the pandemic they had volunteers supporting delivery of youth provision, but have not reintroduced volunteers into their organisations just yet. A further comment highlighted the current challenges where organisations rely on volunteers:
“Most of the youth provision is run by volunteers, supported by a few paid staff. There are far fewer of both, but especially paid staff, since March 2020.”
Perhaps more optimistically, some organisations are looking to recruit volunteers to support their delivery, and contribute to the sustainability of the profession:
“Although I have answered no to this question, I have been fortunate enough to have a member of the Federation of Detached Youth Workers who is local to the area, who has agreed to come out with me just to do some observations as part of our reconnaissance work. This has been invaluable. In terms of adding volunteers to the team going forward, I think we have identified that we would like to do this. It's a great way to increase capacity but perhaps most importantly, it's a stepping stone into youth work and one where we hope to have proper investment in new workers.”
For organisations thinking about investing in volunteers, Youth Work Essentials from Youth Scotland has some useful resources for supporting the induction of volunteers. The Volunteers’ Week website also provides support on recruiting and managing volunteers, and this guidance from Youth Scotland also has some useful pointers on supporting volunteer development, including young volunteers. NCVO has guidance on how to involve and manage safeguarding with volunteers and particular considerations during the ongoing pandemic.
If you’re reading this as an avid volunteer who would like to do more, or someone thinking about getting into volunteering (in the youth sector or otherwise!) then the Volunteers’ Week website has some resources to point you in the right direction.
As ever, we are very grateful to all who shared their thoughts and a response this week. If you’ve got more thoughts on the topic, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope you’ll take part in our next survey, which you can find in the usual place at youthimpact.app!
[19/05/21 - 25/05/21]
What’s the highest level of Youth Work qualification you hold?
This week, 102 respondents told us about their Youth Work qualifications. For more context and information about the types of qualifications that are referred to in the commentary below, visit the National Youth Agency (NYA) ‘Getting Qualified’ page here.
The Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) for youth and community workers is the body that sets the national framework used to grade and pay youth work jobs. The JNC recognises youth and community workers’ qualifications which have been professionally approved by the Education Training Standards (ETS) Committee of the National Youth Agency (NYA).
What did the responses say?
Before we get into the responses, it’s important to note the context of this week’s survey question and participants, and these qualifications in relation to specific job roles. Of this week’s participants, 25% are working directly with young people, 31% are in project management roles, 31% are senior leaders, 5% are trustees, and 7% are in other roles.
32% of respondents told us that they have no formal youth work qualification, with a further 9% of respondents reporting ‘something else’. 18% told us that they have a JNC recognised Level 6 (BA Hons degree) qualification. 15% of respondents are at JNC DipHE/Foundation Level and another 15% hold a JNC Level 7 (MA or PGDip) qualification.
A smaller proportion of respondents hold a JNC Level 3 Youth Work qualification (6%) or a JNC JNC Level 2 Certificate in Youth Work Practice (4%), with 2% holding a Level 2 Award in Youth Work Principles, which is not recognised by the JNC. One respondent is currently in the process of starting their Level 3 qualification.
This means that the largest number of respondents have professional qualifications in youth work recognised by JNC.
What did the comments say?
As ever, the comments shared by participants provide a rich picture of both the training and qualifications held by some of the workforce, and the ways in which training and qualifications are received and perceived by those within the sector.
A number of respondents hold qualifications in other areas - we heard from quite a number of qualified teachers (one of whom is now undertaking a PhD researching effective provision for young carers), as well as those with other specialisms in related fields - which may or may not be in addition to one of the Youth Work qualifications listed above:
- Counselling, Group Work Counselling, MBA
- I also have a degree in English and Drama and a PGCE in Further Education (Performing Arts)
- I hold a Level 7 in sociology, but not specifically for youth work
- I work in a senior operation role and hold a degree relevant to that role
Several participants shared details about their journey through the sector, with particular reflections on the training, skills, and experience needed for the management elements of more senior roles in Youth Work:
“I hold a PGCE in primary education and found my way into Youth Work a bit later on in my career (which followed no set or obvious pattern) and am now passionate about youth work being seen as a profession of equal standing with teaching, social care and health professionals. As CEO of a youth work org the role does not demand that I hold youth work qualifications (more day-to-day focus on people management, strategic delivery, finance, fundraising, building and maintaining partnerships etc) but the majority of our team have either the JNC level 6 or Level 3 qualification and we are really value the youth work qualifications for our staff team and their continuous professional development!”
"[As well as a JNC Level 6 (BA Hons degree)] I also have a Level 7 (Masters) in Charity Management, with a CMI level 7 in Strategic Management. I feel that this has been very helpful in my role as Youth Service Manager. Giving me good grounding on Fundraising, accounting, strategic management, HR, and other elements. A degree level, enables an individual to be a Senior Youth Worker / Youth Service Manager but often the course doesn't cover many of the elements that you also need to be proficient at to run/manage a high quality youth provision. (This was what my MA dissertation specifically looked at)."
There has been increasing attention to the need for progressing youth work training and qualifications. The 2019 APPG on Youth Affairs Youth Work Inquiry concluded that “training and development pathways, both vocational and academic, are fractured and declining in number, and there is regional disparity in the levels of training available”. It recommended renewed national occupational standards, training curriculum and qualifications for youth work. Some of our respondents notes that opportunities can still feel hard to come by:
“[I have] Level 2 IAG [Information, Advice or Guidance], level 2 peer mentoring. It seems almost impossible to gain the other quals.”
However, a number of participants also noted their extensive experience in the sector - whilst not having a formal qualification - and were keen to highlight the value of this:
“I don't hold a youth work qualification - unless a level 3 diploma in Playwork counts. However I do have over 30 years experience in a variety of settings. Mostly as a volunteer but that still gives me a wealth of experience that a young 20 something with a level 6 can't have. And I have attended courses throughout that time to gain knowledge and understanding of my role and how to work with young people covering everything from behaviour management to safeguarding to mental health awareness. Please don't say I'm not qualified to work with young people and can't call myself a youth worker."
The past year has also thrown more challenges and training and support needs into the mix, which is a topic that we have explored in previous surveys:
- What training would be most beneficial to you right now? [25/03/21] and [24/07/21]
- How do you feel about taking part in training and online support during the pandemic? [29/01/21]
- Do you feel that anything is currently missing in safeguarding training for youth work? [31/07/20]
As ever, we are very grateful to all who shared their thoughts and a response this week. If you’ve got more thoughts on the topic, please get in touch via email@example.com.
We hope you’ll take part in our next survey, which you can find in the usual place at youthimpact.app!
[12/05/21 - 18/05/21]
Calling all youth workers! Do you have more than one job?
This week’s survey marked the first of a series run in partnership with UK Youth, as part of our new pilot and partnership. 96 people contributed an answer to this week’s question, which focused on individual practitioners’ employment situation.
What do the responses say?
64% of respondents told us that they have one job in youth work only. 26% of people have another job - for 13%, this is another role in youth work, and a further 13% have a job in a related field such as sports, arts, heritage, social work, or education.
“Many of my frontline youth colleagues do have other jobs and usually within schools.”
Slightly fewer participants (11%) reported that they have another role in an unrelated field, such as freelancing as a media, communications, and PR consultant. In the comments, four respondents noted that they are volunteers, rather than being in a paid role - this included project roles and trusteeships - and we also heard from someone who is a full-time university student.
What do the comments say?
There were two particularly strong themes that emerged from this week’s comments. The first was around challenges in finding permanent, full-time, and/or stable roles in the sector:
“I have lots of jobs and juggle. My main role has a permanent contract and I supplement my income with zero hours work in the same field as well as ad hoc work in other areas as well as unpaid work as a mother. It is really tough.”
“No - I have one job in youth work only. However this has only been within the last year. In a decade of working as a youth worker in different fields I have had to work multiple job roles.”
“My current job is part-time. If I am unable to secure more hours with my organisation, I will have to find additional work, within or outside the sector.”
One respondent noted a drive to address this challenge at their organisation:
“It has been a conscious effort in our organisation to prioritise creating fulltime and permanent roles wherever possible rather than multiple part-time and temporary ones.”
However, it clearly remains a significant challenge for the sector and for the individuals working within it - no doubt amplified by Covid-19 and the uncertainty and instability it has caused.
“Unfortunately most local youth work jobs are not using JNC payscales. One local charity is only paying the minimum wage and using inexperienced unqualified staff and calling them youth workers. Vacancies are out there but not at an appropriate salary to deal with the stress.”
“Wow, for the first time in a long time I can say I only have one paid job! I volunteer for two other organisations, but only one paid job.”
This response builds on a second theme that was reflected in multiple comments: the number of workers who volunteer within the sector on top of their main job.
“2 other jobs - private tutor and admin assistant in an office - as well as other voluntary roles with young people - all on top of my paid role in youth work!!”
“I also volunteer at an LGBT youth group in my spare time.”
“I have several part-time roles with different organisations, most paid, two voluntary. All equally important & vital to me.”
Several respondents noted engaging in voluntary work specifically in response to a lack of other provision for your people in their local area:
“[...] Despite my current paid role I run a local youth club as a volunteer in my own community, as my local county council (different to my employment) disbanded its youth service which would have led to a full closure of our local youth centre, myself and community members agreed to run the club if we were not charged for the building. This has since been modelled in other parts of the local authority. “
“I Work 40hrs in retail. The youth work I do is unpaid. We do it because we saw that nothing was being done. That was 6 years ago.’
One participant also said they ‘would like to know how many youth workers do more than their contract hours and by how many?’
We’re really grateful to everyone who shared a response and their thoughts this week. We hope you’ll join us for the new survey, going live on Wednesday here.
[05/05/2021 - 11/05/2021]
What, if any, factors do you anticipate will have an impact on your delivery in coming weeks?
This week’s survey received responses from 82 participants, who could each select up to three responses. As lockdown restrictions continue to lift and more in-person delivery resumes, we asked practitioners about what factors they felt were most likely to impact on their delivery over coming weeks.
The most popular responses were around the capacity of staff or volunteers (54% of respondents selected this answer) and the challenges of (re)engaging young people in provision (44%).
Specific engagement challenges included exam season, and young people not being able and/or willing to access services by using booking systems. One comment also bridged these two top responses, noting a specific scenario where young people are keen to go back to face to face activities, but adult staff and resources are not ready. Expanding on the capacity needed in order to prepare and restart provision, one contributor commented:
"The amount of capacity / time / energy for 'shuttle negotiation' between & with different stakeholders (Govt - national & local, funders/commissioners, delivery team, councils, parents & of course Young People) to achieve sufficient consensus to develop delivery in a changing environment of restrictions & considerations. More simply put - plate-spinning"
Several comments also noted issues around ‘recruiting skilled youth workers or adult leaders with [the] correct skill set or mindset to be trained.’ In this case, recruitment was further challenged by the organisation being only able to offer part time hours, which ‘limits the flow of applicants.’
“Why are there so few youth workers? What help is there to get staff qualified?”
One further comment also described “walking the line between being able to now run truly open access youth club provision again where young people can come and go freely and managing numbers in the space based on maintaining social distancing.”
Related to and building on both engagement and capacity challenges was the third most popular response - Covid-related anxieties impacting both staff and/or young people’s participation (38%). This was shortly followed by access to suitable venues and spaces for work with young people (35%) - the most popular response when we asked a similar question back in October 2020 (followed by ‘engagement from young people.’) Several comments built on the challenge of accessing suitable venues for delivery in its current necessary format:
“Prices rising due to admin/covid cleaning etc.. schools also not engaging due to rules around school trips.”
“We use a function room of a community pub. We don't yet know when or even if we will be able to use this same venue when it's safe to reopen.”
One participant also noted that “detailed government guidance for the return to overnight residential for school children is still awaited and could well prove unworkable.”
Finally, 17% of respondents flagged financial concerns, and 11% selected additional health and safety precautions. 5% of respondents also chose to give an alternative response.
We appreciate that it can be hard to identify one (or even three) ‘top’ challenges, and that the ‘plate-spinning’ of different factors noted by one respondent above is, in itself, a challenge. One participant felt that all of the factors applied to them, along with:
“The weather; uncertainty as to what future guidance will be (short notice prior to implementation); different interpretations of guidance and good practice; [and] other organisations' decision making (schools, venue owners, other providers).”
However, this participant also wanted to note factors that they expect to have a positive impact over the coming weeks:
“The skills, commitment and enthusiasm of staff and volunteers, the desire of many young people to meet others in 3D, [and] the determination of young people staff and volunteers to build a positive future”.
Thinking about how your organisation uses data (the information it collects) to learn and improve, where would you say your organisation is on its journey?
[23/04/21 - 28/04/21]
This week’s question was taken from the Data Maturity Framework, developed by DataKind and Data Orchard (although we needed to tweak the responses a little in order to work with the #justonequestion platform - to see the full framework and stages, please visit the first link above.)
Data maturity is the journey towards improvement and increased capability in using data. The framework presents the five stages of progress in data maturity for organisations: Unaware, Emerging, Learning, Developing, and Mastering together across each of the seven key themes: Data, Tools, Leadership, Skills, Culture, Uses and Analysis.
49 people responded to this week’s survey. The largest majority of participants (53%) felt that their organisations were at the ‘learning’ stage, with some data gathered out of curiosity and to inform decision making. A further 29% put their organisations a little further along, at the ‘developing’ stage - with decisions routinely driven by data and confidence in their data analysis.
A smaller percentage of respondents then placed themselves towards the start of the scale - either ‘unaware’, with very basic data collection and data that is rarely used in decision making (4%) or ‘emerging’, where data is mainly used for external purposes and is only one person’s job or responsibility. One comment expanded on this:
“Organisationally, data collection is information driven. Mostly used to evidence attendance etc. for funders and Interventions for safeguarding reference. NO evidence collected of actual effectiveness of interventions/curriculum work/informal activities (soft skills).”
Another person noted barriers and limitations around how data is shared beyond their organisation:
“We collect data but our reporting capabilities are limited and there are also barriers around how data is shared with partners.”
Only 6% of respondents felt that their organisation is operating at the ‘mastering’ stage, where data is used extensively, there is sophisticated analysis, and it is considered everyone’s job.
One respondent also caveated their response, indicating that where they had placed themselves was not quite right; noting an ambition to improve that isn’t currently met by the systems and quality of data:
“We're not quite as good as that option suggests - currently the quality isn't great and our systems make it difficult to analyse, so our decisions aren't consistently data-driven and we're not that confident in our analysis...but we have a very structured approach to M&E and we're working to make improvements across data collection, storage and analysis.”
There are plenty more questions that we could ask from this week’s survey, to provide more insight and direction for efforts to increase data maturity across the sector, for example:
- What barriers do you feel are preventing your organisation from progressing to the next stage of your data journey?
- What factors do you think have enabled you to reach the ‘mastering’ stage at your organisation?
- What resources and support do you most need in order to increase your organisation's data maturity?
- With your current resources, how long do you think it would take your organisation to reach the next stage of data maturity?
We’re really excited to continue this conversation at the upcoming Data4Good Festival, taking place on the 10-12 May. If you’re interested in exploring some of the topics and themes mentioned above (and more!) with others in and beyond the sector, check out the programme here. You can also read more about some of our work with the Data Collective, and a recent workshop run with members of the youth sector, here.
Other than more funding, what do you need most, right now, to help you make a positive difference for young people?
[16/04/21 - 22/04/21]
This week we revisited our launch survey from May 2020, which we also re-ran in July 2020. Almost a year on from the first question that we asked, we are interested to know what practitioners are reporting as their most pressing need right now.
We received responses from 48 participants who could each select one answer.
Access to safe physical spaces
Overwhelmingly, the most commonly selected response this week was appropriate spaces and venues for socially distanced activities. Back in November, we asked specifically whether practitioners had access to the physical space they needed to work safely with young people. At the time, 36% had only partial access to enough safe spaces, and 32% did not have enough access at all. This week’s survey indicates that this challenge still remains - as is perhaps even more pressing as more face-to-face provision resumes.
The second most popular response this week was ‘something else’, which means participants had opted to share their own alternative answer. A notable number of these responses highlighted a need for more capacity - more staff and more volunteers, as well as individuals with particular skill sets and capabilities:
“Youth club leaders with the confidence and the volunteers they need to reopen community based youth provision.”
“As an organisation we need support with HR resource to manage a growing team.”
It’s not just about numbers and capabilities, however, but also energy and motivation - one respondent highlighted just how much their motivation and enthusiasm had dipped due to an extended period of furlough, which had left them “feeling that we are effectively starting again” and very uncertain about staying in their role.
More ways to support young people
For some, their biggest need is around focused on how they can work with and support young people directly:
“The way young people communicate with tech seems to be continuously changing and I would like to know which apps are currently most popular and how we could as services potentially utilise those apps to reach young people on our books.”
“Better understanding and ways forward of working with young people with disabilities during COVID / Post COVID.”
“Lifting of COVID restrictions on numbers of young people.”
Several responses also voiced frustrations at the way in which young people, and young people’s services and provision, are positioned and prioritised more widely:
“Stability & clarity from Govt in moving forward (primarily national, but also local to a degree) - this has been better since Xmas, but could still be improved”
“A media that does not blame young people for society's ills and a government that has policy for young people's employment, housing, support, mental health education that is meaningfully funded.”
“Funding that is quicker to apply for and relates to current needs :)”
How does this compare with May and July 2020?
Participants were only able to select one response this week (thanks to all who flagged this issue in their comments!) Indeed, several people noted that they would have liked to have selected additional responses, including tech to distribute to young people with no way to get online.
Because of this, we can’t do a direct comparison with the previous two surveys where participants could select up to three responses, however we can still see a clear shift in themes that reflect the shifting context of working with young people at each timepoint:
In May 2020, a large majority of practitioners told us that their biggest need related to providing services online: training for staff in specific skills, such as online facilitation or digital youth work, 'free data' or vouchers to offer young people with smartphones but no way to get online, or tablets and smartphones to distribute to young people who have no way to connect with you. Many also highlighted deeper insight into the young people in my local area who are facing the most risks, and how I could reach them. At this point, responses were indicative of the rapid shift to online delivery.
In July 2020, where some lockdown restrictions had been eased, a significant number of respondents selected training related to meeting young people’s increased needs as a result of lockdown. A large number also flagged specific training related to new rules (e.g. masks and handwashing) and clearer guidance on how I can safely continue to support young people during lockdown/social distancing. Tech for young people and training in specific online delivery skills were also popular responses.
Thanks to all who shared a response to this week’s survey. You can find this week’s new question in the usual place at https://youthimpact.app.
What is the number one thing that would make evaluation a really useful experience for you in your work right now/moving forward?
(09/04/21 - 15/04/21)
This week’s survey looked at how youth practitioners are currently experiencing evaluation in their work. We received responses from 47 practitioners, who could each select one response.
‘More time to think about it’ was the top response (30%), followed by ‘less pressure to do things for different funders’ (23%) - although additional comments indicated that others who did not select this response would perhaps have selected this jointly with ‘more time’, and also that there is overlap between the two responses:
“Only let me chose one (otherwise i would have chosen funders as well)”
“A consistent approach would simplify the burden we face to report in so many different ways to different funders. Time invested in improving our ability to record and provide that data would then be effective.”
“Connection between evaluation results, impact, inclusion and how it influences change - often feels disjointed and there is limited control to be responsive to evaluation.”
There are clear recommendations here: more consistency in approaches and expectations from funders, more time to invest in these consistent approaches and to enable ‘responsive’ evaluation, and a more collaborative system whereby practitioners feel that they can take ownership of and use evaluation efforts to influence change. “A well thought out system that is adaptable to both the individuals and organisation”, is how one participant described it. Another contributor called for greater guidance at a national level:
“Greater national direction on tools to be used to help develop the picture of what works in youth work, to enable greater conversations across the sector and a shared understanding & common language around evaluation.”
‘Training in tools and techniques so I feel more confident’ was the third most popular response, selected by 17% of people.
Several participants also touched on some of the more foundational issues around how evaluation is perceived and experienced. One person needs evaluation ‘to be reflective’ and wants to see ‘ongoing reflection at all times.’ Another participant also wanted to jointly select ‘less fear of failure’, which was the ‘number one most useful thing’ selected by a small percentage of this week’s contributors (4%). One more person shared an experience of how evaluation had taken on a less helpful role at their organisation:
“Evaluations have turned into a competition within our service who gets the most engagements, safeguarding issues, trauma, drama etc winner keeps their job.”
This week’s survey was a repeat of a question that we asked back in February 2020, as part of the Asking Good Questions survey (before we adapted the platform for Just One Question). To see how this week’s responses compare to that, and for a deeper look at some of the issues and topics highlighted above, take a look at this month’s Our Thoughts.
What training would be most beneficial to you right now?
(25/03/21 - 01/04/21)
For this week’s survey, we repeated a question from back in July 2020. At the time, multiple studies and surveys had highlighted a need for increased training for practitioners who were adapting, rapidly, to the new context of youth work delivery.
Over a year since lockdown began, practitioners have now been delivering in this ‘new normal’ for some time. New methods have been developed, tested, and shared, and in many places we’ve seen a proliferation of opportunities for online training and networking; in part due to need, as well as increased accessibility and the removal of some barriers with virtual training provision. See surveys from January and February this year for more thoughts on these topics.
At the end of January this year, 46% of survey respondents told us that they’d been able to join more useful training and support before the pandemic - but as many said that they only want to join if it’s really important or relevant. 13% wanted to join in with all of the training and support opportunities that were available. 12% reported that they had less time training and support than before the pandemic hit, and 13% had been flooded with opportunities that they were not interested in.
With this in mind - what does relevant and useful training look like for today’s context?
52 respondents shared 104 responses to this week’s question.
The most popular training topics flagged this week were on meeting the increased needs of young people as a result of the pandemic (29% of respondents), digital youth work (23%), more advanced safeguarding (23%), and data collection and evaluation (21%).
17% indicated that they don’t need any more training right now.
15% would like support in shifting to long-term blended delivery. Other topics included managing teams remotely (13%), digital facilitation (12%), responding to feedback from young people (12%), and improving the quality of our youth work (10%).
We saw the smallest number of responses for training in detached and street-based youth work, specific practices for how to work with young people (e.g. creating safe spaces), and how to follow social distancing rules and regulations. This is a notable shift from July’s survey (see more below).
10% shared ‘something else.’ Specific training topics that were highlighted include:
- Working with volunteers
- Practical examples and ideas for (indoor) socially distanced youth work
- HR (human resources) management
- Outdoor learning and engagement
Two additional comments were also shared in response to this week’s question:
“Ensuring we have the skills to support the whole team in going from COVID-19 restrictions to the new normal.”
“Leadership that allows BAME youth workers to get jobs with youth sector SMT positions etc - the % of BAME staff in position is so poor and no one seems to doing anything about it just talks.”
How does this compare with last July?
As the number of respondents varied between July 2020 and April 2021, we have used the ‘% of respondents’ metric for the comparison graph below. We also added a few new responses to this week’s survey (‘improving the quality of our work’, ‘shifting to long-term blended delivery’, and ‘data collection and evaluation’) which are not included.
Here are some key reflections from what’s changed over the past 10 months:
- Key priorities have not changed - the two most popular responses at both time points were meeting young people’s increased needs as a result of the pandemic and digital youth work. A greater proportion of all respondents selected these answers in the first survey, however.
- Confidence in other areas has shifted. In April 2021, fewer practitioners expressed a need for training about how to follow social distancing rules and regulations (14% to 4%), detached or street-based youth work (21% to 6%), and specific practices for working with young people, e.g. creating safe spaces (28% to 6%). There’s also notably less demand for training in digital facilitation (27% to 12%)
- This time around, a greater proportion of respondents also indicated that they don’t need any more training right now (7% to 17%).
For both surveys, respondents could select up to three responses, although the average number of answers per respondent was two.
Does this resonate with your experience? Let us know - firstname.lastname@example.org.
For our next survey, we’re going to be digging into the response about training in data collection and evaluation by asking what is the number one thing that would make evaluation a really useful experience for you in your work right now/moving forward?
Choose two words to describe how you’re feeling about your work with young people right now.
[12/03/21 - 18/03/21]
We’ve asked this question twice before, first in July 2020 and again in September 2020. We know that as lockdown conditions have eased, tightened, and eased once more, practitioners' feelings towards their work with young people has varied significantly. We were interested in gauging the current ‘mood’, given that lockdown conditions are slowly set to be lifted over the coming months.
This week we heard from 75 practitioners, and received a total of 104 responses.
The comparison graph below shows how responses have changed since mid-July (presented as a % of responses).
Looking across the last eight months, we can see a slight decrease in overall positivity from practitioners towards their work with young people. Whilst feelings of motivation, frustration and excitement are the most prevalent feelings at all three time points, reported excitement has remained lower, with 21% and 20% of respondents reporting this in September and March respectively, vs 24% in July. Levels of frustration have also increased, from 15% in July, 19% in September, to 22% reporting feeling frustrated in our latest survey. More positively, practitioner’s motivation has increased significantly, with 22% of respondents feeling motivated, compared to just 16% in September.
Respondents related frustrations to the fact that it is ‘very difficult to plan ahead’ and there is a continuous need to be ‘responsive’:
“Young people respond really well, but our systems and processes are not as fleet of foot as they need to be to meet their needs”.
This notion of constantly needing to respond but struggling to match the pace of change and young people’s needs, was echoed in respondents’ own ‘something else’ answers to better convey what they are feeling: including words such as ‘tired’, ‘powerless’, and ‘uncertain’. Two respondent’s also alluded to impact of ongoing capacity and financial challenges on their feelings towards their work, particularly being perceived to have slipped to the ‘bottom of government spending priorities’ and youth services funding being cut.
These negative feelings were part of conflicting or ‘tumultuous’ emotions, and one respondent suggested:
“Most of the suggested words could apply at differing times and in different ways but the underlying feeling is the importance of the work.”
Despite some of the frustrations and continuing feelings of uncertainty, it is clear that as a reduction of social distancing measures appears to be in sight, many practitioners feel less anxious around their work with young people. Reported nervousness had continued to decrease, from 11% back in July, to just under 4% in this week's responses. Whilst confusion (understandably) peaked in September with the ever-changing rules around face-to-face delivery, just 2% of respondents described feeling confused this week, suggesting there is much more clarity in the guidelines around delivery. Feelings of preparedness have also gone up, with just 5% of respondents reporting feeling prepared in September, vs. 11.5% this week. It suggests that tools such as the NYA COVID-19 Guidance have been well received and utilised. It also suggests that as the road map out of lockdown progresses and organisations have consolidated some of their learning over the past year, organisations do feel more ‘ready to go’. As one respondent reflected:
“Now is the time to be excited about creating new opportunities alongside young people”
Whilst overall this week’s responses suggest that practitioners are feeling more confident around the practicalities of delivery and motivation has increased, levels of frustration are still high, and feelings of stress are hovering at around 10%. We know that the next six months or so are not going be easy, and we will continue to focus on how we can support organisations - through the information and tools we share, and conversations we facilitate - to keep motivation and excitement levels high, and reduce levels of stress or confusion.
Has digital delivery widened your geographical reach?
[05/03/21 - 11/03/21]
Comments from previous surveys indicated that some practitioners were finding that they are now reaching a wider range of young people through their provision, due to moving some or all activities online. We were interested in finding out whether this was the case more widely.
This week 52 practitioners shared a response.
From this week’s survey responses, the picture is fairly split; 42% of respondents report that they are now reaching young people from further afield, whilst 40% share that their geographical reach is the same. 12% already had a wide geographical reach, and a small percentage don’t know or provided a different answer.
The potential for increasing reach in this way will vary, of course, depending on an organisation’s type of provision, capacity, and resources. One participant commented that their organisation’s funding limits them to a particular geographical area, so they would not be able to widen their reach even if it was practically feasible to do so. Another participant does not do so much digital delivery, so this question is less applicable for them.
On the converse, one respondent shared that digital delivery has enabled them to develop links with projects from around the country, meaning that the young people they support are now joining online groups from other areas of the UK - and beyond. This is supported by an increased ability to link staff up across geographical areas for networking (an opportunity that also came through clearly in a previous survey about areas of work that are working better online). Another person added that they have been engaging groups at an international level.
Finally, a wider geographical reach might not be based solely on digital provision - one participant commented that they have managed to increase capacity of locality based staff, which could also be said to increase their geographical reach.
Are the young people who are engaging with your online provision now the same ones who were engaging at the start of lockdown?
[26/02/21 - 04/03/21]
This week we received 52 responses. Participants could select one answer each.
The question for this week builds on responses and feedback from a number of previous surveys:
- In two early surveys from late May last year, 56% of respondents reported that fewer young people were engaging with online provision compared to face-to-face, and there were mixed experiences of whether the same or different young people were engaging regularly each week.
- Then, in November, 47% of respondents told us that they did not feel that they were reaching young people most in need of their organisation’s provision.
- Finally, last month in February, 47% of respondents and many comments reported that young people were less keen to join activities online due to digital fatigue.
A major concern shared at the start of lockdown was around the limitations of building and maintaining relationships with young people, whilst pre-pandemic provision was not possible and sustained engagement felt more challenging.
Almost a year into lockdown restrictions, the picture of young people’s engagement with provision continues to be mixed. As one respondent commented, “some [young people] have been retained, some have dropped off and some young people have come on board.” 20% of respondents report that they are currently still engaging with the same group(s) of young people that they were at the start of lockdown, and 50% report that they are engaging both the same groups and new young people. Responses this week indicate some consistency and continuity, although we cannot draw conclusions from these figures alone (more might be learned through organisational user and engagement data, for example).
17% are engaging the same groups, but have found that overall, engagement has dropped off. One person commented “numbers attending have reduced substantially” and another also noted that “some levels of engagement [are] unclear in the more 'anonymous' world of social media.”
A small percentage (6%) are now engaging totally different groups. As would be expected, it is not possible to move all types of provision and engagement online - those who primarily worked with young people through detached work, for example, are not easily able to move this engagement online. For some, adapting provision has led to new groups engaging:
“Because we have changed our offer as the first offering was not working. We are attracting new groups .”
At the same time, there are large groups of young people not accessing provision:
“We are seeing [an] increasing number of young women engaging whereas take up from young people with refugee status has tapered off. This is particularly at the referral stages of our services and provision. We suspect that this has to do with the digital provision changing accessibility for certain groups but are looking into this further in the next few months. In terms of our group work provision we see smaller numbers engaging but relatively more young women participating.”
“We're actually reaching a far more diverse group of young people than before - care-experienced, different geographical regions - all as a result of the move online. It's superb to see. And we've focused on designing our programmes to be accessible, recognising some of the barriers young people face. Young people have been calling in, have been joining by text, video and all sorts of things. That has made a huge difference - accessibility is at least as much about design as it is device.”
Challenges with accessibility continue, but comments such as those above demonstrate ways in which practitioners and organisations are prioritising and responding to these through their work.
We are not reaching the young people who need our organisation's services the most
Now, in mid-November, 46% of survey respondents say that they are not currently reaching the young people who are most in need of their organisation’s services. Many additional comments described how current lockdown restrictions are influencing this - for example, one practitioner reports how not being able to run open access sessions means that there is no opportunity ‘for some young people to self-identify that they need additional support’. Another person identified the value of young people being able to ‘congregate’ as a group and provide support to one another - something else that cannot take place right now.
For those working in partnership with others, referrals and outreach work is also being limited:
'We aren't receiving as many referrals as usual because other services don't have the capacity to complete our referral form (they are focusing on crisis work) so there may be young people who aren't being identified / referred to us support due to the impact of COVID-19 on other services, e.g. schools and social care.'
A previous survey in early October highlighted some of these challenges, particularly when collaborating with schools (‘Are you/is your organisation collaborating more since the start of the pandemic?’ 02/10/20 - 09/10/20).
For those operating some kind of online provision, there are continued concerns about young people who are ‘digitally excluded’ being left behind, or about those who have found that digital engagement does not work for them, and are therefore ‘hiding away.’ One practitioner shared specific concerns about young people who are staying at home, despite it being a place where they do not feel safe.
'We are completely digital and I am confident that we are meeting the needs of young peope that we have established relations with but I have concerns that we are not meeting the needs of young people that we are trying to establish relations with.'
One person highlighted their frustration at the situation.
We are reaching them, but...
One practitioner noted that whilst they are reaching the young people who need their organisation’s services, they ‘don't feel that [they are] able to fully meet their needs due to the restrictions that [they] are currently working within.’ For example, existing members might only be engaging through social media or in different ways to how they might otherwise. Another person spoke about how whilst they are ‘seeing more young people than ever’ they ‘cannot be sure [they] are not missing people.’ Someone else added that whilst they are reaching these young people, there are still many more who need their organisation’s service.
Increased targeting means that we are reaching these young people - but not everyone
19% of this week’s survey respondents do feel that they are currently reaching the young people who need their organisation’s services the most. Several people described how their work has taken on a more refined focus, such as detached work, 1:1 provision, specifically supporting young carers, or focusing on ‘vulnerable group work.’ This does however mean that not all young people who might ‘normally’ be supported are able to access provision:
'But only in the sense that we are hitting the absolute minimum targets. There is no capacity for extras of any kind.'
One practitioner also noted that their provision is currently very targeted as they can only operate in smaller groups - and that this meant that they are reaching those who need it most. However, they also added ‘at least those that we know who need our support the most!”
How do we know?
Related to this point, over a quarter of this week’s respondents (27%) are not sure whether or not they are currently reaching those young people most in need of their provision. The question this week was deliberately totally subjective. Another question we might ask is ‘how are you currently determining which young people need your organisation’s services the most?'
The situation right now is frustrating, as one respondent shared this week, uncertain, and highly changeable - back in August, 87% of surveyed practitioners expected to adapt their offer in some ways over the following months. Whilst ‘knowing’ and objective knowledge is particularly difficult right now, it’s still an important place to aspire to - particularly where it helps us to respond, adapt and reach out.
As well as trying to meet need and demand over the coming months, it will be a challenge to determine quite what this looks like: understanding the need for your provision, checking whether you’re reaching the young people you are most focused on, and/or measuring overall impact.
If you’re currently focusing on these questions, we’d love to hear more from you about how you are approaching this.
We'd also recommend taking a look at questions one and two of the Asking Good Questions framework.