BLOG: Future generations need cross-sector models to succeed

The tumultuous events of 2016 have generated a national debate around societal fault lines and the precarious future that faces many of our young people.

As the CEO of a charity focused on creating more opportunities for this demographic, my hope is that future generations look back on this period as a positive tipping point.

After nearly a decade of downward financial pressure and plenty more uncertainty to come, the responsibility now falls on the whole of society to find new ways of tackling persistent issues around health, wellbeing and employability.

The public, private and voluntary sectors all need to be willing and capable of taking bold and progressive steps to significantly increase provision for hard-to-reach young people.

Forging new partnerships

‘Innovation’ and ‘collaboration’ trip easily off the tongue, but creating new multi-sector funding and delivery models that are robust, effective and sustainable takes significant co-ordination and commitment across stakeholder groups.

It was encouraging to see Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson, use his address at the Ambition National Conference to talk about a new youth policy statement and a focus on fresh approaches.

A concerted effort to increase provision by combining the insight, skills and resources of stakeholders is exactly what’s needed at this crucial juncture.

We’ve found there is huge appetite amongst philanthropists and businesses to work with the public sector and charities to support young people and their communities.

What’s required are more frameworks that enable them to operate in true partnership.

Philanthropic community partnerships

For OnSide Youth Zones, our charity’s rapid growth since 2008 is in large part due to our cross-sector funding and operational model.

To establish a new Youth Zone facility, we create a five-way interlocking partnership between local authorities, businesses and philanthropists, charitable funds, the community and young people themselves.

By broadening and diversifying both funding and board representation, the model removes over-reliance on any given stakeholder group and creates a compelling social investment vehicle.

Crucial to the success of each Youth Zone is ensuring that it’s shaped directly by the area it serves and that it complements and contributes to existing provision in that area.

We ensure local young people, schools, colleges, community groups and other youth service providers are involved from the outset to help define key aspects of the development of the facilities and services.

Making a step change

If charities and the public sector are to maintain a diverse offer for young people, we must collectively do all we can to encourage and nurture multi-sector collaboration.

Providers working together to integrate, share best practice and help unlock new ideas will ensure vital youth work skills, insight and experience sit at the heart of these models.

We’d welcome more opportunity to exchange learnings as I think that a joined-up approach will be key to creating new partnerships at the rate and scale required.

The imperative is clear. Without innovation and collaboration voluntary and public sector provision will be diminished and the compounding negative effect of under-investment in young people is likely to cost us all dearly in the long run.

My hope is that future generations don’t look back and see a missed opportunity. Instead they find a society which collectively delivered a step-change in the opportunities available to those needing them most.

Kathryn Morley is chief executive of OnSide Youth Zones, a charity which is creating a UK-wide network of high-quality, safe and affordable places for young people to spend their free time

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