We were delighted to host our first Network and Engagement meet up on the 3rd April, which brought together all groups funded through the first two rounds of our ESDF - Save London Lives initiative. These groups were funded on their ability to deliver effective and quality responses to youth violence in London. The aim of the event was to hear first-hand the support groups needed to assist them with the delivery of their projects, and to provide an opportunity for groups to meet and network. There were 36 participants, representing 31 organisations from across London.
The themes of discussion throughout the day included capacity building needs, identifying preferred channels and methodologies when delivering capacity building support and how groups can share their expertise with each other. Participants sat at tables of 6-8 people, and I moved around the room, listening to different discussions and engaging with different groups. It was great to meet so many individuals that I had been in contact with, but had yet to put a face to the name.
Some of the key discussion points and findings from the day included:
- Increased investment in youth workers: Participants explained how government cuts, combined with increasing demand, was negatively impacting their capacity to work with young people. They are often unable to afford to employ youth workers on a full-time basis, which results in a lack of job security for their youth workers, and the inability to provide continuous and full support to young people. There was also an awareness of the lack of support in place for youth workers after having experienced a traumatic, and often violent, event. Receiving money towards core costs, such as investing in youth workers, would help alleviate these pressures.
- The importance of multi-year, core funding: Attendees said that moving away from short term funding, to 3-5 year funding, would help address their capacity issues by increasing their ability to deliver sustainable projects, whilst also providing vital security to their organisation. Receiving small, short-term funding not only fails to provide stability for organisations, but can also place demands on groups which outweigh the financial support they have received. A concern that was raised several times, was that groups felt that funders were often reluctant to support them with their core costs, however, as one participant explained, "All we want to do, is to continue to do what we are doing."
All we want to do, is to continue to do what we are doing.Meg, Fat Macy's
- Creating connections between organisations: Groups emphasised the importance of making connections with local organisations, but, agreed this can be difficult. One individual explained that making connections can take time: "But when you can see what they’re doing, and the impact they are having, this is often when a partnership develops and then from this, trust can be built between groups." Many agreed with this, which highlights the importance of having networking events such as these, to help build trust between groups - as one participant told me: "Working on your own is really tough."
- The need for further training and support: Several attendees said they would find external training and workshops useful, as this was something they could often not afford themselves. Capacity building around time-management, database training and fundraising support were discussed. Groups felt that tasks such as managing their website, marketing and updating social media, was something that they would like to do more of, but simply did not have the capacity for.
When observing discussion between participants, it was clear to see how speaking to each other about the difficulties they were encountering was beneficial, but also reassuring. One participant said that it was "very useful chatting to groups and learning that their challenges are the same as ours." I had many attendees say to me how useful ‘peer exchange’ was, and how they felt that sharing knowledge and solutions are vital to the sustainability of their organisations. When reflecting on the day, one participant said: "I have found this so useful today – having events like this are so important."
It is very useful chatting to groups and learning that their challenges are the same as ours.Participant
The main message I took from the day was the importance of having events like these for groups to share their stories, create contacts and teach us about how we can meet their capacity building needs. As a funder, we are always looking for ways we can offer groups more than just financial support; we are acutely aware of the importance of providing groups with long term sustenance so that that they can continue to do the invaluable work they are doing, and do it to the best of their ability. In light of this, as part of our SLL fund, we will be holding future events to act on the feedback we received at this event, and help put into place the capacity building needs that were raised.
Throughout the day, it was clear to see that these individuals are working tirelessly to help tackle the surge in youth violence in London – their passion, dedication and commitment was truly inspiring. On behalf of everyone at LCF, I would like to say a huge thank you to all the groups for the amazing work they are doing in providing vital support to young people.