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 email@example.com.
What does the ‘power of youth’ mean to you?
[02/07/21 - 08/07/21]
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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 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!
[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 - email@example.com.
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.