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Three ingredients for social innovation success

12 June 2013

London Youth’s Build-it programme brings young people and older tradespeople together to refurbish empty homes in Lambeth, returning them to use for social housing. In this guest blog, the charity’s chief executive, Rosie Ferguson, explains more about the key project ingredients – creativity, collaboration and co-production.

Rosie Ferguson

London Youth’s Rosie Ferguson

Recently I heard about Liam, a young man from a Lambeth estate who’d left school and started to look for work. He was really down because over the past few months he’d made 100 applications but none of them had led to employment. He was constantly being told he didn’t have the experience that the employers were looking for.

Helping young people like Liam get skills and work experience is one of the benefits of Build-it, the programme we’re launching today. The other side of the programme is about the context in which young people get those skills and chances – the community in which they live.

If you’re familiar with Lambeth, you’ll know that in lots of parts of the borough there are major building developments taking place. At the same time, the council has embarked on a programme to renovate homes and properties. Build-it gives young people and older mentors, who have worked in the building trade, the chance to contribute to the regeneration of their community. So if we get it right, everyone wins.

You may remember that Build-it was one of the BIG-funded projects which featured on Channel 4’s The Secret Millions. To develop it, we looked at the needs I’ve described above, and with our partners at Cospa, and other key stakeholders, combined three key elements to create something special that would meet those needs.

1.    By thinking creatively, we solve many problems at once

Build-it tackles youth unemployment, a social housing shortage and inter-generational tension. By working with an “and/and” (not either/or) mindset we can tackle three challenges at once.

Another Big Lottery Fund project we’re involved with, Talent Match, will work with young people furthest from the jobs market,  to address the real barriers stopping them from accessing work; whether poor mental health, caring responsibilities or low confidence. We recognise that young people and communities develop best through rounded solutions, not targeted interventions.

2.    Genuine collaboration with people from different backgrounds and sectors transforms programme impact and the likelihood of sustaining change

In developing Build-it we’ve had the best brains round the table from Job Centre Plus, colleges, construction & property consultants and housing associations.

It’s an approach we’re extending to our focus on other employability work for young people. At a strategic level, we’re working with London Councils, the Greater London Authority, employers like Barclays and Microsoft as well as local youth outreach organisations like Skyway in Hackney to help shape Talent Match. Getting these partners together and thrashing out what will really work means not only will we deliver better outcomes for young people now, but we’ll improve the relationships between people on the ground to continue to collaborate beyond a funded programme.

3.    Genuine co-production with young people creates a step-change in impact and engagement

Young people must be front and centre of programme development and decision-making; whether establishing delivery values and principles, engaging employers, or interviewing and selecting staff. Real and long-lasting engagement of young people goes far beyond simple consultation and ensures that what is planned will reach the right people in the right way. That’s why the young people who featured in The Secret Millions are now continuing as Build-it ambassadors, to help shape the programme going forward.

Architect George Clarke with young people

Architect George Clarke teamed up with young people on The Secret Millions

I believe that if we get these three things right – creativity, collaboration and co-production – then not only will we develop great programmes that transform communities, but the outcomes for the young people will also be as strong as they can be.

Just last week, I heard that 19-year-old Rachel Penfold, one of the participants who featured in The Secret Millions used her experience to turn her life around, despite leaving school with few GCSEs and feeling she had little purpose or direction for the future. You can read her story here.

We’ve offered Liam and others like him the chance to sign up to Build-it, and are hoping that he makes the same strides as a result of joining the programme.

As we continue to develop solutions along these three principles, I’m pretty excited to see what these “three Cs” can achieve.

Build-it and Talent Match are two of the largest and most challenging things we’ve done at London Youth – and amongst the most exciting. This is because they are both embedded with three principles that have become core ingredients of our approach.

Rosie Ferguson is London Youth Chief Executive

What do you think of Rosie’s guest blog? Join the conversation on Twitter using #biglf or leave your comments below.

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