Thanks to funding from The Big Lottery Reaching Communities grant, we are able to report the following results from the last 2 years:
- Over 20 social action projects were achieved across the North of England, with 14 of them being youth-led ethical enterprises; above and beyond our initial target.
- Our partner organisations included; the Hamara Centre Leeds (West Yorkshire), Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (Lancashire area), Greater Manchester Youth Network (across Greater Manchester), Dame Kelly Holmes Trust (Yorkshire), Black Cat Theatre (South Yorkshire) and Places for People (Yorkshire).
- The ethical-enterprises included businesses where products were ethically sourced and/or created on-site (tea, coffee, chocolate, cocoa, soap, fudge, bath bombs, coconut oil, screen-printing). Other enterprises focused on income generation from events, catering and developing drama productions that addressed social issues.
- Wherever it was desired – and wherever it was possible – we linked the groups with producers overseas who provided the raw materials or initial produce, to generate solidarity and understanding.
We have genuinely increased the life & entrepreneurial skills of young people from disadvantaged areas, leading to greater potential for income generation; 100% of the young people reported an increase in enterprise skills (including leadership, managing money, IT, administration and problem solving). 10 of the projects generated a profit above income and 5 community businesses remain after this funding had ended.
We also saw a real increase in employability among young people, leading to greater personal aspirations. Our programme works hard to engage some difficult to reach young people and often, a high percentage in a group display some form of additional need. Many of the young people need support to build their internal capacity and personal effectiveness before moving on to more challenging roles (formal employment etc.)
100% of the young people reported an increase in enterprise skills and 100% reported an increase in confidence. Many of the young people grasped the challenge and accepted greater responsibility for the success of their project by taking on business related responsibilities.
Increased confidence, self-esteem and well-being was achieved by the young people (100%) and we have seen high rates of self-reporting – confirmed by project leaders as being very unusual; as young people are generally not keen on self-reporting both during and after an initiative.
We were also delighted to see our impact in terms of improved community cohesion – as the groups join people of different backgrounds and cultures in social projects that benefit their communities. Targets for ethnic diversity/gender were all met with disability levels being exceeded.
During the period, we became an ASDAN accredited centre for learning and 55 young people achieved their ASDAN Certificate in Enterprise, 25 passed Emergency First aid and 5 received Food Hygiene certificates.
We enjoyed enormous success in terms of involving a wide variety of stakeholders; youth, project workers, parents, volunteers, community members, local authorities, schools, charities, coops and the private sector. We established some very effective partnerships in local communities where engagement was often difficult to achieve; bringing added value for all.
At times we have been ‘wowed’ by the sheer range of ideas and the number of products developed by the young people themselves. Although we are always deeply touched when people who have embarked on learning about ethical enterprise with the LYF take the time to get in touch and to thank us, we always like to say … “Credit where credit is due!”
Maturing and Developing – What Next for NJA?
We have seen an exciting period of growth and refinement for our projects, as the overall programme reached maturity and the Big Lottery Funded element drew to an end. We expanded the NJA project into delivering a programme of enterprise education involving weekly workshops, practical enterprise challenges and learning visits; this was in recognition of the fact that not all young people or community members can commit themselves to a longer-term enterprise.
And now – as with our flagship international project (Farmer Radio) – our Board has taken the decision to ‘Open Source’ our NJA work.
In effect – this means parcelling up all of our work, our experience, our resources and expertise and giving them away – for FREE to any grassroots community organisation who needs it.
Why? Well, we’ve never believed in ‘feathering our own nest’ and we feel that it is the wrong thing to do – to constantly chase small pots of funding so that we can deliver projects ourselves. Rather, we would prefer to empower the organisations that work hand in hand with those in need – to take our learning and to apply it in order to maximise the number of people that it can reach. Again, for us – this is all about an ethical approach to working with communities.
So … we need YOUR help!
In order to create an ‘Open Source Platform’ – so that we can set up the necessary online infrastructure and the organisational capability to do this, we are asking for sponsors, backers and patrons to come forward and to support our rather unusual approach. We would also be delighted to hear from anyone who has experience of developing Open Source software (or ‘Freeware’). Get in touch with us today if you feel that there is an aspect of our new approach that you can help us with!
And please do think about making a donation in order to support our work.