Acknowledging Youths Group believes that full employment in London is achievable.
Acknowledging Youths Group provides a holistic One-stop-Shop to enable socially isolated and vulnerable people to raise their aspirations, make a positive contribution and gain employment. This is done through a continuous programme of formal training, mentoring and practical support from the community, leading to employment advice and work placements and eventually employment. We as a group believe that those socially isolated or vulnerable have very individual needs and it is our role to identify what those needs are and to prescribe a programme to meet those needs.
We originally focused on young people hence the term “Youths,” but we realised that many people are in need, young or older. The word youth therefore refers to eternal youth and keeping young by having a positive approach - to employment.
We are a pioneer socially responsible training and recruitment service. We look to bridge the gap between ethical companies with strong corporate responsibility concerns and young people and adults from disadvantaged backgrounds who without positive direction will remain out of work and vulnerable to those who seek to disable a positive society. People from disadvantaged backgrounds who live in the deprived wards in London are our focus and have been since 2012.
We want to seek out those who are struggling, those who are isolated and those who are vulnerable. We will then work with them through support and through training and mentoring and establish relationships with employers, with the prospect of taking up employment.
My name is Danny Barnes and I am man on a mission; I have overcome major obstacles in my life and I want to help others do the same.
I started Acknowledging Youths in 2012, by working in the local community to find out more about what local young people needed to support them – I set up focus groups with local people to work out what we needed to do to help young people to improve their opportunities. I encountered many hurdles and obstacles on the way to setting up AY CIC, I was turned down for funding more times that I care to mention until I was successful through the DWP. They have been very supportive, and I have learnt a great deal from our liaison. I have also been very fortunate to have met and worked with partner organisations, like Poplar HARCA and Peabody Trust, who provide accommodation for the focus groups and have continued to do so. They have shared my vision and passion to help disadvantaged people in their respective areas.
Acknowledging Youths now offers young people one to one support to help them identify how they can improve their chances through education, skills workshops and mentoring to get work, and with writing their CV and training in interview techniques. We also offer the chance for young people to volunteer within the organisation, so they can gain valuable work experience.
What’s different about my approach is how I connect with young people and adults, I have been in their situation and I can relate to their circumstances. I can talk to drug dealers, gang members, whatever, I’ve lived their experiences, and I know how to engage with them.
Whenever I tell people my story, they’re inspired to change their lives. I’ve been in prison myself, I’ve been in gangs, I’ve been homeless. My sister died of leukaemia at 14, I grew up not knowing my mum. I have a personal insight into their situation and therefore, I can help young people and adults, because I know exactly what it’s all about, having lived it myself.
I am very proud and extremely honoured to say I have been recognised for helping more than 3000 people improve their circumstances to enable them to positively contribute to their community, by being nominated for an OBE.
Acknowledging Youths is a community interest company that supports young people in Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Westminster to succeed in the world of work. It does this by connecting those out of work, education or training with mentors, coaches and trainers who help them explore and pursue their goals.
Acknowledging Youths’ CEO, Danny Barnes, came across JET online. Aware of the challenges of developing a measurement framework for a small charity staffed mainly by volunteers, he leapt at the chance to be involved.
JET has enabled him to realise his aim of measuring young people’s journey from start to finish: ‘previously, we mostly gathered operational data, for example, the number of young people who started the programme. We had no structured way of understanding how people progressed along it. JET has been instrumental in helping us do this.’
Acknowledging Youths began with step one of the framework: developing a theory of change. The process provided a really clear summary of the project which made the task of prioritising outcomes and selecting the right tools straightforward. The charity was then able to develop a survey tailored to its work, with only minor adjustments to the standardised tools in the JET Pack, which it quickly began to use.
‘The surveys received a positive reaction from everyone—staff, volunteers and young people’, Danny says. ‘We will continue to use them for the existing programme as well as implementing them from the start with new projects. We are looking to try and embed JET across the whole organisation, including mapping theories of change for all our projects.’
The JET resources enabled Acknowledging Youths to implement a robust measurement approach despite a lack of internal expertise and resources. But its reliance on volunteers raises the important issue of continuity. The volunteer who led the work on developing the theory of change and implementing the questionnaires did a wonderful job, but has now left the organisation, leaving a gap in knowledge and the need to find a replacement.
Data analysis presents another challenge. The surveys generate lots of interesting data, but staff and volunteers do not possess the skills they need to get the most out of it. Organisations like Acknowledging Youths would benefit from support on how to analyse and report findings. An online tool could be the answer, Danny suggests: ‘it would reduce use of paper and make data collection and analysis easier.’
Acknowledging Youths is already using data on how young people progress through its programmes to develop and improve its work. It has also been able to demonstrate its value to funders, as Danny describes: ‘all funders now look for organisations to demonstrate the outcomes they’re working towards, and JET has helped us to do this to a standard we couldn’t have otherwise achieved.