Friday, 14 December 2012

In the Deep Midwinter...


It’s been a very promising week, despite the cold.

The Young Surrey – Strategic Review 2012-13 has attracted a lot of very positive comment, and has I think achieved the objective of underpinning Surrey Youth Focus’ leadership role with an evidence base.

Moreover I met yesterday with Surrey CC’s Head of Youth Support Services to discuss a shared response to it, and agreed we would develop in effect a resource pack for voluntary sector  youth workers, and joint training about the key issues – mental health and wellbeing, homelessness and employability. However the principal issue identified for young people generally however was about issues arising from relationships with friends and then within the family setting. The Surrey experience is confirmed by a useful, if slightly depressing report by Childline that is at:  http://www.nspcc.org.uk/news-and-views/our-news/child-protection-news/12-12-04-childline-report/saying-the-unsayable-pdf_wdf93130.pdf

The free workshop (24 Jan) for young people interested in self-employment/ setting up in business (see website) is gradually attracting participants – it takes a while to get out there. It takes a considerable cultural shift for youth workers to see that part of their role in future must surely be to encourage/enable young people into what some call the enterprise economy. I have also agreed with Surrey CC that they will organise a workshop for youth workers on Social Enterprise next year, as they are receiving so many approaches about it. Meanwhile, I have been meeting with a funding organisation that can provide cheap loans to young people wanting to fund a business start-up.  

We have also been working on a proposal to create a virtual network between community organisations, university, local authorities and business which we’ll be launching early in the New Year – very exciting and innovative – the idea of one of our Trustees.

We’re meeting in the New Year with Unity UK a major insurance company with whom to do a deal for Members about discounted insurance rates for youth clubs/activities.

Also met with Surrey CC this week to discuss the future of the Small Grants Scheme which we may possibly be undertaking to run for SCC in 2013/14,  which we would welcome, and do well.

We’re waiting to hear about the Armed Forces Community Covenant bid…Meanwhile to end on a high note..do see the brilliant newsletter produced by the Leatherhead Youth Project and called One Eighty – it is massively impressive, and can be found at :  online here,

Christmas Reflections to follow next week..enjoy the shopping??!!

Mike

Friday, 7 December 2012

Paint It Black



Obviously, I have to start with the great England win over the All Blacks last Saturday at Twickenham, which I had hinted at in last week’s blog by saying that I thought England were learning/ improving. Perseverance and leadership – for the England captain Chris Robshaw may not be a 7 (open side flanker), but he is a leader. There must be a management/ leadership case study there.

My cautious optimism is not dented by the Autumn Statement, though it should be noted that local authorities will be facing more cuts, and whilst housing benefits have not been withdrawn from young people, it is very clear that there will be continued pressure on welfare benefits. 

It was right to have warned in the Young Surrey –strategic review of the continuation of the austerity beyond 2015, and  that we should all look to other funding sources, which in practice means trading/social enterprise, and linking to corporates /business. The self– interest and sheer gall of some corporates is reflected in the Starbucks episode – the next Ratners?- and by the findings of the Treasury Select C’tee who are doing a great job in unmasking the duplicities of corporate tax avoidance.

 As if to demonstrate an alignment of theory into practice, our long awaited Surrey Youth Enterprise CiC has now been registered at Companies House and we can now move to get premises, recruit staff (unemployed young people) and get trading.

The first Surrey Youth Enterprise workshops for young people(aged 16-24) wanting to learn about How To set up in self- employment/social enterprise is set for 24 January and we look forward to working with up to 15 young entrepreneurs. Details are on our website – to book just contact Kate Peters . I met with a funder this week who will offer young people start up loans from £500- £5,000 at 6%.

Meanwhile, our thinking about a business network is proceeding apace and will be put to Trustees in early January.

We are also considering developing closer links to The Youth Consortium, and again more about that later.

Our Member benefits continue to grow as part of our offer to members and we are now in talks with an insurance company that will provide a discounted insurance offer to all our member organisations.

Telephone interview with NCVO consultant this week about our bid for consultancy support under the Lottery’s “Big Assist" programme to support infrastructure organisations like us in relation to the really interesting initiatives we’re making. We will hear in January if we are successful. Decision on Armed Forces community covenant bid next week…..

And finally ..just checking you all got the tribute in the title to the Rolling Stones (50th anniversary) who are, remarkably, even older than me..though Mick and I were both at the LSE ..enough!

Have fun
Mike

Friday, 30 November 2012

Collaboration


Collaboration has been a bit of a theme this week, having been to the launch of Surrey CC’s new Homelessness service for young people on Tuesday.  The launch was held at High Ashurst on the top of Box Hill - a very fine new building that sits well in the countryside up there.

This is a superb initiative which locates responsibility for homeless young people with SCC’s Youth Support Service and is based on a collaboration between the County Council, district councils and housing providers. Readers will recall that homelessness was one of the major issues referred to in the “Young Surrey – strategic review 2012/13” on our website (under News).

On Monday I had met with Surrey CAB Consortium about collaborating over a grant bid , and on Wednesday was in London for the AGM of our national body NCVYS who were sharing the occasion with two other organisations - LEAP and UK Youth who held their AGMs separately, but simultaneously. Great panel speeches, notably by Dame Julia Cleverdon (ex BitC) and inspirational talk by Tanni Grey-Thompson, paralympian. Good networking including with Oftsted’s HMI Inspector for Youth Services, who I know.  NCVYS have negotiated a special relationship with an insurance company Unity Uk with whom we willl be partnering locally to give good insurance rates to our Members. I find such events useful for discerning trends, and am pleased that we are on track and ahead of trends, particularly in building links to business. NCVYS have invited us to write a short piece about achievements to go off to the DfE…..

Various funding proposals are coming to a head over the next couple of weeks so we will have to wait patiently (not my strongest suit).

Meanwhile, The Challenge Network (Members – delivering National Citizenship Scheme) have undertaken to find young people to organise the Celebration of Youth…the long awaited social enterprise is being registered….we’ve put a proposal to Guildford FE College to link to their students as a virtual reference group, and for them to put forward a student for our Board of Directors.

We’ve got the flyer ready to launch the Surrey Youth Enterprise “how to" workshop for young people on self-employment - 24 January…and so on – a very positive week!!

I am not even commenting on the rugby this time (against the All Blacks). Question is - are England learning/improving? I think the answer is yes. Advent Sunday..says something about Christmas coming up!

Mike

Friday, 23 November 2012

Melancholy


Those of you who have long experience of working, know that it is near impossible to avoid personal or family events from intruding upon work life. I acknowledge that this shouldn’t be so, but we are only human, and it does. The cause of my melancholy is the decision of the CoE’s General Synod not to approve women bishops. As someone who has been a loyal member of the CoE for 60 of my 63 years (save 3 years at the LSE when I didn’t darken the door of a church) I am absolutely appalled. Most of you will find it baffling that anyone (me) should care so much, but I do, and it goes to the heart of my being. End of venting!

On the work front, the “Young Surrey – strategic review 2012/13” continues to be well – received. It is currently being colour printed at County Hall on a pro bono basis by the Chairman and Lord Lieutenant’s office. It is of course on our website.

On Monday I was in Haslemere for the launch of the “Surrey’s Young Superstars” awards being sponsored by a Guildford law firm and a local travel company to publicise Surrey’s Air Ambulance service. We had the same intention of securing business sponsors for youth awards, but have been beaten to it by about two months, and will now give support to this venture. On Wednesday I chaired the morning session of the West Sussex Council for Voluntary Youth Services’ annual conference, and made some very useful contacts. WSCYS is our sister organisation with whom we are about to sign a Memorandum of Understanding about collaborative work.

Other events have happened this week to develop key projects which I can mention later once further advanced – all are very good.

Meanwhile England lost to Australia last week because the wrong team was chosen. Tomorrow is South Africa (Ouch! Not for the faint-hearted) and the right selections are made (at 6 and 8), but Robshaw is not a 7, and we have no creativity in the backs. I am still available for advice to Twickenham – Alternative England Manager, aka – 

Mike

Friday, 16 November 2012

Off to Infinity


We had our AGM this week at Guildford FE College (partner members) who both hosted us and contributed the refreshments. It went well with a '5 minute shout-out' by 4 member organisations about their work followed up a break out session and then two excellent presentations from funding advisers.

We also launched our Young Surrey – strategic review 2012” at the AGM. This highlights issues of homelessness, mental health and youth unemployment, and is being well received. I have been invited to the launch on 27 Nov.of a Surrey CC homelessness service for young people. We are hoping that copies of the Strategic Review will be printed by a corporate for us, and we will then be sending paper copies to our Patrons, members and stakeholders. Meanwhile all this material can be accessed on our website.

We met this week with an Apprenticeship Adviser from Guildford FE College with the aim of us taking on a young Apprentice so that we demonstrate that even a small organisation like us can take on an Apprentice.

The Armed Forces Community Covenant bid has now gone in to the MoD with the full support of the Surrey Panel which is very gratifying.

Our own Community interest Company (CiC) is being registered at present and we expect to be starting up in January. Meanwhile we are doing the project planning for the first of our Surrey Youth Enterprise workshops (funded by Wates). These are aimed at NEET young people and provide advice and support on how to set up in self-employment and business.

Last week, I mentioned that BT Infinity were about to install superfast Broadband – well they came and installed a new router, but failed to make the connection to our server, so initially it didn’t work, so we had to contact our IT support company who then did a good job in making the connections so that it worked. BT’s operative was useless, and the router then installed as standard is inadequate for a small “business” like us, with a server, so the advice is we need a new, bigger router at a cost of £295. BT knew our set up in advance but failed to explain any of this. Not impressed.

Meanwhile many of you are asking me for my views as the Alternative England Manager about last week’s win against Fiji ( good points score but England didn’t play that well). Australia tomorrow. England are still weak at 7 (open side flanker which Robson is not – he’s a 6) and at 8(Waldron not good enough). My preference is to coach up Courtney Lawes as an 8 – or quickly promote the Wasps 8. We’ll see – England to win though!

Mike

Saturday, 10 November 2012

BT or not 2B


Well today is the day when BT should be coming to install our superfast Broadband, so let’s hope it happens! Report next week.

We had our AGM last night and launched our “Young Surrey – strategic review 2012” document which identifies issues and trends affecting the voluntary youth sector and young people. The theme is a concern that it may be becoming increasingly difficult for marginalized young people to het back on track- 11% increase in CAMHS referrals in one year, and increases in homelessness, so far as we can judge. There is also a challenge to the sector to do more to help with apprenticeships.  It’ll be on our website next week.

The AGM was held at Guildford FE College (Partner members). The College’s Deputy – Principal welcomed us and described her very inspirational personal story of being a young teenager from Iran and inadvertently alone in London (because her family was trapped in the Teheran revolution) and how she starting selling fruit and vegetables on the streets, and then from a stall, and then a shop, and eventually ran 8 shops. An inspirational and unexpected story about youth triumphing over adversity.  The AGM also featured a 5 minute “shout out” slot for member organisations that worked well, and then excellent presentations from the Big Lottery and an independent fundraising consultant. These will also be up on the website next week.

I met with various colleagues in the military this week to improve and tweak our Armed Forces Community Covenant bid before its final submission to the MoD next week. The bid is strongly supported by the Surrey Panel but is decided by the MoD. Fingers crossed.

Also had an excellent meeting with the Principal of NESCOT (FE College, Epsom – “Surrey Connects Youth Enterprise and Employability Working Group”) at which we have identified various actions to which we are contributing because of our work on social enterprise.

Finally, a reminder that the international rugby starts on Saturday (England v. Fiji). I regret to say that as the Alternative England Manager several of the team selections are wrong, and I predict a disappointing, albeit winning performance. I await the call to be the Manager…..

Mike

Friday, 2 November 2012

Better than Hello magazine


It’s been a tricky week thus far – trying to finish the Strategic Review now named “Young Surrey- strategic review 2012”  which is a good title as we expect to produce these on annual basis. The dominant issues that emerge are homelessness and mental health in the widest sense. I am hearing that at different youth centres 80-100% of young people are regularly taking drugs. At the same time we in the voluntary sector seem to be missing out on taking on young people as apprentices.(Net cost to take on a 16-18 year old is £2,500) We are launching the strategic review at our AGM next Thursday evening (8 Nov ) at Guildford FE College starting at 6.00pm with refreshments. We have kept the procedural bit to the minimum.

The Surrey Army Forces Community Covenant Panel gave full support yesterday to our £93,000 bid to the MoD to expand the number of military and civilian cadets and leaders. However there are a couple of amendments to make before it goes to the MoD and this will necessitate 3 more one to one meetings, so everything is a slog.

I met with a member organisation on Monday who have reshaped their business to the hard times, and done some re-focusing successfully. I had a great meeting with Guildford Diocese yesterday and we will be doing some development work together about pastoral care/ spirituality / values (NOT religion) so that we arrive at a project proposal for colleagues to deliver to schools. It will take a while to shape this up, but it could be an exciting proposition if we can market it to schools. Finally this afternoon we should be finalising the directorships for the new CiC providing jobs and training to young people.

And then… youngest son’s wedding..about which there will be a full report next week…better than HELLO magazine, as a taster - my top songs for disco (in London)  – “Werewolf of London”, and AC/DC “Thunderstruck”!! Rock on!

Mike

Friday, 26 October 2012

Review 2012


Interesting week with our Trustees meeting on Tuesday evening at the centre of it. Trustees liked and approved publication of our Strategic Review 2012, which is some 15 pages long with over 40 references/website links. Trustees focused helpfully on how we would best market and promote the document. I have to polish it and get a new catchier title, and it will be launched at our forthcoming AGM on 8 Nov. Trustees have also agreed the process for rebranding our logo and colours (NOT the name), so this is all positive. 

The AGM is on Thursday 8 November at 6.00 pm (refreshments for 6.30 pm start) and is at Guildford FE College. It consists of six 5 minute briefings by Members and then a networking session followed by advice on funding from the Lottery and a professional fundraiser, before (in 30 mins only) the formalities of the AGM itself.  Please email to Kate Peters if you’d like to come, including young people. Email:  Kate.peters@surreyyouthfocus.org.uk  

The Surrey Sports partnership’s shadow board met on Wednesday to prepare to become an independent body, detaching from Surrey CC next year. 

Yesterday I met with two member organisations: Windle Valley Youth Club in Surrey Heath, and Eikon. I had two really stimulating conversations about current youth issues and future opportunities which we will want develop and pitch later to other members and then to Surrey CC. I also heard by chance a test run of a presentation by a 16 year old student about the support she had received from Eikon in preparation for its delivery at meeting in London. Very touching indeed, and a very great credit to herself and to Eikon. 

Now working on the project details of running our first workshop fro young people, funded by Wates, on "how to" get into self-employment, and will use this experience to support the re-submission of our Lottery bid, about which I have had really helpful feedback from the Lottery today. 

On the domestic front, the whole family is looking forward to the wedding of our youngest son and there is much activity at home about dresses, shoes etc – to be clear- not for me - but I have been deputed to collect 144 pints of fine Ballards (Sussex) bitter. And, Hurrah the rugby starts soon – Eng. V. Fiji is coming up…and clocks go back this weekend. 

Happy days. 

Mike

Friday, 19 October 2012

Bullying is ruining our community

I’ve had my usual busy week, and on Thursday afternoon was just congratulating myself on getting the agenda papers out for our Trustee Board next week, and finishing a 14 page /40 references/links DRAFT “Strategic Review 2012” about issues in the sector- trends policies etc – when I received a vey poignant email from a 14 year old girl about bullying in school. (Hence the title of this piece). She points to the links between bullying, non-attendance at school, self-harm and depression/suicidal tendencies, and wonders what anyone is doing about it?

This was for me one of those strange moments in life when I had just written impersonally in the Strategic Review 2012 about the 10% increase in referrals to CAHMS in the last year, and here was a young person making the issue real by recounting her concern about (cyber) bullying, and the consequences for teenagers. We have exchanged emails and she is coming in to see us. I have her permission to refer to these matters, which I know are familiar to youth workers, but I wonder how big an issue this is in school communities? I will giving the issue greater prominence in the Review.

We are very busy here and have some 15 projects on the go, and so are now having weekly team meetings to keep up to speed and review progress. The projects include moving from our ancient IT to Fast Broadband and cloud computing, and commissioning an entirely new website. We are project planning the first pilot Surrey Youth enterprise workshop, probably in January to support the re-submission of our Lottery bid. And so on…but I am still troubled by the bullying issue…….

Mike

Friday, 12 October 2012

The parable of the boiled frog

A mixed week that began well with a very encouraging strategic discussion at my Chairman’s house with the “senior figures” in Surrey Youth Focus about our future direction.

Frankly, the point is that this is a second year of deficit budget and drawing on reserves, and 2013/14 presents some difficulties. We do of course have a cunning plan, which is what we were discussing and will be proceeding with. I don’t know any voluntary sector organisation in Surrey that is not facing real difficulties. In our case we are confronting realities and making plans before we end up dead in the pan – like the boiled frog which likes the early warmth and then dies.

I then got back to the office to a hugely disappointing letter from the Lottery that our Surrey Youth Enterprise bid was unsuccessful (only 18% of bids are) - BUT I am undeterred and we will be using £10,000 from a GMT to fund a pilot project that can then substantiate a re-submitted bid.

However, my pre-occupation this week has been in writing a Strategic Review 2012 (like a PESTLE report ) about political–economic context; policy issues and trends as they apply in Surrey; issues and concerns of Member organisations and young people. It’s shaping up as about 12 sides with a lot of footnotes/references. I know it won’t be of interest to many, but I am hope that everyone who does read it will learn something they didn’t know. Goes to Trustees 23 Oct and published at end of October.

Also building up to our AGM on 8 Nov at 6.00 pm at Guildford FE College. We have 6 x 5 minute presentations from member organisations, then a break out discussion/learning, followed by two speakers on funding. One is  from the Lottery and the other an expert funding adviser.

Quiet weekend in prospect!

Mike

Friday, 5 October 2012

Bids & Bobs

Hi – the week has been dominated by a rush to finalise our £93,000 Armed Forces Community Covenant bid on behalf of nine uniformed organisations in Surrey, which collectively work with 30,000 young people in Surrey. There are a further 3,000 young people on waiting lists to join the Scouts and Guides particularly. The point of the bid is to increase the capacity of uniformed organisations in response to the evident demand, and to recruit and train more leaders, especially for the military cadets. I am aware of a similar collaboration in London that has received £millions of funding from the Government, but I think our effort is unique outside metropolitan areas. Fingers crossed.

We have also put in a small bid with our sister organisations in Sussex to our national body, NCVYS, for workforce development. This Surrey/Sussex bid will enable us to better map provision and market training offers in youth work, and in playwork for younger children (delivered by WSCYS). NCVYS have developed a new “Working with Young People” course in conjunction with the ABC Awarding body, which will be delivered locally by Lifetrain. Guildford FE College, who are also members of ours, are likely to be running a Level 2 (GCSE level)  course in Youth Work Practice fairly soon.  Meanwhile, I was contacted by a Youth Club this week who are struggling to recruit a (paid) part-time youth worker, so there is clearly a demand for youth workers. However, I suspect the point is that full-time professional youth work jobs are now very scarce and highly sought after, but perhaps fewer people are prepared to work in part-time jobs because of the anti-social hours and other limitations.

I helped to co-facilitate a one day workshop here with NCVYS about the Young Foundation’s work on Outcomes Framework for young people. The short version is that the life chances of young people do not depend on academic qualifications, but on their soft skills: relationships, communications, problem- solving etc etc..in other words the key relationships skills that youth workers try to imbue.

I have started work on the much-delayed Research Report, which I find really interesting, but hope that there is more than one reader! The point of it is to provide strategic advice to member organisations about the context in which we are all operating, and some of the trends and issues affecting young people. It will be a heavy read but packed with information, and deliberately contentious. It should be ready for Trustees on 23 October (just). All the references will be on the website once finished.

As regular readers know I am a Skeptic (sic-Greek) about commissioning…..West Coast mainline debacle??

Off to London on Saturday for last Father/Son lunch with youngest son before he marries in November, and to visit the Tate’s pre- raphaelite exhibition.

Have fun!

Mike 

Friday, 28 September 2012

Of Markets & Values

Well it’s been a busy week, and a bit tense.

The tenseness comes from the strategic picture. I am sure there will be another round of serious cuts in 2013, even if as seems to be the case, the CSR 2013 is being shelved, as the Lib Dems won’t countenance another overt package of cuts. But they’ll still happen.  For example, I hear that East Sussex CC are making -15% cuts next year, including to front-line services.  Our working assumption is that Surrey CC will maintain its current grant to us in 2013/14 but thereafter…

The “old model” is one of grants and even contracts. I do strongly think that the commissioning/contracting model has run its course. More commentators are challenging the limits to markets and experience (think G4S at Olympics) So for example, see article in:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/local-government-network/2012/may/01/local-government-outsourcing-contracts . The Archbishop of Canterbury’s book on Faith in the Public Square has perceptive and trenchant comments, and as you know Michael Sandel is vey sharp about the limitations. (I see he’s appearing at the Labour conference) My suggested alternative is making strategic alliances with quality (tested) suppliers of services. I have been briefed by the Consortium this week about their experiences of Surrey CC contracts….

I have also been hearing this week about changes in the charity sector at national level – NAVCA and Community Matters merging, NCVO merging with Volunteering England , and so on.

So, we have to respond to a significant, and enduring change in context.

Surrey Youth Focus is building links to businesses and corporates all the time now- so for example we had another "4x4 project" session on Tuesday evening, and will be launching a new initiative in this area shortly. The strategic point is that if/as local authorities are under the cosh (always remembering its taxpayers money that funds them ..our money) then the voluntary sector needs to local to other sources. The only options are trading/selling services (ie social enterprises) links to businesses, and increasing size through partnerships/mergers. The era of markets and global reach means that this is the era of MARKETING. 

BUT this involves different skills and values from those traditionally held in the sector. I’m not sure how this will play out…I guess it just evolves.

On a positive note, my colleagues in uniformed organisations have been hugely supportive in helping me put together a substantial (£90K ) Armed Forces Community Covenant bid forward. Fingers crossed!

Mike

Friday, 21 September 2012

Happy Days

Well I’m back from nearly two weeks in Provence to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.

As regular readers know I have very counter-cultural tastes, so whilst I enjoyed the best beach/swimming in the Med I have ever experienced, the best visit was to a beautiful Cistercian monastery at Thoronet to attend a Gregorian Mass. The Abbey is famous for its singing because of the superb acoustics in a very beautiful, plain, stone built monastic church. So it was a time of relaxing, beaches, wine, food and a few visits out. I was very struck by the generosity and kindness of the hosts of the small hotel where we stayed and at the very smart (and expensive) hotel and Michelin starred restaurant where we spent our anniversary, which was the same Sunday as the Gregorian Mass.

I also read a lot, including two books by Michael Sandel (Harvard, and last year’s Reith lecturer) about the limits to markets and competition. I see and read a lot more than in the recent past about “the common good” as opposed to personal gain. The symbol of the latter was seeing Roman Abromovitch’s “yacht” moored between Port Grimaud and St Tropez…moored there because it’s so huge (and looks like a naval destroyer) that it doesn’t  fit into any local harbour. By contrast Bill Gates makes shedloads of money, but gives it away philanthropically. Sandel’s books are about the ethics of markets and libertarianism and he questions where does justice lie in a society, particularly in the USA, where some have huge riches and others are born into being marginalised.

Ah yes..work…Well the good news is that we have just been given  a very helpful grant from a Trust towards our Surrey Youth Enterprise support service, and have now also got our Lottery bid in for the balance of the funding. Fingers crossed…..especially as youth unemployment in Surrey has begun creeping up again. Next Tuesday evening we have our next "4x4 Meeting" , and I have several interesting meetings including with the Chief Constable, Lynne Owens, and to sign off the Woking social enterprise start up. We are also making good progress in sorting out our rather slow and ancient IT, and I hope we van have a new system in by the beginning of next year.

Went to a meeting yesterday about the new website for Surrey's young people called Surge (or “Wearesurge”). You need to know about this - it launches in November.

So all positive stuff, and Manchester United and Wasps are winning.

Happy days!

Mike

Friday, 31 August 2012

Realising ambition

Well it’s been a short week after the Bank Holiday, but we have put in a grant bid to a GMT for “Surrey Youth Enterprise” - one day workshops, mentors, website and advice service to young people about how to become self-employed/set up a social enterprise. We are then pitching to the Lottery. I am sure that self employment/setting up a business is the right way to develop for many young people.

 As an example of what is possible, I had lunch on Wednesday with the hugely impressive young man who started up his own youth market research company when aged 16 ..and now is 22. The company is called "The Eleven" and is working on a magazine style website for young people in Surrey giving news, reviews, lifestyle, health, social issues, places to go, things to do info. The website will be called SURGE. All this is within the Surrey CC contract with Working Links, with whom I also met this week, to provide careers advice to young people. Even I am excited by the opportunities and insights that this can bring to young people. I think it’s just great.

I am also working on a grant bid with uniformed organisations to expand participation by young people in scouts, guides , military cadets and so on. The contribution of the uniformed organisations to civil society is hugely important – hence the front page headline in “The Times” (25 August) – “Government sends in the scouts to riot hotspots” . It’s about a consortium of uniformed organisations being funded by Government to set up new units in deprived inner city areas. Our grant bid is along similar lines, but addressing the price of success….unblocking the waiting lists for Scouts and Guides in Surrey, and increasing participation in the military cadets. 

 I confess my eye has also been on my forthcoming holiday, at last, and 40th wedding anniversary…in Provence. One of my heroes is Dr Samuel Johnson who said this: “To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution.”

Talking of ambition, regular readers will have endured the stories of my studying for a MA Theology these last three years – well I have passed with Merit, so I am very pleased.. realising ambitions..which we all need to have. I’ll tell you the next cunning plan- ambition next time. No blog for a bit now..too busy relaxing in France .

Have fun- I will!
Mike

Friday, 24 August 2012

High Spots

This has been a busy and tricky week, though with high spots derived from being in touch with youth workers and young people…is it too late for me to be a youth worker?? Interesting that it always the frontline that’s the best place to be...doing the delivery which brings its own rewards, though not financially, and there’s the rub. We pay for managers not deliverers.

On Monday I was at NESCOT talking about youth enterprise / employment and met again with Working Links (the contractor delivering web based career guidance in Surrey) and their sub-contractor “The Eleven” which is a small London based youth market research company. The founder is aged 22 and he is the oldest in the company, and was very impressive indeed. They are setting up a website (“SURGE”) that will provide info on places to go/things to do, but this will be wrapped around with news and features. ALL determined by young people only – they will be the editors/arbiters about what goes up on the site. The founder’s comment was – max of 300 words and must have a video. Sign of the times. I was very impressed.

We have a new Trustee starting shortly from the Scouts – Cliff Sheard - and we have welcomed him…stacks of experience and a practicing accountant.

I visited the Surrey Credit Union as they might provide start-up loans to young people; they do great work and are wanting to expand rapidly.

I met on Thursday with Matrix at Allen House (Guildford) which is currently offering the best coffee and brownies anywhere...knocks Costa to the north pole.

In the afternoon I met with Lifetrain, and then the great young people and youth workers at the B Free Youth cafĂ© in Leatherhead (at much converted church). The purpose of the visit was to talk to young people about their views on self-employment/setting up a social enterprise. We had a great discussion - I got an iced coffee but had to buy Dominos Pizzas. We then talked more widely about their experiences…cyber bullying, depression, self-harming, and experiences of their friends about homelessness and so on. It sounds rather negative but the discussion was great – realistic, positive. In terms of our Surrey Youth Enterprise Wates and Lottery bids - about two-thirds of the group had plans to set up as sole traders/self-employed, but don’t know how to do it. I rest my case.

Various operational and strategic discussions this (Friday) morning, so a busy week. It’s the young people (“The Eleven” and at B Free) that stick in my mind. 

I am supposed to be sailing in the Solent tomorrow (Sat) but the wind is Force 7 so it may be off. Final day of our local Music Arts Drama festival on Monday – 5,000 people at live bands / beer tent/food/ fireworks – should be fun!

Have fun (despite the weather)!

Mike

Friday, 17 August 2012

Enterprising Surrey Youth Focus

It was good to be at Surrey Sports Board on Monday exchanging perceptions of the Olympics, and discussing how to establish Active Surrey as at least a quasi -independent body and maybe a full social enterprise (at present Active Surrey is hosted by Surrey CC).

On Tuesday, I was at a half day workshop about mentoring skills - in advance of our Surrey Youth Enterprise bid, and to develop my own skill as a potential mentor for helping young people into start-ups of self–employment or social enterprise. It was a very useful half- day, delivered by trainers from South-east Social Enterprise for the Training and Development Partnership.

This led into a meeting with the GASP Motor Project at their new premises about the possibility of their young people becoming fitters of the trackers to be sold
by “our” social enterprise. GASP are very interested, which is great.

This is a very developmental period for Surrey Youth Focus as we bid for grants to undertake projects in the near future. In pursuance of our bids for Funding Surrey Youth Enterprise, and in addition to having a statistical analysis of need and having views of young people through focus groups, we are now testing out the evidence of need for this support service by a survey monkey survey that has gone to young people (aged 16-24) through our Members. Hopefully the results will be positive.

Other ideas being looked at with Trustees are to build a SYF business network that enables businesses and corporates to focus on, and contribute to the achievements of young people. We are thinking of greatly expanding our annual Celebration of Youth to be the centrepoint of this initiative. So hopefully we are indeed enterprising!

Mike

Friday, 10 August 2012

Chief Executive has Tardis – Next Dr Who?

Well summer is here, and the GB Team keeps winning which is great.

This has seemed like a quiet week for me with few meetings, but some important developments.

One needs time to think strategically as well as "to do" operationally….as well as “to be” – but that's a bit philosophical for a hot Friday!

Our Board of Trustees has approved our three year strategy and we have now identified the key projects to take forward using a combination of staff and Trustees to undertake the implementation. These will be slowly revealed in future weeks and months. It is clear that the future will not be the same as the present, but we have a clear sense of direction about what to achieve….we just need to do it, and have a bit of good fortune too.

We are constantly building our links to businesses and our profile in enabling volunteering. We also have 1,300 followers on Twitter now, which is great.

It is clear that the legacy of the Olympics will not just be in sport, or even in buildings, but in the public’s attitude to volunteering where this captures the imagination and the emotional buy-in, which clearly the Olympics does.

Anyway, looking back from 2013 (in my Tardis) I predict that this week will have been an important one for the development of Surrey Youth Focus!

Enjoy the sun..but don’t invest in Man Utd shares..and I’m a fan!

Mike

Monday, 6 August 2012

Have Faith...

Well the GB Team has come good this week with 5 Golds as of this Friday (3rd Aug) morning. The message of having faith in the team, and carrying on, being well made!

I have had a “different” week, not just because of the Olympics, but because on Wednesday I was live on the Shah Jahan radio site discussing “Young people and spirituality “ with lovely people from different faiths – a Muslim, a Sufi (the mystical branch of Islam), a Jew, and me as a Christian. The debate was hosted by the Diocesan Interfaith Adviser, who also happens to be the wife of the Imam. We all enjoyed the discussion and were struck by the similarities between faiths, whilst acknowledging the very real differences.

 My own view is that children and young people do have an innate spiritual capacity which is then squashed by commercialism, the worst aspects of the internet and social media, and peer pressures. That a spiritual capacity survives is reflected in the wonderful altruism, social awareness, and self-giving that so many young people have in their late teens and early twenties reflected in charitable work in the UK and overseas, volunteering, fund-raising etc By the way there are excellent publications by the National Youth Agency about young people and spirituality that are not didactic or religious.

On Tuesday my Chairman and I met with our counterparts in West Sussex in pursuance of a strategic intention to build Surrey/Sussex links about collaboration and mutual support. It was an excellent meeting, and we quickly identified areas for collaboration. Hanna (West Sussex CVYS) will be coming to our next Trustees meeting, and vice versa so that the links are built between us.

Talking of Trustees we had an excellent meeting on Tuesday evening at which two new Trustees were introduced. We have a very capable Board. The key items were signing off the Report and Accounts for 2011/12 and approving our 3 year strategy. Encouragingly Trustees have volunteered to work with us staff to take particular objectives forward.

For the rest I am concentrating on two grant bids: one to the Lottery for ourselves, and the second bid is for our uniformed organisations to the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Fund. Both bids are of the highest importance. These need to be ready by the end of August, whereupon I need to have confidence (faith) in the value of what we’re doing, as indeed I do!

Mike

Missing Blog - Part 1

Hi everyone

Gone missing? Doh....not me of course….tied to the desk…but we do allow people to go on holiday here, and Karen, my secret blog installer is off on holiday.

So this won’t be seen until a week or two.

Meanwhile some of us are doing the work!

It has been very hot in the office this 31C week, but good things have been going on.

I met early this morning with someone who is a specialist counsellor to young people. I very much hope she will join Surrey Youth Focus as we do not have any member organisation with those precise skills.

I was at the Lottery yesterday being advised about our “Surrey Youth Enterprise” bid. There was considerable encouragement to put in a 3 year bid, but first to ascertain the need for this support service, and also to engage young people more actively in the management and development of the project. We can do both things in short order and then will bid. I have also been preparing for our meeting next week with a grant-making trust about this project.

Our terrific volunteer Research Assistant, Sandip Malli started yesterday. She is working on a Research Report about the issues faced by young people that we want to put to Trustees in October and then publish widely. Sandip will also be helping set up our “100 Focus Group “ of 100 young people which I hope can be a virtual focus group for us able to respond to questions from us, and amongst themselves.

I met on Monday with the businessman with whom we’re setting up the social enterprise and we are in the process of doing a deal on premises in Leatherhead. We are all hoping that the CiC can start in September.

So it’s been another good week, though I confess distracting because of the great weather and the Olympic build – up!

Mike

Friday, 20 July 2012

Setting up Trustee Boards is like arranging flowers

It seemed obvious to me, but it caused a degree of hilarity at the Surrey Compact meeting yesterday, which is setting up the Compact as an independent charity and company. I have also been the butt of subsequent joshing by email.....most regrettable.

Not only is the Surrey Compact setting up independently, but the Surrey Sports Partnership is also considering cutting the umbilical cord with Surrey CC which hosts Active Surrey, but increasingly we're realising that the Council contributes between £50K and £70K of in kind support which is a lot to turn down.

On my favourite subject of commissioning/contracting I see Capita has indeed won a huge contract to provide back office support services to West Sussex CC (including finance, IT procuremnt even and support to the voluntary sector) worth something like £150 million...just at the time when KPMG have published a detailed study today  on outsourcing, which says that commissioners do it to off-load problems..which simply come back in different forms. It doesn't work.

Our new emphasis on volunteering is bringing results for our Members, and we have just recruited a volunteer Research Assistant who will be great for us - more later.

Just signing off the Mem and Arts for what I have always called the Woking social enterprise, but will hereafter be named the Surrey Youth Enterprise Community interest company(CiC). SO the social enterprise really is starting up - we check on office premises on Monday.

I am finalising the Lottery Bid for Surrey Youth Enterprise today in time to meet the Lottery next week, and a grant- making trust in the following week. I had a really interesting focus group discussion with young adults at the Amber Foundation on Monday about their views and hopes for self- employment, which is partly what this project is about. Fingers crossed.

We had a good meeting with uniformed organisations on Wednesday evening about the Community Covenant Grant bid which we are giving the title: "Building bridges; Delivering results". That bid has to be in by 1 October, initially to a Surrey Panel, and then to the MoD. Decision in December. Aim is to recruit and train more leaders to the uniformed organisations, and especially to the military cadets. We will  set up a web based "swap shop" to share physical resources (equipment, climbing walls, camp sites) and also specialist trainers/ instructors in archery, sailing, clay -pigeon shootin who are used by both military and civilian uniformed organisations and are in short supply. Fingers crossed again.

So it's been another really good week..and the sun is coming out for the Olympics and the school holidays.  Oh- the Trustees and Flower Arranging? Always need odd  numbers to work well!! (Very odd for Trustees!)

Mike

Friday, 13 July 2012

Why isn't every week like this?

It’s been a great week!

On Monday our great new Trustee, Matt Joblin came in to meet us all. Matt is Director of Surrey Community Film Unit which is a social enterprise and the relevance of which will become apparent later…count the mentions of social enterprise below!

Then I finished our draft contribution to a possible bid led by Surrey Community Action for the County Council’s infrastructure support contract, and so we are now ready to respond to whatever may occur there (open tender or selected bidders only).

I also finished our bid to the Lottery for the Surrey Youth Enterprise project which has four elements to it:

  • Running one day "how to" workshops for young people about self-employment, and social enterprise (delivered by people who have “done it” – not us)
  • Providing business mentors in support of these young people trying to get started
  • Engaging young people in setting up a website to provide information, advice , guidance, case studies, You Tube testimonials to young people
  • Signposting to funding sources (Prince’s Trust, Fredericks Foundation etc) 
Our vision is that young people in Surrey should have a (virtual) one stop shop that provides this support service, but one that is well networked to other bodies.

Our new volunteer, Volunteer Manager (Shelagh West) is beginning to have an impact,  and we have 2 volunteers this week to work with us, and more to work on other projects.

Our links to Guildford College are growing apace. For example, some students there will be setting up our “100 focus” group, being a virtual network of young people with whom we can consult about issues; we think this is preferable for them to being invited on to our Board, which necessarily looks at fairly dry topics like business plan, finance, performance monitoring etc. There are 5 projects in all with the College…

Meeting on Wednesday with Business in the Community (nationally) about their United Futures programme which is a national version of our “4x4 project”. (Ours was first!) We are to be a case study for them exemplifying the benefits of links between corporates/business and youth organisations, and we’re invited to exhibit this at a BitC regional event (in Guildford ) in January (more details soon).

Great meeting yesterday with the philanthropist with whom we’ve been working to set up a social enterprise. The CiC will now start up in September, and we will be providing work experience for students at Guildford College on apprenticeship courses. The numbers will be a handful, but it will be a demonstration project.

And finally ..only because I’ve run out of time because there is more…we have set up a Chairman level meeting between Surrey Youth Focus and our sister organisation in West Sussex about closer collaborative working, and bidding for contracts on a sub – regional basis- Surrey/Sussex is 2.6 mill population.

Family coming over this week-end to watch Final of polo (like FA Cup) so let’s hope it’s a bit drier on Sunday.

Mike

Friday, 6 July 2012

Inspiration


Our new volunteer, volunteer broker – Shelagh West is now getting her feet under the table and beginning to make the changes needed to enable member organisations to recruit more volunteers. We have tweaked our website to give greater prominence to volunteering, and she is also developing links already to organisations like Business in the Community who are looking for projects for their corporate volunteers. It will take a while to build up this service, but it is a key capacity building contribution from Surrey Youth Focus.

I am working with uniformed organisations (military and civilian) to put in an imaginative bid to the Armed Forces Community Grant Fund to enable the two groups to share resources and links. Talking of uniformed organisations, I have received a great video from Girlguiding Surrey West about the long term value of girlguiding to personal development and achievement. It will be on our website shortly.

My week has also been taken up with building up another impending bid to the Lottery and grant-making trusts for our Surrey Youth Enterprise support service aimed at encouraging young people into self-employment and social enterprise. The good news is that our own “Woking social enterprise” is progressing well now.

However, the real highspot of the week was going with my colleague Kate Peters to Shepperton Film Studios to watch two short films made by students (Year 10 and 11) of Magna Carta School who were taking a diploma course in film and media studies. They made the films with technical support from a professional – hence the film show at the private cinema the Korda Theatre at Shepperton Studios. The first film explored the negative images that young people encounter in their daily lives especially following last August’s riots, and they contrasted footage of the riots with filming from our Celebration of Youth event about the great things young people do.

The second film absolutely exemplified the last point and was the inspirational account of, and by Ben who is 16, and cares for his 19 year old sister, Ashleigh, who has Downs Syndrome. It was a "fly on the wall documentary" to which the whole family had very bravely consented. I was struck by the link between the two films with their underlying theme of the experience of discrimination, and yet the optimism and inspiration of young people.

It is a great project, and as soon as we get the films we’ll put them up on the website. Well done to Clare Erasmus (the teacher) and the students of Magna Carta school!”  
Mike

Friday, 29 June 2012

Commissioning & Contracting

A quieter week by my standards, dominated by some mediation/facilitation work I undertook at the request of Surrey County Council between it and a member organisation over a long standing and difficult issue. The session went well for all parties, and I hope that the matter can now be resolved finally.

The other dominant issue this week has been the County Council’s process for commissioning infrastructure support services about which there is much public and private maneuvering. There was a session yesterday for potential bidders from within Surrey, but not open to external companies like Capita, Serco, which was a bit strange. This might be a Part B tender for the £0.5 mill services that previously were supplied on a grant basis by Surrey Community Action (SCA) and the district/borough CVS and others.  My guess is that SCC will not go to open tender, but invite competitive grant bids from the SVAN network (minus SCA) and from a partnership of county level bodies, including us, and with SCA as the lead body. There will be grief, but this is probably unavoidable if performance is to be raised.

Interesting to see the evaluation of Surrey CC’s  re-organisation of its Services for Young People and its commissioning/contracting process.

I have nearly finalised our own grant bid for Surrey Youth Enterprise, and am now working, quickly, on the MoD Community Grants bid due in by 9 July on behalf of our uniformed organisations.

Unfortunately, my meeting with the Bishop of Southwark’s Public Policy Adviser has been postponed from today – the Diocese being members of ours. One of the issues we were intending to discuss is the place of the church in what is called “the public square”- ie public discourse (press ,tv, social media, books etc) and the extent to which the Big Society is still alive as a concept, or whether it has been exposed as a fig leaf for cuts. Which takes me straight on to the ethics of banking…and beyond the scope of my work for SYF!

I got the prediction of an England v. Italy penalty shoot out right, but the wrong team won. I hope Italy win the final now – Sunday evening.. and Wimbledon!

Mike

Friday, 22 June 2012

Chairman gets OBE

Surrey Youth Focus is delighted that our Chairman, David Hypher was awarded the OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List; it is richly deserved, and we are so pleased for both him and his wife Pam. Congratulations.

 And then a very busy and interesting week on a number of levels.

On Monday, I was at a meeting at the Cathedral refectory with Surrey Community Action and the CVs chaired by the Chairman of the County Council (Lavinia Sealy) and with the Chairman of the Council's Select Committee (Cllr Stve Cosser) also present. The purpose of the meeting was to explore the real  views of the voluntary sector about the Council's intention to commission and contract infrastructure support services. This is a very sensitive and controversial issue...and always has been. Suffice to say that SCA disclosed that they would be bidding for the contract outside Surrey Voluntary Action Network (the CVs) of which they are a member.

Keen fans of this blog will recall that we have a Memorandum of Understanding with SCA about co-operative joint  bidding..and SYF has recently had its strategic awayday....  We have now commented formally back to SCC about the consultation document on commissioning. All very tense.

Moving on.... a second matter we discussed in the strategy day was building links to our sister organisation at West Sussex CVYS, and so on Wednesday evening I was at the WSCVYS AGM to meet with their Chair and discuss taking matters forward, which we will now do in the sense of both Chairs meeting in due course. Having huffed and puffed to get our Annual Report done and into our auditor it was  bit mortifying that WCVYS and my good friend Hanna Moore (CEO) had got their Annual Report done, the Accounts audited, a "pop" version written, AND held their AGM in mid June, just 2.5 months after close of last financial year. Impressive!!

Thursday morning saw my last appearance as Chair of South East Youth Partnership (now a network only, and supported by CHYPS) which had a workshop session with Mark Price and Jane Melvin from Brighton University about workforce development issues, and the market for youth work training. The debates about "what is youth work? and Is it a discrete profession?" continue. The cost of a foundation degree in youth work is now£13,000 (not even a BA).

The afternoon was at NESCOT an FE College and  meeting of a sub-group of Surrey Connects about employability and soft skills for young people. There is a complaint from employers that even if young people have particular skills - in IT for example - they lack the self-presentation/ work ethic/ work experience skills, and this is something now being addressed. My participation was in pursuance of our grant bid around Surrey Youth Enterprise.

Then that same evening, I was at the Annual Hart Browne Economics Lecture at Surrey University. For those of us who are Radio 4 Today programme fans the star speaker was Justin Urquart-Stewart, who is a frequent commentator on the programme on financial matters. He was extremely amusing with a  stand up comedian's (or former barrister's) line in banter and some solid comments. His theme was about building confidence, and promoting business. He pointed to the lack of historical awareness of Government Ministers and top civil servants. One telling fact was that the USA has 45 mill people on food stamps. The problem of economic inequality in the land of the free.

Finally, this (Friday) morning I have been back in Horsham with my colleagues from WSCVYS, ESCVYS and NCVYS with our usual slightly chaotic, but valuable exchange of experiences and discussion of issues.

England v.  Italy on Sunday evening:  - penalty shoot out maybe?
Have fun!

Mike

Friday, 15 June 2012

40 years on

 Well it has felt like a catch up week after the Jubilee weekend. We were sent brilliant pictures of Woking Sea Rangers at the Thames Pageant on the Albert Bridge and with the Sea Ranger cadets with Prince Harry - a great coup for them. The pictures are on our website.

More mundanely, I have written our Annual Report (and Accounts) for 2011/12 , so that we have the Report to hand rather earlier than in previous years to support grant bids. We will be producing a short popular version of it in colour as a marketing tool. Talking of marketing, we are delighted to announce that, subject to the approval of Trusteees on 31 July, Carol Brannigan will be joining the Board as an independent trustee, having just completed an appointment as interim Director of Marketing for KPMG Europe. Carol has a massively impressive CV and is about to cycle the Camino de santiago in Spain on a tandem with her husband. Walking the Camino is one of my main ambitions, so we have that in common. Carol will be a great asset to us, as she wants to be a "hands on" trustee. Great!

We are also pleased to say that Shelagh West has joined us a volunteer Volunteer Broker; Shelagh used to run her own IT company and then volunteered with the CAB for many years, so she is an ideal person to link between our member organisations and corporates / employers who may be looking for volunteering projects for their staff.

I had a useful mentoring session with my business mentor on Thursday morning, and this was followed by a joint meeting of the Surrey 14-19 Partnership Board with the Youth Justice Board. There were several interesting items - an Employability Plan (except that it didn't have any detail about what when, how) to encourage young people, especially NEETS into training and employment. I am convinced that our Surrey Youth Enterprise grant bid (still in progress) will hit the mark. Another intersting item was the product of focus discussions with  some 100 young people about their hopes and fears, and there were some very telling remarks. For some there is a sense that if they miss out at school, they are doomed...we must not let this impression take hold. We'll put the powepoint up on the website as soon as it's to hand.

Well we have a 40th wedding anniversary lunch party in the garden on Saturday (we have a marquee up) so we hope it doesn't rain...and that England beat Sweden tonight(Friday). We have 40 family and friends coming....and lots  of fizz! Have fun because I will!

Mike

Friday, 8 June 2012

If you can't beat them - join them

Well I enjoyed watching the Jubilee from the warmth and comfort of my sitting room in the main..  Unlike Woking Sea Rangers who were on the Albert Bridge for the River pageant on the cold and wet Sunday afternoon…and met Prince Harry, whilst Surrey Care Trust had their Swingbridge Boat in the river flotilla. Well done all – picture to follow on website and Surrey Youth News.

My excuse is that I was finalising the dissertation to go off to be bound so that it can then be submitted to the examiners..and I have done that, so it’s now all done, and I have a life back after 3 years and £4,000! Yeah I know…all self–inflicted…but great learning!! However my wife is still reflecting on what might have been done with £4K and about £500 worth of books!

It’s felt like an odd, short week, with lots of folks on leave for school holidays and the traffic much lighter.

However, we have some more bits of good news. My Chairman and I have met with the newly appointed Bishop of Croydon this morning about ways and means by which we might link more closely into that part of Southwark Diocese that extends into east Surrey – basically Reigate and Banstead, and Tandridge. We had a very good discussion and will be taking steps to improve mutual communications, and exchange of information, especially about current issues affecting young people. 

Then a recent graduate in Social policy and Criminology  has volunteered to be a research assistant with us, and we are delighted to have her start with us shortly to help me with the long awaited Research Report.

I have nearly finalised the Surrey Youth Enterprise project proposal this week and will be seeking funding for it from GMTs and others.

So it’s been a good week. I am now back in the gym and running again after 12 months of no sport and of course South Africa v. England (rugby obviously) has to be watched on Saturday afternoon…ignore the football (Monday pm).

And finally, against my better judgement, and my aversion to mixing work time, and home time, I have succumbed to a smartphone (Samsung Galaxy- I disapprove of Apple – shedloads of money which they do not give away to good causes)………..and I am ashamed to say….I think it’s great!

Mike