Young People’s Foundations: Supporting Local Services for Children and Young People Across London

| Rich Driffield

It was back in 2015, when I first came across the innovative Young People’s Foundation (YPF) model being piloted by John Lyon’s Charity. I know John Lyon’s Charity is a great funder, having worked with them previously, so when I heard about the new YPF concept and first spoke to Erik Mesel, Senior Grants & Public Policy Manager at John Lyon’s Charity, about the proposed work, I was full of optimism after hearing Erik’s big ambitions for the YPFs.

“We have been able to do this because of our position as an independent funder and our history and positive reputation across London. The YPF network continues to grow and there are plans in place to create a national membership model, a YPF Trust, with Young Manchester being the first Foundation outside of London to join the network. We are also keen to build in a national quality mark and to provide further infrastructure support to organisations wishing to change the way they commission services locally and to work collaboratively to safeguard, sustain and grow services for children and young people.” 

Erik Mesel

From my experience, children and young people will attend local projects and activities if they enjoy going, it is close to where they live, they have a friend that also goes and if they like the staff delivering it. Children and young people should have access to a broad range of youth and play projects, holiday schemes, after school provision and sports clubs within their community; as well as time and space for doing their own things. Ideally, local services should be open to all, free of charge, delivered year-round and where possible run by locally-based community organisations. 

Local services play a crucial role and provide vital opportunities for children and young people to grow, learn, make friends, experiment, make mistakes and feel safe and connected within their local community. Over recent years, local services for children and young people have taken a hit through funding cuts from central and local government, with many small providers unable to carry on delivering activities. There is a clear need for new approaches and partnerships that can harness the power and voice of communities and deliver local services – especially those for children and young people – which have come under threat in recent years. 

The YPF model is now well established, growing, and innovative in the way it values and uses trust, built between the local organisations, the funder and the vision of supporting local providers to work together to create something better for children and young people living locally.

What is a Young People’s Foundation?

A YPF is a membership organisation that promotes collaborative working by encouraging local organisations to work together to deliver services for children and young people. They have members from the voluntary, public and private sector, anyone from the local Mosque to the Fire Service. The Initial YPFs were set up as independent charities, with John Lyon’s Charity, local authorities and other funders such as City Bridge Trust providing the core funding. Each YPF is led by local member needs and has a development team that provides strategic support to its membership, champions local provision and raises additional income to deliver new work. I have kept a close eye on the YPF developments since 2015 and after meeting up with Erik Mesel in May this year, it was great to hear that there are now YPFs operating in seven London boroughs with an eighth expected later this year.

How do they work?

In creating YPFs, John Lyon’s Charity recognised that local organisations have the people, knowledge, and energy to deliver services, but they lack the core funding and premises to make it happen. A key part of the YPF approach is to promote collaboration and recognise the need for community-based organisations to work together. The YPFs have three key functions:

  • Raise & Distribute Funds: The YPFs are a practical and simple way to fundraise collectively and secure funding from new sources. 
  • Facilitate: YPFs organise sector (and location) specific capacity building, including training events, advice sessions and a forum for organisations to share ideas and best practice. They also provide a single point of access for local young people and parents to understand what is available locally. 
  • Create Space: The YPFs have develop an online Venue portal, where members can share and trade space online – an ‘Airbnb’ for the Youth sector. 

Whilst each YPF will develop to meets the needs of its local area, they all share common values which we were really excited to read about:

  • Inclusivity– membership is open to any group working with children and young people, with no limit on numbers. An equal voice will be given to all organisations, no matter their size
  • Diversity– YPFs value the multitude of organisations that deliver youth and children’s work. There is a need for variety in order to meet the needs of as many young people as possible
  • Collaboration– YPFs are non-competitive and encourage collaboration between members. The YPFs will work to fundraise, coordinate and network to benefit their whole membership. They are not delivery organisations and so will not compete against their members, nor will they build up a large central workforce
  • Cross-sector– the needs of children and young people must be addressed by the public, voluntary and private sectors as a group rather than individually
  • Grassroots– the YPFs work for, and with, small local organisations and retain their local focus
  • Long-term– YPFs are designed for the long term. They are a constant; there for local young people past the traditional three or four-year terms of funding programmes or Local Authority term in office.

More information on the YPF model and details of how to engage with your local YPF can be found on the Charity’s website

Photo by Young Westminster Foundation

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