Last summer, the Blagrave Trust with support from Keystone Accountability set out to learn more about what youth-oriented charities do to listen and respond to the young people they help. Keystone spent time with key staff from eight Blagrave partners to understand and document their youth feedback related practices.
Among the eight partners, there was a growing recognition of the importance and value of listening, and as a result feedback was becoming a higher priority on their collective agendas. In addition, all the organisations were collecting and using youth feedback data in their work. The common challenges identified covered both challenges in feedback collection and challenges in acting on the feedback. This is consistent with many of the other organisations that Keystone has worked with. Partners were more on top of the challenges in collecting feedback than those in maximising the learning and use resulting from feedback. Again, this is consistent with our experiences elsewhere, and may stem in part because the former are more technical in nature, while the latter implicate organizational culture. A summary of the findings, including more detailed case studies can be found here.
Among the several proposed ways forward to emerge from the work, and one we hear very often, is that if funders want more of this type of work to be done, and want it done properly, then they should be prepared to pay for it. And that is exactly what Blagrave have done! Recognising that charities do not always have the capacity and capabilities to do this themselves, Blagrave with the Sussex Community Foundations provided discretional funding to one partner to listen and respond to its key stakeholders.
With the funding, children’s disability charity Extratime carried out a comprehensive stakeholder consultation with parent carers, professional partners, children and young people and their own staff team. As Extratime concludes:
“The consultation identified a lack of out of school leisure services for young people with additional needs aged 16 plus and the need for weekend play and leisure activities for children and young people with additional needs and disabilities. In response to this we have set up two new services in partnership with existing partners YMCA and with inclusive dance company Rounded Rhythm. We are also exploring options for family weekend activities.” – For more information, click here.
Its great to see an organisation dedicating discretional funding towards such an important process, and goes to show they are not merely paying lip service to listening and engaging with constituents. It is also great to see funders recognise their role in helping organisations become more responsive to those they are meant to be helping, and realise that if they want to see their grantees make real progress, they need put their money where their mouth is. In fact, Blagrave is now planning to allocate specific resources for small grants for both new and existing partners to pilot constituent voice. Funders have a powerful ability to help shape the direction of this field moving forward, and we hope, like Blagrave, they fulfil their potential.