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2022: The shift from ‘Youth Outputs’ to ‘Youth Impact’

by Graham Sykes,

Posted on the 10/01/2022

After twenty years in the sector, it is finally becoming noticeable that youth engagement is being taking seriously in the boardroom. This is obviously to be applauded, with increased acceptance comes increased scrutiny, evaluation, and a requirement to demonstrate impact.

Within increased financial pressures on the horizon - primarily the shift from European Structural & Investment Funds (ESIF) to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) - demonstrating impact needs to be much more than publishing a list of numbers in a board report.

Within increased financial pressures on the horizon, demonstrating impact needs to be much more than publishing a list of numbers in a board report.

Individual stories not holistic overviews

There has been a creeping trend that funders, board members, and stakeholders no longer want holistic overviews – they want individual stories that demonstrate how ‘their money’ has created ‘impact’ and how it has positively changed young lives.

One of the biggest challenges in youth engagement is that those that will benefit the most from a product or service are often the hardest to engage. Faced with this dichotomy, the question then becomes ‘who do you choose to help?’

Do you spend £1 on an ‘easy to engage’ young person that generates minimal benefit or spend £2 on a ‘difficult to engage' young person that generates a greater benefit?

If output is measured in numbers, then most will adopt Option 1 but if you are measuring individual impact then you need a strategy that delivers Option 2.

And this is the challenge, especially as it is unlikely that delivering ‘impact’ rather than ‘outputs’ will come with increased budgets. It is highly unlikely that UKSPF will be greater in value than ESIF and so it is essential that organisations are planning for ‘impact’ now rather than waiting for changes to be introduced down the line.

Difficult to demonstrate impact retrospectively

It is very difficult to retrospectively demonstrate impact. Often engagement activity occurs in a limited time window and if key information isn’t collected at the time then it disappears forever. A quote or a photograph (with permissions – obviously) are invaluable in telling the stories of the young people you support, but they are very difficult to acquire after the event.

Over the 2021, I have been working with a number of clients to implement procedures that can demonstrate ‘impact’ as well as ‘outputs’. I have now turned this process into a deliverable Youth Impact Strategy that can be developed and implemented either virtually or on-site. I have developed it to be used to evaluate existing activity and to put a framework in place that can be used to systematically collect information and demonstrate to funders, board members and stakeholders the difference that the organisation is making to young people.

If you would like an informal chat to discuss how this could help your organisation, please drop me a message in the webform and we can arrange a convenient time for a conversation.

Categories for this post: Articles

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