UK Youth is the largest national body for the youth sector, working with a network of members and partners to build a bright future for every young person, regardless of their background or circumstances.
With approximately 830,500 young people in their network, their aim is to work hand in hand with young people – and the dedicated organisations supporting them – to develop the skills, belief, courage and leadership needed to gain independence. They work to enhance youth provision to ensure young people can access high quality support in their community, develop life skills, and engage with education, training and employment. By combining a national perspective with on the ground delivery, they have a unique insight into the ecosystem required for young people to thrive.
The Belonging Challenge
UK Youth has been through disruptive change in the last three years. The CEO, Chair of Trustees, most of the senior leadership and more than half of the employees changed. The nature of their work transformed in response to radical change in funding, and shifting priorities in education and youth work in the UK.
The new senior management team were mostly appointed over the last year, and have each built up their teams and areas of operation, with many new starters. There are also many more people working in the offices; previously most employees had been independent home workers. There were very different cultures in various teams and a split between the centres in London and Avon Tyrrell (New Forest, Hampshire).
All in all, though the organisation is over 100 years old, in many ways UK Youth’s culture felt like a start-up business, as summed up by one leader:
We’re building the boat at the same time
as we’re sailing it.
It added up to a new way of belonging. Culture became one of the core concerns behind many of the organisational challenges. In the reach for ever-tighter effectiveness, alongside the recent disruption and transformation they wanted to answer the question:
What do I belong to now?
How Belonging Space solve it
To answer this question the CEO commissioned Belonging Space to explore:
Belonging Space undertook a deep discovery of the culture at UK Youth.
We ran mini-workshops with all staff, in-depth interviews, on-site observation, and an online survey. This gave us rich input and a broad view of the cultures within the organisation.
We then delved deeper with a cross-organisation Sounding Board team, mostly mid-level employees representing the voice and experience within the organisation. We ran two longer workshop sessions to examine specific areas for improvement and action.
From all this input we defined UK Youth’s Parameters of Belonging, pinpointing the main ways in which culture helps or harms the business.
We provided a detailed report, as well as a shorter summary.
We summarised all the complexities and layers of culture in a one-page model. We prioritised issues for attention, and set out another one-page action plan.
We are devising a Clear Line of Sight, combining:
Our work has already made it much easier for the UK Youth team to see how culture affects the organisation – and the implications for efficient use of sparse resources.
The findings has enabled the team to make decisions and take action to;
Because we have worked closely with people inside the organisation, as well as the CEO and leaders, we have brought together their focus and commitment during the process. There is already a better understanding of what the organisation is about, people have caught up with what has shifted.
Most importantly, they understand the big issues and why they matter. This is a great foundation for the coming programme of implementation to reinforce a sense of belonging across the organisation.
Belonging Space worked with us to identify priority areas, and through innovative and engaging processes ensured staff involvement and ownership of the process. It was particularly important for us to have an impartial external voice that we could trust to benchmark our culture after our journey of change. The report was a good reflection on our Charity Culture and has focused our thinking, enabling the senior team, and our Board of Trustees, to reflect and identify next steps. We look forward to working with Belonging Space in the future as we continue to grow and adapt to the ever changing youth sector that we work within.
– Anna Smee, CEO