Creative Youth Network is growing, as we take on the new Targeted Youth Service Contract in Bristol and a new partnership in South Gloucestershire. I’m proud that we are bucking the trend where many organisations are getting smaller as local authority and government cuts bite. Because we are bucking that trend we are able to help more young people than ever before.

I’m not a believer in cuts. I believe where there is a will there is a way and that we don’t have to simply accept what is handed to us. Whether that be as an individual, an organisation or even at a city level. 

A polarised argument in the response to cuts

The cuts (not just in youth services) have tended to create a polarised argument: those who accept them or those who want to protest against them. If we accept them, we usually end up managing decline – initially finding new ways of working but then ultimately having to reduce the service available to the most vulnerable. When we protest, we can make noise and even change a decision or two, but find our lack of answers ultimately leads to further disenchantment and little change.  

I have done both but have found there is a third way. Spending time growing a solution provides a far more powerful argument for change, makes a real difference to the lives of those we want to help here and now, and shows us how the future might look. In effect creating that future as the old ways decline.   

This approach takes time and patience and requires a clear vision for what the future can hold and a willingness to persevere, even though the end might seem impossible.

More than that, it requires some willingness to let others take control. That is why, at Creative Youth Network, our work with partners is so important. At the moment we have over 20 sub contractors and organisations we are in a formal partnership with, ranging from small community groups, to arts organisations and large companies. When we share a vision with others this collaboration creates a energy that means those with resources, power and money often feel inspired. Against a backdrop of cuts and difficult decisions, this vision gives hope that people want to be a part of and means resources begin to flow. 

Partnership work

Our most recent example has been the youth work we do in South Glos. By working with the local authority to manage the cuts they have been forced into, we have led a partnership of local organisations that has secured funding from BIG lottery, Parish and town Councils that now means more money is going into youth work in the county than was available before the cuts started. 

Our new contract running the Targeted Youth Service in Bristol is another great example of partnership work meaning we can maintain almost all the existing youth services in the city (and even start a few new ones). Our partners and shared vision are key to this success and will mean we can provide more young people with the support they need in the years to come.