Why I joined UFA as CEO

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paul-photoIt’s the beginning of my third week at UFA and it’s been great to really get to grips with what the organisation does, through talking to staff, trustees and partners.

One question that I’ve been asked throughout my first couple of weeks is what attracted me to the role of CEO at UFA? The answer is simple – the opportunity to work with an organisation that has a rich 20 year, evidence based history in supporting young people in realising their own potential.

At my previous organisation Street League, I was lucky enough to see hundreds of young unemployed people realise their potential through engagement with sport, education and employability skills, in the majority of cases leading to sustained employment.

At UFA the opportunity to help young people engage with their learning, grow their confidence and to develop their voice, learning and resilience starts much earlier. We want to support children and young people to develop skills and competencies that ensure they are less likely to become unemployed in the first place and more able to play active, fulfilling roles in their communities. And at the same time supporting those adults around them to become skilled and confident in engaging with the young people.

Just in the last week I’ve talked to our national development team about projects working with looked after children to train them as peer tutors (read part 1 here and part 2 here) along with clusters of schools working together through our Young Researcher and Evaluator programme to explore young people’s voice within the learning environment.

Through Top Tutors, UFA’s subsidiary company and social business, we help young people on a daily basis with one to one tuition support and are now rolling out a pilot to support parents in helping their teenagers to learn (details here) . With a planned role out across Birmingham in addition to a well-established presence in London and a great entry into the Good Schools Guide (read more here) it’s an exciting time for Top Tutors!

Last week also saw the annual National Citizen Service (NCS) conference and all of the staff who attended came back enthused and motivated by the celebration of just what an effect our UFA powered NCS programme has had on young people. By the end of 2016 we will have worked with 10,000 young people since the programme launched four years ago!

Our trustees saw first-hand the impact UFA’s work through NCS has on young people through a series of videos from our teams in Suffolk (watch them here). It was inspirational to see how much change a group of young people can deliver in the community through social impact programmes but also see in themselves in just a few weeks. Annabelle team raft summer 16

The theme that shared throughout all these diverse and exciting projects is the opportunity for young people to seize the initiative, to step forward and to step up to a challenge, whether it’s a learning or personal goal they are aiming for.

At the heart of UFA is ‘progression’. Young people throughout all of our programmes are encouraged to continuously grow, develop and progress, whether that be in learning, personal skills or into further opportunities inside or out of UFA. Every young person at UFA finishes at a completely different place to where they started.  We see a young person in terms of what they can become, not where they are now.

There are challenges moving forward around growing our work in a tough funding climate and increasing the numbers of young people, families, teachers and communities we work with. We are particularly good at monitoring and evaluation, often working with partners such as the Institute of Education to help us but we want to go much further being able to demonstrate the impact of our programmes. This is essential and will form a significant part of our strategy moving forward.  I am looking forward to tackling the challenges we face head on, as based on these first few weeks, there will be plenty of inspiration to draw on moving forward.

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