The Listening Fund’s partners – part one of three: pioneers!

Two friends taking and joking while sitting outdoors

Author: Edd Fry, The Listening Fund

In late 2017, The Blagrave Trust, Comic Relief, Esmée Fairbain Foundation and The National Lottery Community Fund invited 50 organisations to apply for two years of funding to improve how they listened to the young people with whom they worked. We were able to support 22 partners with grants.

By 2019/2020, the overwhelming majority of our partners had found that creating a listening culture – rather than just focusing on listening structures, policies or staff posts – was key to good listening. They also shared that creating that culture took time. We therefore invited all 22 partners to apply for a further three years of funding in 2020.

Nine of the original 22 partners received additional funding in Spring 2021, approximately 12 months into the Covid-19 pandemic. That backdrop, of lockdowns, stress, fear, loss and uncertainty, as well as ingenuity, resilience, love, support and adaptability, has informed much of the partners’ listening work. Now, as they enter their last year of funding, our nine original partners are working hard to embed what they have learned about listening so far, and to share their knowledge and experience with their peers across the sector. You can read more about them below, and also find examples of their experiences running through Collective Discovery’s reports.

Become is a national organisation which provides advice and support to children in care and young care leavers. Their approach to listening is focused on creating a participation framework which gives young people a range of opportunities to inform and engage with Become’s work, including meeting with Ministers and working with peers to develop Become’s services.

Carefree Cornwall is based in Redruth, a small town near the county’s north coast. They work with young people in or leaving care and integrate them into many of the organisation’s activities including training social workers and foster carers and working with the local corporate parenting body. They are also developing a shadow board.

LEAP Confronting Conflict have used the support of The Listening Fund to refine and advance their co-production work. Based in north London but working nationally, LEAP supports young people and trains professionals to better manage conflict.

Gendered Intelligence work to increase understanding of gender diversity and to improve the lives of trans people. They have used funding from The Listening Fund to explore different iterations of the youth board and how it can successfully work with Trustees, management and other young people who use G.I.’s services.

Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) work with refugees and asylum-seeking young people in East Kent, offering a range of activities including mentoring, peer support, community engagement and advocacy. Central to many of these activities are the charity’s two youth envoys, paid positions supported by The Listening Fund who amplify the voices and experiences of their peers within KRAN and externally.

Spark Inside has also used The Listening Fund’s support to pay young people for their involvement in a variety of listening opportunities. Despite the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic caused for their work in prisons, Spark Inside now have In-Prison Advisory Boards up and running and will use the insight they gain from young people to improve the coaching services they offer and to advocate for change with prison authorities.

The Foyer Federation supports a national network of foyers – organisations who provide accommodation and other services to young people experiencing homelessness. Their listening work aims to ensure that young people are better able to inform and influence the work of the national organisation as well that of the Federation’s members.

The Mix – an organisation which provides support and advice to young people on a huge range of topics, as well as bringing young people together to advocate for what they want and need – is embedding listening throughout the organisation, from young trustees to youth-led programming and delivery. They are using the Listening Fund’s support to expand their youth-facing data hub, an initiative which allows young people to explore what issues are of concern to their peers, and to use this information for advocacy and social action.

We Don’t Settle are based in Birmingham. They work with young people to tell their stories in arts and heritage spaces and are using support from The Listening Fund to involve young people in the organisation’s governance through a Youth-Steering Committee which sits at the heart of We Don’t Settle.

In the next few months, staff members from these organisations will be writing blogs for us on specific areas of listening and accountability which they have been exploring. These will be posted to our blog section. You can subscribe to our monthly newsletter at the bottom of this page to get an update on new blogs straight to your inbox.

Our next blog will introduce The Listening Fund’s second cohort of partners.

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