Archives For Admin Tools

Resources for planning and administration of youth work including policies, online tools and links

The Young Foundation, part of the Catalyst consortium has published the final draft of their ‘Outcomes Framework for Young People’s Services‘ and are looking for feedback. Could this be a useful tool for your work with young people?

The last 10 years of government policy has pushed towards targeted outcomes in work with young people, but measuring the right outcomes has been problematic simply because it’s hard to capture the personal ‘soft’ changes that occur in young people as a result of our work. It was the focus of my undergraduate dissertation and last year the youth sector was criticised by the education select committee for not being able to show evidence of the difference we make. As a result of Department for Education funding, the Catalyst consortium (a partnership of the National Youth Agency, National Council for Voluntary Youth Services, the Social Enterprise Coalition and the Young Foundation) have now created the Outcomes Framework for Young People’s Services.

Essentially, it is a comprehensive document (based on strong evidence from a range of research and literature) that helps understand and measure the connections between intrinsic personal and social development outcomes and longer-term extrinsic outcomes. It uses this relationship to create the outcomes model below (click to enlarge):

Workers can use the framework to identify the sort of outcomes they should be measuring in their work, and then use the matrix of tools to find the best way to actually measure it. The matrix is basically a catalogue of third party tools and resources designed to capture evidence on personal and social development. Many of the tools are well known (such as Soul Record or Outcomes Stars) while some are more obscure, but they have all been assessed and compared with key criteria so you can identify the ones that best fit your work.

The full framework process is shown in the diagram below (click to enlarge), and explained in detail within the document.

The framework as a whole may be too in-depth for most practitioners doing face to face work, but it should be a very useful tool for managers and organisations that need to show the difference they make. And that is the point. I imagine as a result of this work that we will start seeing more funders looking for useful evidence of social development in young people to justify the money they invest in organisations and projects.

The version available on The Young Foundation site is a final draft and they are looking for feedback to shape the final document (due in April). The writers are particularly interested to hear responses to the following questions:

  • Do the key messages of the Framework resonate with you?
  • Who do you feel would be the key audience for the framework? (Commissioners, providers, managers?) Who would you recommend reads it?
  • How do you think the framework might be used?
  • Does the approach set out in the Framework represent a significant change to your current way of working? In what way?
  • What do you feel are the main opportunities and challenges of such an approach?
  • Do you feel clear about the practical steps in taking forward the approach set out in the Framework?
  • Do you feel that you or your service would benefit from (additional) support around impact and outcomes? What types(s) of support is/are needed?
  • What else is needed to make the Framework ‘useful’, going forward?

View and download the Outcomes Framework for Young People’s Services here. You should email any feedback to Bethia McNeil by March 31st 2012.

What are your thoughts on this? Do we need to prove what we do or is it a waste of time?

Safe Network

6 January 2012 — 5 Comments

The Safe Network is an excellent website and series of resources for community and voluntary sector organisations around best practice in keeping children and young people safe.

Jointly managed by the NSPCC, Children England and Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT), Safe Network was created as a result of the Government’s Staying Safe action plan and is fast becoming one of my “go-to” resources. The site is pretty comprehensive with hundreds of downloadable policy templates around child protection, bullying, online guidance, recruitment, etc. They also offer free online child protection training to not-for-profit organisations, and the Are they safe? Pack.

Impressively, they are working closely with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), and the Childrens Workforce Development Council  (CWDC) among others to try and build common safeguarding standards for voluntary and community organisations. This is reflected in the way they offer specific advice and policies for various demographics such as faith groups, sport groups and supporting LGBT young people.

I’ve been working through the Self-assessment tool which helps organisations check if they meet the Safe Network Standards, a set of national core standards designed to help non-statutory organisations put in place clear safeguarding arrangements for children and young people. You have to register on the site, but can then work through each standard as a checklist to see if it is implemented in your organisation, and there are downloads and templates to use if you need help.

So there you go. Visit the site and bookmark. You will find it very useful if:

  • you work in an organisation, whether small, medium or large, local or national, and your activities are primarily aimed at children.
  • you provide activities for children and young people in a local voluntary and community organisation.
  • you have contact with children and young people but your work is not primarily or solely child care (eg faith groupblack, minority and ethnic grouphobby clubunaffiliated sport , cultural or leisure activity).
  • you’re a trustee or a funder of an organisation that involves or includes children in any of its activities.
  • you’re a parent or carer who needs advice on keeping children safe.

 

Jargon Busters

19 December 2011 — 2 Comments

Are you confused between your Outputs & Outcomes? What’s the difference between your Vision, Purpose, Aims and Mission?

Jargonbusters.org.uk is a new website designed at cutting through the confusing terms and definitions in the charitable and voluntary sector to enable organisations to be clearer in their language. It’s been put together by a group of funders, government departments, regulatory bodies and voluntary sector organisations who form the Jargonbuster Group.

Having checked out the site, it’s actually very useful. As the site explains:

Funders and support agencies use concepts and terms from the language of planning, project management and performance improvement in different ways. This lack of agreed definitions has led to widespread confusion about what particular terms mean and how to use them most appropriately

The Jargonbusters site is designed with three aims:

First, it will define some of the different terms charities and community groups, evaluators and funders use, tell you when you might hear them, and what they mean in different situations.

Secondly, it will bring out some of the ideas behind the jargon.

Thirdly, it will help funders be clearer about the words they use and use them more consistently.

So add it to your bookmarks and now there’s no excuse for using the wrong terms in your communications! 😉

A number of weeks ago, a conversation started between youth workers on twitter about finding funding to help support the work they do. I was able to share a few links to websites that I have used in the past, and I thought these links might be of use to others too.

As a caveat I’ve not used all of them myself, but I have had success with a couple. Take a look and share in the comments any other resources you’ve used to secure funding for your work.

  • fundingcentral.org.uk – a very useful free service where you can create and save a profile, then search and filter results in a variety of ways. It also send you regular emails with updates on grants and funding, training, events and news.
  • funderfinder.org.uk – a charity providing some free resources and a paid search facility (from £5.50 for 24 hours access)
  • access-funds.co.uk – news, information and guides for funding, plus access to their directory. You get a free 7 day trial then a 12 month subscription for £50. I’ve not tried this one!
  • The Directory of Social Changehave a family of useful websites. Although you have to pay for access to use them, the small cost would easily be worth it if you secured funding through its service:
  • Open4fundingis a funding search portal hired by various councils around the UK. Where available, it’s a very useful tool for searching and filtering funding available in your area. I’ve not seen the list of which councils use this service, but it is certainly active for the following:

 

As additional advice for finding funding, I highly recommend going to ‘boring’ meetings and networking with other agencies and partners (as I mentioned here). There are often people with money in budgets to spend!

What are your top tips for finding funding?

Something I’ve been struggling with for a while, especially since taking on more responsibility and oversight for a number of different areas in my job, is about managing my time better. Generally I have a good sense of what is important, and usually manage to achieve what is needed in the right timeframe, however I know that I’m not always methodical or organised in my approach and often waste time by doing too many things simultaneously.

From my limited experience, I think this is an issue for many youth workers. Because (generally speaking) we are practical, hands-on, relational people; the admin, planning and organisation don’t always come at the top of our list (or maybe approached in a reluctant battle-focused manner)! Recently I’ve been working through my own systems and challenging myself to work smarter. Here’s a couple of things I’ve learnt:

Switch off push email

Owning a smart phone is great for many reasons, but I’ve found having my phone buzz and beep every time a new email arrives is very distracting. I would often catch myself opening the email and replying to it immediately, in spite of what I was currently doing. I would end up flitting from one thing to another without properly focusing or finishing each. It also had the added issue that people were starting to think that I was available to them at any time as I would respond instantly. A few weeks back, I turned off the push notification. I can still get email instantly whenever I need it, I just have to tap the button to open the app. It’s been hard to resist temptation, but I’m now starting to limit how often I access my email. Ideally I want to only check and respond once or twice a day.

Structure my calendar better

I’ve been sharing online calendars with my family and work colleagues for years, so people are able to see what I’m doing or when I’m available. The thing is, if there is no particular meeting or event the day looks empty and I end up doing whatever is most urgent on my task list, and not always being too productive. Recently I’ve been experimenting with blocking out times for certain tasks each day or week and putting my focus into that. For example, Monday mornings are staff team and church leadership meetings. Because I’m in the office, I’ve started blocking out the rest of Monday to stay in the office working alongside the team and hitting the general admin like reading the post, responding to emails, etc. I know it’s a little thing, but structuring the day and setting aside that time has really helped my productivity.

There’s been some good blog posts on this subject from well-known leaders recently that caught my attention. Michael Hyatt posted about How to Better Control Your Time by Designing Your Ideal Week, and Doug Fields recently did a 3-part series outlining 5 Steps toward the death of “to-do” lists. A big part of it is about structuring his calendar:

  • He defines his main roles within his work.
  • He then lists all the most important tasks for the upcoming week under those role headings
  • He estimates a time frame for each task
  • Then he blocks out any meetings & events on the calendar
  • and works out a time slot around the meetings for each task.

It’s essentially prioritising the most important things and then ensuring there’s a set time to get it done.

Talking of important things, the Urgent Vs Important dilemma is very relevant to youth work. I learnt about this a number of years ago, but Michael Hyatt does a good job of explaining why you need to focus on important and ignore the urgent. Check out  Is That Task Important or Merely Urgent?

So what about you? How do you manage the many demands for your time? What tips can you share?

After posting our Social Media Policy the other week, I’ve found a great additional resource that may be of interest to those that found it helpful. Jon Coombs is a youth pastor at Canterbury Baptist Church in Canterbury, Australia. He has written up and published on his blog a far more comprehensive document titled ‘Electronic Communication Guidelines‘. It includes information on using Email, SMS Messaging, Social Media, Photos, Gaming, and Blogs. From the introduction:

This document seeks to outline guidelines and good practice for youth influencers in using electronic communication tools in a safe and encouraging way for those under the church’s care…

Youth leaders are not the only people who deal with young people in the church community. While they perhaps come into contact with young people on a more regular basis than others, through the programs and gatherings of the church, there are a wider sphere of people who also need to communicate with young people. The term ‘youth influencers’, therefore, includes, but is not limited to, those who interact on a regular basis with young people (under eighteen) through youth group, small groups, one-on-one discipleship, music teams, services, and any other interactions that may take place under the umbrella of one’s church.

I’m sure the document can be adaptable for use in other settings, and it’s great to see a working example of someone who’s thinking through the opportunities and risks involved with engaging young people digitally.

Visit Jon’s website to download the Electronic Communication Guidelines.

Social Media Policy

1 April 2011 — 6 Comments

 

Dave Johnson and I have been working on drafting some guidance around use of social media and networking within our organisation. I finished off the policy yesterday, so thought I would share it here as I’ve had two separate conversations with people this week who were looking for advice on how best to implement social media in their settings.

Firstly, I need to say that this is not a comprehensive document. In writing it we had three main aims; to be clear and concise, to give guidance for staff using personal accounts, and to give guidance over use of ‘official’ church accounts.

You can download the Social Media Policy Template in pdf format. Free free to use it and adapt it for your own use, but link back to this page where possible.

Download: Social Media Policy Template

Much of the information in the template was drawn from two online resources; the ‘Post your policies’ thread on youthworkonline, and the Social Networking Policy on the Birthtofive website which was then adapted to fit our organisation. If you require further resources, then visit the website of the brilliant Katie Bacon, who specialises in digital youth outreach.

Does anyone else have policies for social media use they want to share?

'Sauce Policy' by jasonEscapist on Flickr

I’m sorry about the low amount of posts recently. I’m desperately trying to ensure I put at least one thing up here a week to keep some level of continuity. Part of the reason I’ve not had time to post is due to getting my head around the operational procedures of the church here. A big portion of this is reviewing and updating various policies, and hence, the reason for this post.

I was directed to birthtofive.org.uk, a website by Lincolnshire County Council which has a wealth of resources and information. The focus is on early years child care services so might not be directly relevant to the youth work world, but they have posted on the site a number of templates for policies and procedures including Safeguarding Children, CRB checks and Social Networking among many others. Check out this page.

In updating our (quite comprehensive) safeguarding documents, I’ve found the site useful especially for its simple, clean policy templates. I was able to take the information in our documents, update them slightly and present them in a much easier-to-read format.

So if you need Staff Appraisal records, Managers Report Layouts, Codes of Conduct, etc. it’s a very helpful place to start!