Ambition 2016, Supporting Young People’s Health, Wellbeing and Relationships

Ambition 2016 was a great success. The event was further confirmation to me of the growing feeling that as a sector we are readying ourselves to unite and to learn from each other’s experiences, face issues head on and celebrate progress.

The conference gave a platform to a wide range of experts speaking on diverse subjects from mental health, to CSE/A, to preventing exploitation of vulnerable young people, to how we might expand opportunities for young people to increase their physical activity, among many more. We are indebted to our partners who provided their time and expertise so we could deliver such a high quality programme.

The conference theme and programme was devised to instigate discussions on how we might contribute to supporting the sector in designing and building effective, contemporary services which support young people experiencing unprecedented change, challenges and pressures. I have every confidence the answers lie in organisations and agencies like those within the Ambition community. Our role, at Ambition, is to provide a platform for those discussions to take place, to help establish the foundations of how these new services could be implemented and to promote, with sector partners, the impact of those services.

What struck me was the positive determination participants conveyed in improving young people’s life chances; this was imparted through the seminar discussions, panel questions and statements throughout the two-day conference. As a consequence, it has provided our team with a plethora of undertakings to consider and follow through and even, in some cases, problems to deal with.

In his outgoing Chair speech, Selwyn Hodge encouraged those in the room and from the wider sector to be open to pushing boundaries and not to be frightened of challenges in the short-term to secure long-term success. Selwyn went on to surmise that as a sector we are entering unknown territory and leaders of organisations would need to work collectively to secure a quality, consistent, relevant, local offer to support the nation’s young people through a challenging period for them in the UK.

Selwyn’s words came days before the launch of the State of the Nation report on social mobility in Great Britain was published, outlining evidence of the multi-faceted challenges young people face growing up in the UK today; issues those of us working with young people are only too aware.

Having spoken to many of you who attended the conference, the work we offer as a network of organisations and agencies continues to be well received and respected by partners, communities, parents and most importantly, young people. There is concern about the effect of Brexit and the impact of the ongoing cuts to services and resources. However, it was evident that the work you are doing continues to be valued by young people and the innovation and nimbleness in which members operate leaves me with no doubt that colleagues will strive to find more sustainable resources to continue to deliver those services.

One particular conversation I had with colleagues from Young People Cornwall (YPC) stuck with me, YPC have always had young people’s views and involvement at the core to organisational and service development, it’s fundamental to how they operate. For YPC, historically it has been difficult to secure external resource to fully support this work, however, it is so critical to how they operate they have chosen to invest the organisation’s funds to ensure the work continues. As you can imagine this has not always been easy but even when resource was stretched they continued to be committed to this policy. However, YPC’s commitment to this approach has started to pay off as partners, funders and communities are recognising YPC’s policy as not only more effective for the beneficiaries but also more cost effective.

This account reminds me that it takes leadership and a strong sense of purpose for an organisation to stick to its mission, in the face of financial pressures and there is a finely tuned balance between the social impact that the organisation is trying to achieve, and how much money it needs to sustain itself.

I hope those who attended Ambition 2016 left feeling as enthused as our team did and the conference has gone some way to starting conversations on how, as a community, we can work together and with young people, to create a local offer that is consistent, effective and of high quality.