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Claudio Siniscalco is the founder of the private investment firm Fiduciary Co-investment Partners (FCP). Through the firm, Claudio and his wife, Daphne, became Founder Patrons of WEST, Hammersmith & Fulham’s Youth Zone, pledging a perpetual grant of a percentage of FCP’S long-term profits to the Youth Zone. Here Claudio tells us what inspired him to support.
There are a variety of reasons why my wife, Daphne, and I got involved with supporting OnSide’s WEST Youth Zone.
Our firm, FCP, already supported two charities, one focused on a global cause (delivering clean water), and one focused on a personal cause (curing allergies), so we very much wanted to find a local cause to support as well.
I grew up in New York, where extreme levels of wealth were on display right across the street from people who were destitute. The wealthy walked past the disadvantaged daily, often without being fully conscious of it. In London, where I’ve now lived for 25 years, the situation is very similar. I work in a global business, with clients and investments all around the world, and it’s very easy to slip into a routine of going to an office in central London and focusing on what’s happening in the wider world, whilst being far less connected to the local community. I believe this “opportunity disparity” is one of the significant challenges of our time. So when I learned about OnSide and the WEST Youth Zone thanks to its Chair Mark Davies, I realised we could also have an impact on our local community via a Youth Zone just a few miles away from us.
Our visit to Legacy, Onside’s Youth Zone in Croydon, convinced us that this was a cause we wanted to support. Seeing children and teenagers utilising the world-class facilities offered by an Onside Youth Zone generated an ‘aha’ moment that stopped me in my tracks. It had me thinking for days about the kind of impact that a Youth Zone can make on a local community. All the young people I met were incredibly inspiring, and all I could think about was how many more young people there might be like them, and how essential it is to ensure they have the support and facilities they deserve.
I have many memories from that visit. One that stands out is meeting a group of 10-year-olds in Legacy’s “Enterprise Room” who were participating in a simulated entrepreneurial programme where they designed, printed and sold customised t-shirts for a profit. The Youth Worker running the session had participated in a similar programme years before, and had
ended up launching a successful home cake-making and delivery business, crediting its success to several of the skills she had learnt at Onside. Seeing kids having fun and doing something entrepreneurial was great, but meeting the Youth Worker who had retained those same skills and used them to supplement her income in addition to the work she was doing at the Youth Zone was inspiring.
Having access to a support group of peers, friends, instructors, or experts can create a virtuous circle of opportunity. Some people are lucky to have a natural network via their homes, school, work, or friends. But not all young people have the same level of access to supportive communities and circles. We therefore need to create additional environments to trigger these virtuous circles of opportunity. Youth Zones are locations where young people can go and take risks, learn new skills, create new relationships and access positive feedback loops.
The mission of OnSide and the Youth Zones is even more critical today than ever because of the need to fight against trends of isolation. In a world where more and more interactions are taking place online, where it’s easy and tempting for everyone to spend more time in front of a screen, it has become even harder now for young people to connect with friends and mentors than it was 5, 10 or 20 years ago. It’s essential that organisations like OnSide recreate and provide opportunities for young people in their local community.
To anyone considering getting involved with OnSide, I’d suggest visiting a Youth Zone if you can. For me, it was an eye-opening experience. Although the concept sounded nice on paper, visiting convinced me that I urgently wanted to become involved. Nothing brings a Youth Zone’s mission to life better than actually seeing one in action.