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The power of partnership

28th June 2024 by Jamie Masraff, Chief Executive, OnSide

We’ve recently launched our new three-year strategy with an ambitious goal: by 2035, we aim to have a thriving Network of 35 Youth Zones supporting 150,000 young people, while supporting the wider rebuilding of the youth sector. You might wonder how we plan to achieve this. The answer lies in collaboration – something that has been at the heart of what we do and how we do it since our inception. Building and running a Youth Zone is a complex, collaborative effort with many partners playing crucial roles.

The local authority provides a proportion of the funding and the land for the build; no project would get off the ground without its buy-in and support. For example, the recently opened WEST Youth Zone in west London is part of a not-for-profit partnership between Hammersmith & Fulham Council and Ark, called EdCity, and simply wouldn’t exist without the support of both partners.

While the local authority provides the foundation, the local community is the backbone of every Youth Zone. We’ve been immensely grateful to have members of Hammersmith & Fulham’s community championing the cause locally. I’d like to shout out local resident and WEST employee, Shineade Burton, who’s contributed massively to WEST, and was recently recognised by H&F Council Civic Honours Awards. Local young people are also integral to our work. We’ve had a cracking group of young people in WEST’s Young People’s Development Group who have given their time, energy and enthusiasm from the start of the project over seven years ago.

Local youth sector partners are also at the heart of a Youth Zone’s rich, impactful offer for young people. Local partners’ deep understanding of young people’s needs and invaluable insights enable us to enhance the support provided. Having only opened in April, WEST Youth Zone already has several brilliant partnerships, some of which have been made possible thanks to Young H&F Foundation; a local charity supporting voluntary youth organisations in the borough. QPR coaches run football coaching on the Skyline Pitch every session, and boxing sessions are run by the Kiyan Prince Foundation & West London Boxing Club. National partners, like our colleagues on the Back Youth Alliance, also provide amazing opportunities for Youth Zone members and work with us to increase the profile of youth work with the national government.

The last component of our four-way partnership is our supporters. Our capital funders come together to create the Youth Zone, while Founder Patrons ensure each Youth Zone offers the best opportunities by covering running costs. When you visit any Youth Zone, you’ll see plaques on the wall to recognise their generous support. Like the bricks that form the building, the plaques are an integral part of the Youth Zone’s story. We’re so fortunate to have a growing number of partners, from longer-term supporters who have supported us for many years, to new supporters like the People’s Postcode Lottery.

We are incredibly grateful for the support of all our partners, both past and present – from funders to community leaders, youth sector partners, young people and local councils – all playing their part in shaping the OnSide movement. Together, we’ve built a Network of 15 Youth Zones, impacting 55,000 young lives. But this is just the beginning! As we work towards our goal of 35 Youth Zones by 2035, we invite new partners to join us. If you’re passionate about empowering young people, get in touch with us today and be part of the journey.

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