Youth groups struggle to win support from businesses

By Tristan Donovan, Wednesday 27 March 2013

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Youth groups need to promote themselves better if they want to secure support from businesses, an evaluation of the United Futures scheme has suggested.

Business and youth leaders discuss collaboration

The evaluation found that numerous barriers to co-operation between businesses and the youth sector. Image: UK Youth

The government-funded United Futures project aimed to help youth organisations connect with local businesses through a series of networking events and a match-making "brokerage" project in Plymouth.

But an evaluation of the scheme, published today, found that numerous barriers to co-operation between the two remain.

The evaluation said that youth organisations often struggle to form partnerships with businesses because the sector lacks a clear image and because groups lack the capacity to make themselves known to companies.

A lack of staff time was also a key barrier for both businesses and youth groups, with 67 per cent of companies and 85 per cent of youth organisations identifying this as a barrier to increased co-operation.

There was also a mismatch between the future expectations of youth groups and businesses.

Youth organisations were found to be hopeful that businesses would substantially increase their support for the sector but companies said they expected no change or a decline in what help they could offer.

The evaluation found that businesses with 250 or more employees are most open to supporting youth groups but often lacked an understanding of how they could help the sector.

Businesses that formed partnerships were driven by a desire to be seen as responsible companies, to motivate their staff and to give something back to their community.

The evaluation recommended that future efforts to bring businesses and youth organisations together must avoid becoming too focused on the “more tangible and easier to demonstrate” benefits for youth groups and do more to illustrate the benefits for companies.

"It is to be expected that future brokerage models would focus primarily on youth organisations' needs," said the evaluation.

"However, one should be careful that a focus on youth organisations' difficulties and needs does not reinforce a latent image of incompetence found among the businesses we interviewed."

It also said that youth groups need further guidance and support to help them promote themselves to businesses.

The United Futures project was run by consortium led by Business in the Community and supported by UK Youth and the National Children’s Bureau, which carried out the evaluation.

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