Building confidence and connections in Southwark
Year one findings from the One Southwark programme
Southwark has been described as a borough of ‘two halves’, with pockets of extreme need sitting alongside considerable wealth and opportunity. The One Southwark programme, launched in March 2022 as an alternative to other London Giving Programmes, seeks to address the effects of this disparity on young people in the borough. It does this by mobilising businesses, funders, community groups and residents to give their time, money, networks and influence to ‘level the playing field’ for underrepresented young people. The ambition is for young people to become active contributors to conversations with local stakeholders about how to bring about longer-term, sustainable change.
IVAR has been working alongside the programme to understand the barriers young people face and what learning can be applied as the work evolves. What’s special about One Southwark is the person-centred and flexible design of the package young people access. It includes financial support (a £3,000 grant to spend as they chose to support their progression), mentoring, events and training, and access to an ‘Asset Network’ of local organisations and individuals offering things like work experience, advice, mentoring and coaching and skills development. The aim is to take a holistic approach to young people, their aims and the challenges they face.
Over two years young people have been able to build their confidence and self-esteem, as well as personal, industry specific and soft skills. What young people particularly value is the spaces they get to work out what they want to do, develop their ideas and make informed decisions about the future. The grant has helped remove financial barriers, like paying for ADHD assessments, childcare, courses, counselling and costs of setting up new enterprises.
One Southwark’s ambitions go beyond supporting 40 young people over 4 years. The challenge now is to use the learning about barriers that underrepresented young people face to promote wider change. As the programme turns its attention to recruiting cohort two, it is also developing a road map to influence local organisations – businesses, charities, funders, statutory agencies – and residents, to help remove barriers and strengthen opportunities for young people across Southwark.
Read more about one young person’s journey:
Solomon shares why he applied to be part of the One Southwark programme and how its helped him so far. He mentions his support worker at Rise – Cambridge House, Jordan Palmer, and his mentor, copywriter and content strategist Hannah Lemon.
I moved to the UK in 2010 with my mum from Sierra Leone and I’m 23 now. I’ve moved around South London a lot. I struggled at sixth form. I know I learn differently than most other people. I learn by doing things and seeing them, and I struggle with writing. After leaving sixth form, I went through a bad patch where I felt very anxious and kept myself to myself. I didn’t feel like doing anything and didn’t go out much. At this time we were having some family issues, we didn’t have much money. I didn’t have any credit on my phone or Wi-Fi. Southwark is a good place to live for families, because there are lots of activities for young children. But it’s harder for young people who don’t have much money, so if you want to do a sport, money can be a big barrier.
One day I went my local foodbank and there was a nice person there that suggested I go to Cambridge House Youth Club. They arranged a meeting with a youth worker. I’d heard it was a good place because a leaflet had come through my door about a young person who had joined and how the place had changed him. In 2019 I joined the Rise programme at Cambridge House. It was local and I was grateful I could walk there because that meant I didn’t have to pay for transport.
One of the Rise mentors encouraged me to apply for One Southwark. I wasn’t keen because I didn’t want to write an application, but the youth worker encourage me and said I could do a video, which I did, and I was accepted onto the programme.
What’s been helpful about the One Southwark is having the check-ins. I’ve been able to set goals, try some things out, and change my mind if I want to. But I also tell myself to stick to things and the regular meetings help me do that.
One Southwark is pushing me out of my comfort zone and getting me used to being out of my comfort zone. Through One Southwark’s network, I’ve been connected with a local writer who has become a mentor – we go for coffee and visit art galleries and chat about the things I’ve done and made. Its really helped me build confidence and talk to people I don’t know. My mentor also helped me apply for a work placement at the Old Vic where I tried out various roles like working in the café, working in the box office, ushering and shadowing the duty manager.
I used some of the grant from One Southwark to pay for an animation course and buy a drawing tablet and I’m now working on my own animation project. I’m not where I want to be with it – I really want to be better. But I haven’t quit yet because I know its hard and I have to put the time in to improve.
Last year I attended a workshop organised by One Southwark about leadership, which gave me the courage to check out a local boxing club – something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. So I dropped in one day to see whether I could join and how much it would cost. The receptionist told me I needed to speak to the youth coaches who were out, so I decided to walk around until they came back because I didn’t want to lose my nerve. Now I train at the boxing club two or three times a week. I really like it there as its not a mainstream kind of place, its not posh and doesn’t feel intimidating. I feel comfortable there. Coaches never tell me I’m doing anything wrong, but they push me mentally and physically and make me do things I just wouldn’t do otherwise – in a good way. I feel like that’s what I need, to be pushed out of my comfort zone a bit.
I also did an internship at Brightsmiths, a recruitment firm. It was a good experience and I was able to build confidence in a workplace. They helped me understand what an employer looks for and I got an insight into how recruitment and different aspects of the business works.
The best things about the programme are the flexibility and range of opportunities on offer. And that its so focused on each individual. Now I feel more comfortable sharing my personal life with people. And I tell myself that if I can box, I can do other things like talk to new people! Over the next few months I want to continue to build my self-belief and confidence to pursue the things I want to.
If you’re an organisation in Southwark and want to find out more contact Will Cole firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the research contact email@example.com or read our year one evaluation: