Supporting young people in place: The One Southwark Programme

As part of #iwill week, we want to showcase some of our work with fantastic youth focused projects like One Southwark, which IVAR is supporting as a learning partner. In this post, we talk to Will Cole, Programme Director, about One Southwark’s vision to transform lives and opportunities for young people experiencing disadvantage through collective action.

What problem is One Southwark is trying to solve?

One Southwark is striving to level the playing field for underrepresented young people within the borough. At the moment, Southwark is a place of many opportunities but also high levels of poverty, and opportunities are unequally shared. Too many young people are disadvantaged because of their lack of connections, knowledge, understanding of ‘the system’, or financial constraints – reflecting the wider context of reducing social mobility. One Southwark is aiming to increase access to opportunities by helping to overcome these barriers. We help young people with finances, connections, knowledge and confidence to enable them to increase their life chances. We do this by providing direct support for young people and through collective action, where local agencies come together to respond to what young people want to see changed.

What is One Southwark doing to support young people to shape Southwark?

We are providing a programme of support to a cohort of 21 young people and equipping them with the things they need to progress in their lives. This could be anything from mentoring, work experience opportunities, money, support to help them deal with mental or physical health challenges, or childcare – whatever they consider to be a hindrance.

We bring young people and local institutions together to learn from each other and explore pioneering ways to remove barriers for young people, challenging the way that local agencies operate.

We take a person-centred approach to broker relationships, offer bespoke support and create opportunities for Southwark’s young people to succeed.

We want it to be the norm that young people have:

•            Positive support networks

•            Access to meaningful opportunities

•            Awareness of resources within the borough

•            Good financial stability

•            Access to specialist services

•            Opportunities to positively influence societal change

We support our members to use their experience to influence change and inform the programme and its approaches. We do this through co-design and collaboration; facilitating opportunities for them to share their views with stakeholders, policy makers and influencers. These opinions and findings will be shared wider and inform future iterations of the One Southwark programme.

What are you hoping to achieve?

Too many less advantaged young people are being let down by the system. In a majority of cases, it is the nature of the world around them which puts up barriers to progress. With the support of our multi-agency coalition, One Southwark will seek to change the behaviours and practices of community stakeholders (such as businesses, funders, statutory agencies, charities and residents) to better support young people. But it will also involve pushing for change in the behaviours or practices of the agencies that are sitting around the coalition table, too. We will take action around particular themes highlighted by the young persons cohort, like housing, mental health, education and isolation, to find solutions using their expert knowledge and our networks to create real change.

In upcoming posts, we’ll share some voices from the young persons of Southwark on what they love about their communities and the changes they’d like to see.

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