Sharing Practice

             

In my other life, when I’m not being the digital coordinator of Circuit, I am the programme manager of Raw Sounds – a programme of music workshops for people with mental health needs. This takes place at Raw Material, a youth-led educational charity, which aims to help young people reach their full potential through creative expression.

We’ve travelled to Senegal to work with young people at the International Hip Hop festival…

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What I love about it, is that the charity is run almost entirely by young people. Our director has confidence in young people’s abilities to lead projects for their peers – a vision that has proven rewarding. We’ve recently been nominated for the Positive Practice in Mental Health awards, in the final three for the category Arts, Mental Health and Well-being.

This year our team of programme managers, all between the ages of 18-26, planned, promoted and delivered thirty-one courses. Our events are jam packed with young people, our building is used as a community centre/refuge by local teens, and our music education projects have more ‘street cred’ than some of the local nightclubs.

Our young musicians have performed at all kinds of venues – from the Royal festival Hall to the Brixton Jamm…

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As young project leaders, our strengths are in delivery – but we lack experience in some of the behind the scenes work. Sometimes we wish there was a YouTube tutorial for youth work, an app for arts admin, and a podcast for best practice. We need a bridge between the formalised world of arts organisations and their systems, and us young people delivering arts projects to other young people. We’ve found the Circuit website to be that bridge.

Here’s how it’s made a difference in our work…

Emails. How do you send a polite email that will ensure a request is delivered quickly and precisely? We wish it was acceptable to send a text message with a smiley face at the end. We learnt a lot from reading the blog post called ‘Drowning in emails’. This now lives on our desktops, and we use it as our guide to external communications.

Evaluation. How do you show funders and partners all the good work we are doing? It’s clear to us: we see a young person recently discharged from hospital slink through the door, transformed by the end of the course into the artist performing on stage. We found the Circuit Evaluation Framework really helpful for this! We’ve adapted it to suit our aims, and use it as a tool to monitor our programmes.

Partnerships. We get emails from arts organisations asking us to partner up quite regularly – but sometimes we’re not sure how it is helping us in our mission. At our team meeting, we read the blog post ‘Reaching the hard to reach’ and discussed the issue of young people used as ‘currency’ to exchange between partners in youth work. This formed the basis of our strategy for partnerships.

We take our music workshops to places where young people have the least access to creative opportunities – rural areas, hospitals…

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We’d like to finish with a thank you, to the young people and arts professionals who have shared ideas, thoughts and tools through this blog. We hope other youth and arts charities are benefiting from this as we are, and that we will be able to share our learning from our youth-led approach and work with young people and mental health.

Please keep writing, so that we can keep learning.

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