Monthly Archives: September 2018

Birmingham CSR Summit

Andy Street

On Friday 7th September, The Future Melting Pot was privileged to be invited to attend the 6th Birmingham Corporate Social Responsibility Summit, held at Aston Business School. The event was collaboratively organised by Dr Judy Scully of Aston Business School, Dr Nick Venning of Thrive and Joel Blake OBE of Cultiv8, and turned out a resounding success. It proved to be a fantastic opportunity for networking, the exchange of ideas and productive debate, assisted by the summit’s forward-thinking focus on the future of CSR in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands.

The summit began with an engaging opening address by the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, who cautioned attendees that while ‘lots is going right’ in the region, ‘mega challenges’ remain. The issues of youth unemployment, lack of qualifications and the low social mobility in the Black Country are all extremely pertinent to The Future Melting Pot’s work, and it was heartening to hear the Mayor highlight these concerns. Street went on to insist that ‘growth must be inclusive’, which he explained in terms of ‘linking cranes to communities’, with Birmingham’s big city-centre developments not necessarily meaning a great deal to the city’s hard-to-reach communities. However, it was in housing that Street conceded his Mayoralty had fallen somewhat short of its aims, although the foundation of the WMCA Homelessness Task Force demonstrates that the homelessness crisis is being recognised and tackled in the West Midlands.

While there were stimulating workshops run on Education and Social Isolation at the summit, The Future Melting Pot’s focus was on the Homelessness workshop, due to our ongoing youth homelessness project (more information here). The workshop was run by Jean Templeton, CEO of homelessness charity St Basils and Chair of the WMCA Homelessness Task Force. She stressed the ‘structural, systemic issues’ that cause homelessness, often ignored in favour of blaming individuals for the issues they face, while highlighting the extent of the rise in rough sleeping and homelessness in general since 2010 (the difference between these two categories is explained here). Templeton emphasised that rough sleeping is indeed just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of the wider homelessness crisis, which the Homelessness Task Force aims to combat through ‘designing out homelessness in the West Midlands’: tackling the systemic problems, including the housing shortage, at the root of the crisis. It was made clear that this process of ‘designing out’ would need cooperation from businesses in the private sector, third sector organisations and the public sector.

After a fascinating afternoon of discussions, including from Haley Batt of TV studio Lime Pictures, who revealed how her company aims to make socially responsible programmes for Britain’s youth, Rosie Ginday of Miss Macaroon, a CIC which re-invests its profits into helping disadvantaged young people in Birmingham access employment and training programmes, the summit was rounded up by organisers Joel Blake and Nick Venning. Thanking all delegates for their contributions, their take-home message was bright and optimistic about the future of Corporate Social Responsibility in the West Midlands. Given the exciting discussions that were had and connections that were made at the summit, it would appear that their optimism was warranted.

Exam Results: A Fair Playing Field?

It is now over a week since the release of this year’s GCSE results, and over two weeks since the country’s A Level students received their own grades earlier this month. These two Thursdays in August are monumental landmarks in the calendar for thousands of young people across the country. Speaking in a personal capacity, I am looking forward to next summer, as it will be the first when I will not have been awaiting the results of some form of academic exam since 2011, when I was 14. This gives an idea of the extent to which some young people’s summers are defined by exams, and despite the fact that the usual coterie of celebrities have trotted out predictable platitudes about their own relative success with less-than-stellar grades (Jeremy Clarkson, we’re looking at you…), exam results continue to matter. It is worth saying at this point, without the patronising and self-centred manner of those who tweet out the same message every August without fail, that those reading who may not have got the results they were hoping for should not despair- there are routes to a successful career and life that lie outside the traditional academic route that society, not least in the media’s frenzied coverage of results days, emphasises above all else.

This does not mean that the consequences of falling short at GCSE level are not significant for many young people, however. On results day itself, the activist group Education Not Exclusion carried out a poster campaign on the London Underground’s Northern Line, turning it into the ‘School to Prison Line’ (pictured). Demonstrating the link between being sent out of class and eventual exclusion, the poster noted that “Every day, 35 students (a full classroom) are permanently excluded from school. Only 1% of them will go on to get the five good GCSEs they need to succeed”, using figures from a study by the Institute for Public Policy Research. Calling for “a more compassionate education system with a supportive approach to behaviour and discipline”, Education Not Exclusion were certainly right to highlight the sad fact that being excluded from school is almost always highly detrimental to a student’s chances of attaining five good GCSEs, the minimum requirements for many jobs and college or university courses. Amidst the media clamour around results day, with news outlets noting results rose despite tougher exams, it is important to bear in mind those young people who are left behind by the educational system, and the personal and structural reasons behind this.

In relation to The Future Melting Pot’s work, it is notable that homeless young people are far more likely to be excluded from school than non-homeless young people. Trends such as these lend credence to the calls of groups such as Education Not Exclusion: if education is to be a vehicle for social mobility and for disadvantaged young people to improve their life chances, then everything must be done to help the most vulnerable young people stay in school and achieve while they are there.

Photo Credit: Education Not Exclusion/ PA

Youth Homelessness Project

(Copyright: Newry Times)

The start of September sees the launch of The Future Melting Pot’s latest research project on Youth Homelessness. After preliminary research throughout the summer, TFMP and its partners are ready to start what will surely be an innovative and vitally important project. Below is the project outline, but be sure to keep following our website and social media for all the updates as the project progresses,

Introduction

The Future Melting Pot aims to increase opportunities for young people from marginalised communities. Evidence-based research is at the heart of what we do. We deploy a range of research methods to make sense of complex social challenges, and our research activities inform the way we carry out interventions. We will be leading this pilot project, to be implemented in partnership with the Youth Offer, Excell3 and sponsored by Business for Birmingham.

Project Synopsis

We believe we have identified a gap which could be filled with an innovative, evidence-led research project. From our initial literature review, we have observed that 14-16 year olds facing homelessness are often absent from statistics and research, which for various statutory and bureaucratic reasons tend to focus on those over the age of 16. This age group can thus be left out of conversations around youth homelessness. While this has been noted in the existing literature, our project however is innovative in its specific focus on 14-16 year olds; a group facing the crescendo of adolescence, GCSE exams and the prospect of leaving school, while vulnerable to exploitation as the growing issue of County Lines drug crime demonstrates. Sharon Brown of charity Youth Homelessness North East says: ‘quite often when we come into contact with young people at 16, it’s too late… prevention is about them not getting to that stage…we are now going to be working with 14 up to 25’. While many charities recognise the benefits of focusing on a younger age group, our research will break new ground in providing evidence to evaluate the effectiveness of this strategy.

We are particularly interested in the role of schools due to the massive potential we believe schools have to make a positive impact on the lives of homeless under-16s. A recent report evaluating the Positive Pathway model, developed by homelessness charity St Basils, recommended ‘a more concerted and coordinated effort to “bring schools on board” with homelessness prevention’, and our study will respond to this call. With a 2017 report by charity Shelter finding that teachers ‘reported feeling exhausted, frustrated and, at times, despondent’ about their struggle to help homeless young people, our research process will foreground the experiences of those personally involved in these issues. Through examining the experiences of both young homeless people and the staff of public and third sector homelessness organisations via interviews, focus groups and other non-traditional methods, we hope our pilot can provide a springboard for a more wide-ranging future project focused on developing preventative measures. We are excited to be part of the WMCA’s Homelessness Task Force’s mission to ‘design out homelessness’, through initiatives such as the Youth Offer, and we believe our project can add to this by creating mutually beneficial networks and communication between different key stakeholders and homeless young people themselves. 

Timescale and Project Design 

Our pilot project will be completed by the end of November. Through September and October, we will be carrying out our interviews and engaging with our research subjects, with the aim of collating the data we have gathered and completing the project write-up through November. We are hoping to focus on three or four schools, as well as engaging with homeless young people through other means including local community and faith groups, and online, via surveys and text-based and visual diaries. We will also be completing at least one key actor interview with employees from a range of organisations, including government bodies such as the Department for Work and Pensions, the City Council, charities such as St Basils, advocacy groups such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and teachers and pastoral leads from the schools.