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  • Writer's pictureKeji Okeowo

Working together: Esmée and the Involving Young People Collective

To help us reflect on the successes and challenges of Esmée's working relationship with the Involving Young People Collective, staff and Collective completed a Satisfaction Survey. Read a summary of feedback received and the Collective's recommendations for improvement.


It's [working with the Involving Young People Collective] helped me see the limits of my knowledge and limitations of my experience of working for Esmée for so long. Esmée member of staff”

Since March 2020, the Involving Young People Collective (IYPC or Collective for short) have been working with Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, helping to design and test ways to involve young people more directly with Esmée’s work, and improve its funding practice. To help us reflect on the successes and challenges of our working relationship, the Collective’s development team designed a Satisfaction Survey that will be completed by members of the Involving Young People Collective and Esmée staff on a biannual basis. The Survey focuses on the 10 values for co-production developed by the Collective, which we use extensively in our monitoring and evaluation as guidance for what we are working towards.

Both responsiveness to feedback and measuring success are key values for co-production, and we found the Survey to be a useful tool for giving space for reflection and producing recommendations on how we can improve our working relationship. It’s also helped us think about how we can diversify the work of the Collective. This blog shares the main findings from the first Satisfaction Survey, which covers February-August 2022, along with recommendations for Esmée and the Collective to take forward to improve our work together. By sharing these, we also wanted to offer some public accountability for how we’re acting on the feedback and recommendations.

Working with Esmée, HUDL, and the Collective has been a rewarding experience. IYPC member”

Satisfaction survey: how we did Satisfaction on the working relationship: Overall, both members of the Collective and Esmée team are satisfied (each gave an average score of 4/5) with their experiences of working together, as well as with HUDL Youth Development Agency who facilitates our work together and mentors the Collective. Living the Values: In statements that measure the relationship against the Values of co-production, both the Collective and Esmée team are satisfied the relationship lives up to the Values, giving an average score of 4 out of 5.

The Collective really challenge and inspire me to live the values, to think differently, and encourage people to be themselves. I've learnt a lot from them. Esmée member of staff”

Successes and highlights Over the last six months, a stronger relationship has been built between the Collective and Esmée. And a positive and flexible working environment has been established, which has helped members of the Collective feel free to express their views and challenge Esmée’s thinking and practice. The Collective have also led on projects they initiated. For instance, their work on the development of the Values for co-production between organisations and young people, which received a really positive response both within Esmée and the wider sector. Work is already underway to embed the Values in Esmée’s funding practice and Collective members and Esmée staff are exploring ways to ensure that all our work together can be evaluated against the Values. The roll out of Satisfaction Survey is an example of that. It’s been great to see how our work translates into action, and ultimately see change within Esmée.

They have been able to show their leadership and engage the wider sector in what are challenging areas for many. Esmée member of staff”

What has also been really valuable in helping to strengthen the relationship are a series of lunchtime talks instigated and led by the Collective. The talks offer an opportunity for Collective members and Esmée staff to connect and get to know each other better. The Collective also feel they have been able to develop their skills – in strategic thinking, collaboration, communication, budgeting, project management, managing capacity and juggling priorities. We’re particularly grateful for the mentorship and guidance of Floree and Keji (at Hudl Youth Development Agency) – the Involving Young People Collective wouldn’t function in the supportive and wholesome way it does without them!

HUDL have done a great job creating the infrastructure for the IYPC to grow, they are a rock on the foundation of the IYPC. IYPC member”

Tensions and challenges As with any relationship and collaboration, it’s not been without tensions and challenges. One of the main challenges has been around the pacing of the work – particularly in terms of managing the different capacities and diaries of the Collective and funding managers. Another main challenge has been around communication. For instance, both sides felt they didn’t always feel informed of news and developments, uncertainty around when it’s appropriate for staff to involve the Collective and how to do that, and Collective members thought the level of regular and constructive feedback they receive could be improved. Recommendations and next steps Having considered all the feedback, the Collective’s development team have put forward three recommendations to take forward. 1. Communication

  • Streamline communication between Esmée and Collective members. To help with this, there will be an Esmée contact for each of the Collective’s areas of work, and opportunities to connect at our bi-monthly project meetings. This will be followed up by updates about the Collective’s work to all staff, highlighting opportunities to engage.

  • Streamline processes to make aligning diaries and communications simpler and more efficient for everyone – particularly on funding assessments. As part of this, we are piloting members of the Collective attending Esmée funding team meetings as a way to engage the Collective earlier and facilitate diaries. We are also looking at developing a clear feedback process for funding managers on working relationships with Collective members.

2. Planning

  • Supporting projects to move more smoothly by putting in clear planning processes at the start, helping people to manage capacity and keep time free. As part of this, we are planning to share a visual on the overall work plan for the Collective for the year. We are also looking at a training schedule for both Collective members and Esmée staff.

3. Living the Values

  • Commit to working with more young people, organisations and funders to share learning. This could be done by hosting an external event to promote and introduce the values to the sector, and also sharing learning with other young people in the sector to build on this work together.

  • Complete a full review of our work together against the values. This will help us to identify gaps and opportunities in how we work together, as well as help us consider the values in all areas of Esmée’s work.


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