The Centre for Youth Impact launch – more pseudo-scientific posturing in the service of competition?

Ta to the Cabinet Office
Ta to the Cabinet Office


The Cabinet Office is providing start-up funding for the Centre for Youth Impact (CYI). This initiative will help organisations that work with and for young people to measure and increase the impact of their services. TheNational Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS), Project Oracle, and the Social Research Unit at Dartington will lead the new CYI.

The CYI will provide overarching support for all impact measurement initiatives that are relevant to the youth sector. It will signpost to existing resources, and provide bespoke, practical help.

Understandably the first reaction to this news from IDYW followers on Facebook was one of anger and frustration. Terry Mattinson exploded, ‘there is nothing to assess? Cuts have left nothing – no youth services to assess in both voluntary & statutory!!”!””!!!’ However that the government is in denial about cuts and closures in youth services is par for the course. As usual too we can spot the sleight of hand in terms of what we are talking about – work with and for young people, youth services. The government and its partners will point out that they are talking about the youth sector as a whole and not at all the scattered remains of the local authority youth service. Of course this doesn’t stop them invoking a notion of youth work if and when it suits. Not so surprisingly a definition of what constitutes the youth sector is hard to find, making it a flexible and oft misleading concept. For the moment let’s recognise that it includes at its heart a plethora of imposed, referred and targeted outcomes-led practice, most usefully understood as youth social work or youth justice or indeed pastoral care. It is these instrumental forms of work with young people that attract the attention of the less than neutral social researchers of such outfits as Dartington. It is these forms of practice that are up for measurement and up for sale.

The centre will offer:

  • national leadership, being a central point for information and communications, and a forum for discussing how to measure impact in the youth sector
  • an online source of impact measurement resources for youth sector organisations, with guidance on how to use them
  • support in managing evidence for 3 ‘early adopters’, to help them improve their own impact measurement work, apply the benefits across the sector and support organisations less familiar with impact measurement
  • train-the-trainer workshops

The CYI will work closely with important sector partners such as theNational Youth Agency, the Early Intervention Foundation, and Inspiring Impact. This will ensure that the initiative builds on existing resources, and meets the diverse needs of youth sector organisations. It will build on the work of the Catalyst Consortium, ensuring that resources like the Framework of Outcomes for Young People remain accessible and relevant.

As it is we have produced what we think is a powerful critique of the Framework of Outcomes, which traveled well, ringing many bells, when placed before an Australian audience a few weeks ago in Brisbane. In passing within it we touch on the motivation for the obsession with data and impact to be found in the National Youth Agency/Local Government Association document, The Future for Outcomes. In their own words, “collecting the right data will help separate your project from the crowd and illustrate your leading role.” Indeed, they stress, it will be the key to competing in a future of payment-by-results. We might surmise that impact measurement has little to do with young people, everything to do with an organisations’s performance in the market place.

The Cabinet Office ‘will formally launch the initiative at the Creative Collisions conference, hosted by leading youth sector organisations, on the 6 November 2014.’

We hope to be there in order to provide our readers with further information and analysis. We know you’re already drooling at the prospect!




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