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March Reading List


The College was fortunate over the past fortnight to host a visit from Dr Charles Smith, of QTurn, our research partner in the US. We spent the time digging deeply into approaches to designing, measuring and improving high quality settings for young people, and reflecting particularly on trauma and attachment-informed provision. These three white papers, written by Charles and colleagues, provide an excellent overview of the tools and approaches we’re developing at the College, through our work with QTurn. – Bethia, CEO




This study by the University of Texas has found that nature is a factor that positively impacts young people’s socio-emotional skills. The research project monitored the socio-emotional skills of 138 young people aged 8-10 from economically disadvantaged areas that typically had low access to nature. The research compared the connection to nature with the connection to socio-emotional skills, using the Connection to Nature Index (CNI) and the Inclusion of Nature in Self scale (INS). The study found that when adjusted for gender, race, ethnicity, grade, and school, young people’s connection to nature was directly associated with higher overall socio-emotional skills. Whilst exposure to nature was not enough, a sense of psychological connection was what made the difference.


This research supports the inclusion of not just time in nature, but also engagement with nature in programme design – an interesting consideration for theories of change. This finding also highlights an equity issue for me – not all young people have equal access to nature, time in nature or family relations with nature. Therefore, providing this access through your youth programme could have a powerful equity effect, increase social skills and promote pro-nature attitudes. – Kaz, Director of Learning





Back in February for Holocaust Memorial Day, there were many discussions around the prevalence of antisemitism. Revel Impact has released a guide specifically designed to address antisemitism in the workplace. Recommendations include ensuring that antisemitism is included in resources, training, and equity statements; clarifying how to report incidents of bias and create the safety needed for everyone to feel comfortable reporting; and understanding more about Jewish culture, identities, and stereotypes. – Soizic, Enterprise Development Manager




We All Count offers some really thoughtful and caring tools for making decisions about data in a way that can reduce inequity throughout the whole data process – from design and collection, through to analysis and reporting. Their latest post focuses on one of their four Identity Sorting Dials (Fit, Ease, Specificness, and Certainty), which can support us to make intentional, effective decisions about if and how we want to group people in our data. Crucially, these tools can also help us to ‘make sure that the people we care about are being treated by the math the way we would treat them as people.’


This exploration of the ‘Specificness’ dial shows how ‘specificness’ might show up in data categories, and how this might impact in individual that is engaging with the data or category in some way (including anyone who is the subject of a data study, and/or someone who is analysing and interpreting that data). It explains how creating ill-fitting, and under or overly specific categories might both misrepresent people and lead to meaningless results. We are encouraged to make decisions in alignment with our equity priorities, and to take time to identify ‘just the right sweet spot this time, for this project.’ It’s a really helpful and thought-provoking read. PS. I’d also recommend reading an introduction to all four of the different dials here!Catherine, Organisational Learning Lead




This practice briefing by Morton and Cook is a useful tool that provides practical guidance for public sector organisations looking for effective methods of demonstrating their impact. The current environment where many services overlap and work in partnership has made it challenging for organisations to demonstrate impact. Cook and Morton have found that there are complexity-informed approaches to help organisations learn and communicate their impact. They argue that dominant approaches that rely on outcomes do not capture or reflect the complexity of the work. Instead, their actionable guidance can help organisations overcome challenges in measuring impact:


1.    It is important to understand the data cultures within organisations and to embrace quantitative and qualitative data through diverse feedback and evidence collection.

2.    Practicing cycles of planning, data collection, reflection, and learning can help embed a solid foundation for learning within the organisation.

3.     Organisations need time and space to ‘digest’ and contextualise what the data is telling them, in order to reach a common understanding of the impact of their work.

These approaches can equip organisations to understand what difference they are making and communicate a powerful impact story. – Zunaira, Research and Projects Officer




Are socio-emotional skills more important than cognitive skills in becoming responsible citizens? In some cases yes, or at least this is the line taken in the OECD 2019 report, ‘OECD Learning Compass 2030’. Drawing on perspectives and data from around the globe, we are presented with the idea of the learning compass, of which social-emotional skills play an intrinsic role in the formation of human agency, providing: 


“a set of individual capacities that can be manifested in consistent patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that enable people to develop themselves, cultivate their relationships at home, school, work and in the community, and exercise their civic responsibilities (OECD, 2018; OECD, n.d)”


The context for this chapter is a changing world shaped by increasingly diverse demographics, advances in technology, and educational opportunities. Without developed socio-emotional skills, such advances are likely to be impeded (ibid). If you are interested in how socio-emotional skills contribute to a 21st Century education strategy, this is a good place to start. – Simon, Head of Education



This blog by Tilda Boyer from the Rising Arts Agency discusses accessibility in the workplace, through introducing the use of an ‘Access Rider’. By providing information in this way it means that those conversations about accessibility are not just about ‘do you need a standing desk’ but rather about meeting the individual needs of people which are often overlooked. Providing an access rider to forms of communication, even to your signature on your emails, breaks down barriers to accessibility. Tilda also goes onto say that even those who are non-disabled or a neurotypical person, by sharing your own access rider means you are opening the accessibility to others to share theirs. Along with this blog are some useful worksheets and examples are shared which can be used for all stakeholders and beneficiaries– not just team members. Kat, Training Lead Specialist



This recent report by Youth Employment UK explores the impact of mental ill-health on young people accessing the labour market. Contributors share concerns about the impacts of mental ill-health on young people’s longer-term labour market prospects: young people who experience economic inactivity in their early lives are at greater risk of long-term unemployment and limited future employment prospects. Additionally, young people who are not in education of employment (NEET) should be identified as being at greater risk of having or developing mental ill-health.


Contributors present various recommendations to tackle this including early and proactive intervention to address mental ill-health; improving equity of access to non-formal learning and enrichments activities for young people; mentoring programmes to support young people most distant from the labour market; and mental health training being provided to all stakeholders who work with NEET young people.


For recommendations to respond to the needs of young people, any future services, support or policy initiatives should include the opportunity for young people to share their experiences and views so that provision matches need. – Tim, Head of Partnerships




In this article, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation’s Involving Young People Collective shares ten values for co-production between young people and organisations. These values have been developed over the past 18 months and build on the experience of other funders and organisations involving young people in decision-making, as well as their own experience of working with the Foundation. The values are thoughtful and accessible with helpful ‘questions to consider’ for each one, prompting reflection on your practice as an organisation. They look at how to create the conditions for co-production, as well as the continual learning process to ensure it is meaningful and successful. I’d recommend taking a look, reflecting on your own practice - I know I will be, and engaging in the conversation about the vital values for co-production. – Helen, Deputy CEO




Amy Boughey, for Youth & Policy, discusses how young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and neurodiversity need greater support to avoid being drawn into the Youth Justice System in this recent article. Young people with SEN and neurodiverse needs are inherently more likely to enter the Youth Justice System, with 25% of young offenders having been identified with having special needs. Yet, the conditions that exacerbate and influence this remain largely overlooked. Boughey outlines the factors that disproportionately impact young people with needs, such as, education, and provides recommendations for remedying the issue. She proposes that young people with SEN and neurodiverse needs require more tailored support to aid them, through care-assessed environments, identification of specific needs and disabilities, moulded education, and expertly trained youth staff. Thus, only with greater support and funding from those in positions of influence can young people with special educational needs have a reduced risk of criminalisation. As we focus on youth provision, tailoring support to meet the diverse needs of different groups of people is essential to ensure we achieve truly impactful outcomes. – Erin, Communications and Partnerships Assistant




Each month, we’ll also spotlight a valuable read sharing insights into equity, diversity and inclusion. Here’s what our Qualitative Research Lead, Sarah Tayleur, has been reading this month:

This article by the Guardian shines a light on some of the issues that transgender children and young people experience. Using qualitative and quantitative data, the article presents evidence of the oppression the trans community face. For example, 64% of trans pupils report being bullied for being LGBTQ+ at school, with 46% saying they hear transphobic language “frequently”. The article describes that the problems and distress faced by trans young people are a result of individual and societal responses to the expression of their preferred gender identity. As practitioners and researchers in the youth sector, it is important to create inclusive and safe spaces, think about how we ask questions about gender identity, and are mindful of the language we use and how that could be contributing to prejudice and discrimination.


This is particularly interesting given our current work at the College, as we embark on our E4P project, to support youth sector organisations to better embed equitable approaches into their support to young people who face intersectional barriers and increase the capacity for equitable monitoring, evaluation and learning. For me, this article explains why such a project is both necessary and important.