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Ashley 2021

December 2021

We’ve come to the end of another year and as is always the case, it’s a great time to reflect on some of the key highlights from 2021.

This year we published our new strategy, taking the opportunity to articulate our plans for the next five years. It was quite a milestone to publish our plan as we undertook all the work for the strategy during the height of lockdown last year.  As an organisation there was a huge amount of pride seeing it finally released into the world.

Another key achievement for us was engaging with the #Young&Black campaign which emerged from our equalities commitments and the national programme launched by UK Youth. We are particularly proud of the final outputs of that project – a book and virtual exhibition of commitments and artwork created by our young people which you can view here.

A particular word of thanks for the support and guidance by Doctor Joanna Abeyie and Louis Howell, both supporting us strategically and in terms of programme delivery. We have been on an equalities journey since May last year and the Young & Black campaign allowed us to test out how we can integrate themes to our programmes.  

Experimenting with flexing our programmes has provided us with important learning on how receptive and flexible our young people can be when it comes to exploring challenging issues which are emerging in the world around them.

Our plan is to consolidate the lessons learned from the Young & Black campaign and explore how equalities becomes embedded in our programme design in the longer term.

As part of the Young and Black project we have also made a public pledge to our young people that we will look for opportunities to influence our partners and funders on their equalities work. We want to be more intentional in integrating equalities into our external conversations and understand where there are synergies and opportunities to support our network in this important work.

We began 2021 in another lockdown, and we continued to flex our approach to supporting our young people and their families.  We remained agile in running the business, we continually assessed the needs of our staff, we supported our partner schools and engaged our funders in releasing emergency funds to ensure all our young people had access to the technology they needed for learning and our programme activities. 

One of the greatest learnings throughout the pandemic was having faith in our ability to adapt the organisation. We responded to a complex environment and demonstrated that we are capable of amazing things.

One of my big hopes for 2022 is that we can elevate our conversations with our funding partners to establish what long-term support looks like. We have huge ambitions for the next four years and having the confidence of our partners will give us the resources we need to thrive. 

In the new year, we will start to look at more opportunities in each of our regions, embedding ourselves more deeply in Kent and Nottingham, and making strong connections with local authorities and key strategic partners so we can deliver our programmes to more young people.   

A second hope is moving into the job creation space.  Exploring what it looks like if we have conversations with our partners about jobs for our young people.  How can we bridge the gap for our young people to make them viable candidates for available roles?  

Finally, a huge thank you to all of our supporters and funders, our partner schools and of course to our young people for the trust they place in us to work alongside them as they progress through their educational journey and beyond.

From myself & the ThinkForward team – have a wonderful Christmas break.