Project boosts youth opportunities
London Metropolitan University is steering an ambitious project that will improve opportunities for young people across the capital.
Project Oracle is a pioneering initiative that brings together community groups, funding organisations and academics to boost evidence gathering in community-based projects.
Evidence capturing is crucial for providers because it can demonstrate the value of their work, making them more attractive to potential funders.
Georgie Parry-Cooke, Reader in Social Research and Evaluation at London Met, is co-ordinating the initiative after the University and its partners won nearly £400,000 in funding from the Greater London Authority, the Economic and Social Research Council and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
“Project Oracle operates like a hub which brings funders and providers together to improve the use of evidence in their work”, said Georgie. “Groups will benefit from bespoke training and researcher placements to enhance their evidence capturing, while funders will get help to develop their understanding of what to look for in this area when making decisions.”
Evidence gathering is not always seen as a priority by providers, as their often-squeezed resources are focused on front line work. Project Oracle provides a link to academic and administrative support to improve this situation and develop good practice models for the sector.
The programme has emerged from the Greater London Authority’s ‘Time for Action’ campaign which tackles youth violence and crime in the capital. However, Project Oracle covers a broad range of youth work groups, not just those focused on antisocial behaviour. The overall aim is to improve opportunities and outcomes for young people in London.
“The project has grown from concerns about understanding ‘what works’ with young people”, added Georgie. “We’d like to get 150 providers on board in the first year, and so far we are on course to achieving that.”
There are several key work streams involved in the project, one of which brings particular benefits to students. They are matched to providers to carry out research placements, providing excellent experience for their future careers.
Another strand of the project is the ‘reverse placement’ initiative, where senior professionals who make funding decisions can gain a clearer understanding of evidence gathering and evaluation when commissioning projects. There is also direct training for provider organisations and a review of existing evaluation in the field which will contribute to a better understanding of what works with young people and what works for good evaluation.
“One of the interesting things we want to look at is how we can make this work transferable to other areas,” explained Amy Hochadel, from The Social Innovation Partnership (TSIP), a key partner which carried out the initial feasibility study for the project. “Hopefully it will encourage a greater appreciation of the importance of evidence in the context of community-based work. There has never been anything like this before so it is a great opportunity.”
One of the strengths of Project Oracle is its collaborative nature. Partners involved include the Jill Dando Centre at UCL, TSIP, Enternships, Community Links and New Philanthropy Capital.
The Vice-Chancellor of London Met, Professor Malcolm Gillies, is enthusiastic about the project. He said: “This work reflects London Met’s position as a university meeting real needs in our communities. Project Oracle will play a significant role in transforming the use of evidence in the Third Sector, with tremendous gains for funding organisations, providers, and most importantly the young people who benefit from these projects.”
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