Yrd – A short skills website launched with Rio Ferdinand foundation and Yuaf

Digilearning (DL), Young Urban Arts Foundation (YUAF), plus youth charity Rio Ferdinand Foundation (RFF) responded to the Covid19 crisis in summer 2020 by stepping into partnership and creating a short skills website. The National Lottery Community Fund kindly funded the partnership to pilot the delivery of the YRD programme from June 2020. The aim for YRD was to offer young people access to a wide range of digital learning opportunities to support their mental health and wellbeing, while at the same time develop their skills to help them prepare for the future.

All three partners had witnessed the serious impact of the pandemic for young people, many of whom were already experiencing challenges in their lives. Young people (YP) had reported how social distancing measures, school closures and postponed exams had heightened existing anxiety and emotional difficulties. With face-to-face projects having to stop, many YP the organizations knew became isolated and at risk. Many YP also reported worrying about what their future holds, and how the pandemic may impact on their future education or employment opportunities.

The National Lottery Community Fund kindly funded the partnership to pilot the delivery of the YRD programme from June 2020. The aim for YRD was to offer young people access to a wide range of digital learning opportunities to support their mental health and wellbeing, while at the same time develop their skills to help them prepare for the future.

All three partners had witnessed the serious impact of the pandemic for young people, many of whom were already experiencing challenges in their lives. Young people (YP) had reported how social distancing measures, school closures and postponed exams had heightened existing anxiety and emotional difficulties. With face-to-face projects having to stop, many YP the organizations knew became isolated and at risk. Many YP also reported worrying about what their future holds, and how the pandemic may impact on their future education or employment opportunities.

Currently there are 22% of children living in relative poverty in the UK and this number is growing. We must get to the root of the cause and ensure people have the essential skills to thrive in life and a concerted focus needs to be on our young, they are our future!” Lisa Goodchild. Founder, Digilearning

YRD set out to offer online courses and workshops for small groups of YP, led by artists, creatives, sports people, and digital professionals. Complementing the practical courses, YRD also set out to host a range of Q&As and talks with guest celebrities and influencers from different cultural sectors including music, sports, the arts, and the digital industries.

Key Takeaways:

Digilearning delivered over 400 online workshops, short courses and masterclasses
A total 1,266 signups over the course of the project.
18% YP took more than one course.
Over 80% of YP picked up new skills during YRD courses.
Digilearning trained over 917 young people during the duration of the projects with our professional and digital skills courses.

Output targets:

  • The partnership set out to deliver over 150 online courses to at least 1,500 YP.

Outcome targets:

YRD aimed to provide YP with safe, interactive spaces in which to feel comfortable in expressing themselves and find happiness through trying something new, so as to better be able to manage their mental health and remain resilient throughout the crisis.

“I’m proud of expressing myself properly because I don’t do that too often and I don’t have too many ways to do that. It helped me released some emotions, I don’t usually be with my emotions” – Y.R.D Participant, 14

All activities shared the following outcome targets:

  1. Improved mental wellbeing among young people. Participants will develop tools they need for resilience and maintaining good mental health throughout, and after, the crisis.
  2. Young people learning and developing new transferable skills to improve their future prospects. This will include skills in creativity, digital tools, tech, communication, and training that improves their employability.
  3. Young people will build positive relationships with peers and role models to help them realise their potential. Through the interactive workshops and our social media young people will feel better connected.
  • A successful pilot project that powerfully met most of its output and outcome targets, helped all three main partners grow in capacity and generated a great deal of useful learning about online provision – learning that is already benefitting follow up projects.
  • YRD delivered 298 online workshops, short courses and masterclasses with 917 diverse individuals aged 13-19 (mainly) from across the UK. 1,266 total signups; 18% YP took more than one course.
  • All three partners provided safe, encouraging and inclusive learning environments and continually responded and adapted to the rapidly changing contexts and needs of service users.
  • YRD courses were generally of high quality, met delivery goals and were highly rated by participants. Around 95% of participants took away at least one positive outcome.
  • A majority of service users experienced improved wellbeing through taking part in engaging YRD workshops with other YP. Over 80% felt more optimistic about their lives having taken part.
  • Over 80% of YP picked up new skills during YRD courses.
  • Over 400 motivated YP signed up for DL’s professional and digital skills courses and 41 YP took a Leadership course with RFF.
  • Feeling supported in their creativity journey by YUAF staff and facilitators, plus meeting and/or performing alongside established arts professionals, had a big positive impact on YP’s confidence and motivation.
  • YUAF’s 2-4 session online creative courses and masterclasses enabled YP to learn from one another and gain new friendships and contacts that were sustained beyond the course. Though this was less possible via one-session courses, some YP did stay in touch with DL facilitators and speakers in order to benefit professionally from the connection.
  • Online courses and drop-ins provided a low intensity space to maintain engagement with some of the most vulnerable YP. This was followed up with targeted support by YUAF Pathways Service and RFF’s youth workers.
  • Though YUAF, DL and RFF began from very different starting points in terms of experience and capacity, the YRD partnership encouraged and supported all three to move swiftly to online delivery during the pandemic. The majority of course facilitators gained online facilitation skills during YRD, and online delivery subsequently became a core aspect of each organization’s work.

Today’s session is fantastic. I enjoyed every moment.” O.M. 24, Digilearning Vision Board workshop, 2020

“The best thing I’ll take away is the venngage tool that gives me templates and examples of pitch decks. Also, about NDA’s and talking to investors.” I.O. 16, Digilearning How to Make the Perfect Pitch Deck, survey 2020

The YRD partnership – what worked?

  1. The YRD Partnership provided a consistent offering of online learning for YP aged 12-20+ from across the UK for 7 months in 2020-2021. The diversity of delivery in terms of course length, style and subjects offered by the three organizations proved to be complimentary in terms of pathways into the programme, and improved accessibility by meeting a wide range of need, interest and learning style.
  2. The partnership hit the ground running with very little lead-in time to provide a high quality Covid response. All three organizations began from different starting points in terms of capacity and experience of online (with YUAF most experienced), but all adapted incredibly swiftly by moving their output to online by midsummer 2020, encouraged by being accountable to the YRD Partnership and through learning from one another.

Working online under the YRD umbrella widened the reach of each of the three organizations, their course facilitators, plus the partnership overall:

  • YUAF transformed engagement with their online youth audience during YRD through trialling and developing new social media marketing strategies, which has led to waiting lists for all courses in 2021.
  • Digilearning reached an entirely new demographic of older YP seeking training and employment opportunities in the digital creative and media industries during YRD.
  • YRD helped change perception of RFF’s work. RFF extended reach to UK-wide during YRD.

The partnership led to a huge amount of learning for each of the partner organizations in relation to delivering online provision:

  • Weekly partnership meetings enabled delivery strategies and trouble-shooting to be shared.
  • Leaders from all three organizations understood more about the mechanics of working in partnership by the end of YRD.
  • DL and RFF developed safeguarding training and GDPR, learning from YUAF.
  • Each organization had traditionally used different recruitment techniques, from online marketing to face-to-face community work and school networks. For example, RFF learned a huge amount about administrating and marketing online from YUAF and about how to shape offerings and advertise them in one place from DL.
  • Online signup data and YP feedback data was aligned across the organization. This enabled the impact of the whole programme for YP to be evaluated and young people’s pathways across the programme to be tracked.