History of Youth Futures and the youth employment challenge
Youth Futures Foundation is an independent, not-for-profit organisation established in December 2019 to improve employment outcomes for young people from marginalised backgrounds. The foundation launched with an initial endowment of £90m from the Reclaim Fund.
The youth unemployment crisis
When we launched, youth unemployment was already at alarming levels; following the pandemic, it has reached crisis point. In July-September 2020, more than 600,000 young people were unemployed – an increase of over 100,000 from the year before. The under-25s account for three-fifths of the fall in employment in the past year.
The pandemic has highlighted and deepened disparities, with the most vulnerable young people facing the greatest barriers to finding and securing good quality jobs.
Vision and mission
A society where all young people have equitable access to good quality jobs.
- Equal employment outcomes for young people who face discrimination or disadvantage
- Reduced number of young people outside the labour market or in insecure work
- Improved progression pathways for young people.
To narrow the employment gap by identifying what works and why, investing in evidence generation and innovation, and igniting a movement for change.
- We are bold: We want to disrupt the status quo and transform the youth employment system.
- We are always learning: We are evidence-driven, we innovate and we aren’t afraid to fail.
- We are inclusive: We embrace, celebrate and champion diversity in all its forms. It’s core to who we are.
- We are collaborative: We build partnerships and share power to grow collective impact.
- We are determined: We are relentless in our pursuit of a better future for all young people.
We prioritise young people from marginalised backgrounds
The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the jobs market for the under 25s. We want all young people to be supported through this crisis and have fair access to good quality jobs. However, we will focus our efforts on young people who face discrimination or disadvantage in the labour market.
Discrimination comes in many forms, from racism and sexism to homophobia and ableism. Disadvantages are often multiple, and can include poverty, exclusion from school, homelessness, mental health problems and experience of the care system.
Youth Futures was set up with a particular focus on data emerging from the Race Disparity Audit in 2017. While our organisational scope is broader than this focus, addressing the employment disparities that prevail for young people from ethnic minority backgrounds is a key lens through which we achieve our mission.
We focus on ‘what works’
Everything we do is guided by robust evidence of what works to support young people from marginalised backgrounds into good jobs. We learn from the projects we fund and scale up that learning to drive genuine, long-lasting systemic change.
As an affiliate member of the national What Works Network, facilitated by the Cabinet Office, we work to the principle that good decision-making should be informed by the best quality evidence.
Our approach involves the creation and curation of evidence. We create evidence by funding programmes and putting high-quality evaluations in place to understand whether or not those interventions are effective. We curate evidence by gathering information from studies around the world into interventions that help young people into work.
We put young people at the heart of our work
We believe that young people must play a critical role in influencing how we think and act. Youth participation is woven into every aspect of our work, shaping our strategy, our communications, our investments, our partnerships and how we gather and share evidence.
To support these efforts, we have set up our Future Voices Group: 13 diverse young people who will act as ambassadors to our strategy and work. Based on the principle of ‘nothing about us, without us’, the group, which range in age from 16-24 years, have been recruited from across England to reflect the diversity and breadth of young people’s experiences as they move into work. Young people also sit on our Board, on our Grants and Evaluation Panels, and are part of our staff team.
We build coalitions and partnerships
Given the complexity of the challenge, our default will also be to collaborate with others to drive lasting change. Beyond the organisations we fund, we will work with a range of groups and organisations from a variety of sectors. The development of our strategic partnerships will be transparent, evidence-led and linked to key areas of focus. We will also use our position to convene and connect networks of organisations, with the aim of sharing learning, collective problem solving, and identifying opportunities for innovation.
We take a trust-based approach to grant-making
Our investment programme is designed to find, fund, support and evaluate promising practice. We have adopted five key principles that underpin our trust-based approach to grant-making: simplifying and minimising the application process; being open, transparent, and honest about who we fund and why; providing unrestricted multi-year funding; listening and acting on feedback to our approach; and providing practical support alongside funding, with the aim of helping to build leadership and capacity. We will continuously refine and improve our processes and systems to embed our trust-based principles.