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Finding out what works during a pandemic: How we’ve worked with our Launch Grant Round grantees through the COVID-19 crisis

Andrea Ramsay, Director of Operations, Youth Endowment Fund

Before the COVID-19 crisis took hold, and just seven weeks after we launched, the Youth Endowment Fund opened our first grant round. We made sure we were as open as possible – any type of organisation, across England and Wales, could apply to fund any kind of project that aimed to keep children safe from involvement in crime and violence.

We wanted to fund a wide range of activity, because we needed to start to develop a broad evidence base about what works. So we granted £18.1m to 24 projects, with approaches ranging from intensive family therapy to street-based and school mentoring programmes. And we paired each of them with an independent evaluator, to give us an understanding of which interventions make the most impact.

That was back in October 2019, and a lot’s changed since then. The pandemic means that our grantees have experienced significant levels of uncertainty about their funding, delivery and – most importantly – on the young people they support.

These circumstances have been exceptional. Projects that had hoped to deliver in schools faced widespread closures, others wanted to work with health professionals who had to refocus their time on the emergency response to the pandemic. We also wanted to make sure we were still building our learning about what works. The children at most risk of becoming involved in violence have often been those most at risk through this pandemic, having lost the support of youth workers, teachers, sports coaches and others they rely on.

So last September, we started a conversation with all of our grantees, evaluators and partners about how we could help them to get back on track and achieve our original aim of finding out what works to help prevent children becoming involved in violence. Our Grants and Evaluation teams worked on a one-to-one basis with projects to understand the implications of the pandemic on their original project design and what that might mean for what we could learn from their projects. Working together, we considered:

  • How to make adaptations so that projects could go ahead in line with social distancing guidance, while maintaining support for the children and young people
  • How to make sure projects could go ahead with evaluation, so that we can make sure we learn from them

Now our review has concluded, we’ve increased our funding to these projects by £4.3m, to support projects that needed to extend their end dates and to make changes in the way they were delivering their support. As things continue to change, we’ll carry on working with projects to help them.

It’s a challenging time and that our launch grant round projects are working in difficult circumstances. We really appreciate all the work that our grantees have done with us to develop new budgets and adapt approaches so that projects can be delivered in line with Government guidance and a changing situation. It will help us to achieve our mission – finding out what works to keep children and young people safe from violence.

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