Alumni Project: Supporting our Community Post-Programme
Over the last few months, Settle has been developing how we can continue to support young people after our programme ends. We’ve been speaking to recent alumni about their experiences, as the starting point of a new Alumni Project.
To mark National Care Leavers Week, Programme Officer Binta Bah shares the origins and learnings of this project, and discusses what our next steps will look like.
At Settle, our programmes are created with and for our young people, as we believe that they are the experts in their own lives. This new Alumni Project is an exciting opportunity to continue supporting young people who have finished the programme and build on the positive relationships we have built with them.
I decided to join the team developing the Alumni Project because it involves co-creating with our young experts on how we can best support them after our programme finishes. It gives young people a voice, as they shape the kind of tangible support they receive.
In particular, I joined this project because I believe that support shouldn’t have a time or age limit, which unfortunately many services have.
Two of our main guiding principles were around a) co-production alongside young people, and b) making sure we give a platform to those with lived experience.
When a young person “graduates” from our programme, this is a huge success and a great step in building the lives they want for themselves. But we also know that there may be new challenges along the way, and areas where we can still support our community.
Often the world can be an isolating place for young people facing multiple types of adversity, and many feel unheard.
This is why we’ve started to scope our Alumni offering and invited our community to co-produce with us, giving young people a platform for their views.
The Alumni Project is an area we have wanted to develop for a while and it emerged as a priority for us after the events of the past year. At the moment, we provide 6-month and 12-month check-ins with alumni, where we establish how tenancies are being sustained after the programme is finished.
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, a number of graduates got in touch for extra support. Young people faced additional challenges, including financial insecurity and social isolation, whilst requiring more intensive and longer term support.
We surveyed our community of young people to tell us how we could help them further.
We found there is a strong demand for post-Programme support; we surveyed 34 alumni and received a 53% survey response rate. 78% of respondents were ‘very interested’ or ‘interested’ and 22% were ‘maybe’ interested in being involved in Settle after graduating. 82% of young people wanted work and training opportunities and 64% wanted to meet others who had been on the Settle Programme.
The survey responses highlighted that a peer support system, alongside training and paid employment opportunities, were priorities.
Following on from the survey we delivered 3 workshops in August and September 2021 with 14 young people to delve deeper into what a Settle Alumni Offer should be. These workshops filled up within 2 days of being announced, further indicating huge appetite for post Programme support. The workshops have enabled us to understand exactly what opportunities our young people want from an Alumni project.
The aim of the workshop was to shape what our longer-term support to alumni looks like. We wanted to dive deeper into topics identified in the survey: work and training, mentoring, and socialising. How might Settle best support in these areas?
Work and Training
100% of the young people wanted support with work opportunities, including resources on how to access specific careers and group workshops on skills development such as giving presentations.
Interestingly, many young people expressed that they wanted to pursue careers in youth support sectors.
We explored what mentoring meant to young people, both in terms of how they could benefit from a mentor and how they could become a mentor.
92% of young people would like to be involved in peer mentoring, including through mentoring young people who are on the Settle Programme.
We explored how interested young people are in socialising with other young people, and what these meet ups could look like. The key themes that emerged from this were activity based, like a games afternoon or exploring the diversity of cultures involved within Settle through food.
We also learnt about some of the barriers faced by young people and how we can overcome these – like by offering financial support for travel, or hosting smaller group meetings to avoid conflict or anxiety.
Our next step is to reach out to all our graduates, so we can a) brief them on these next steps and b) develop a mailing list of young people who are interested in staying connected with Settle.
From these workshops, we’ve defined the aims of our Alumni Project overall to help young people develop their personal and professional selves, support them in networking, and offering a space for socialising.
From these positive findings, we have established the need for alumni support and we are now using these insights to design a pilot project, involving hiring an Alumni Officer. Ideally we would like to advertise this role to alumni from the Settle Programme, and 85% of young people said they were interested or maybe interested in an Alumni Officer role.
This week is National Care Leavers Week, which is an opportunity to celebrate and showcase the successes, strengths and resilience of care experienced individuals.
Care experienced young people are one group that form our community, and we know that they often face a ‘care cliff’ where support ends quickly and suddenly.
It is important to us that all young people receive a supported transition to living independently, and this pilot project will help us formalise and extend the support our alumni receive.