I am very pleased to have become a Trustee at Creative Youth Network, a charity based in my home town of Bristol offering support to young people. At the AGM last week, members of the team, alongside some of the young people who have benefitted from their services, explained more about what they do and the results they achieve. From my perspective, Creative Youth Network deals with some very pertinent issues around the power of creativity and opportunities in the creative industries, as well as some specific projects that are applying service design techniques.

CEO Sandy Hore-Ruthven summarised the overarching role as supporting strong relationships and “walking a journey with young people”, many of which are dealing with mental health issues, drugs, sexual exploitation or family breakdowns. Most of you will be aware that statutory services dealing with these areas are reducing, yet more and more young people need assistance. Creative Youth Network worked with over 3,000 young people in 2015, held over 900 youth work sessions, helped over 600 young people reintegrate after being unemployed and provided over 100 one-to-one support programmes.

At two main locations in Bristol (including the ‘The Station’ in central Bristol designed specifically as a creative hub space), and through three other youth centres across the local area, Creative Youth Network activities improve communication skills, confidence, practical abilities and the means to organise and plan. It seeks to unlock potential, find new talent, provide opportunities to engage in the arts and allows young people to find new friends. The support includes giving disadvantaged young people access to industry contacts and helping them build a portfolio of work - which is an incredibly difficult thing to do when you are also dealing with poverty, housing issues or have daily responsibilities as a carer. Creative Youth Network facilities include drama, dance and music studios, film making and photography equipment, exhibition spaces and access to technical sound and lighting rigs.

And one particular project caught my attention in relation to service design. A team of young people at Creative Youth Network were trained to be ‘mystery shoppers’ for public health services. They were then sent out to various locations to capture reactions and note the quality of assistance they were given when they asked about contraception or other private sexual health issues. These ‘service safaris’ (as I would call them) had two levels of impact. Not only did the team bring back valuable insights that will mean services can be better designed and become more inclusive, it gave all the participants a greater sense of what level of service they should expect as young people needing advice and help.  

But the most meaningful stories at the AGM came from those who had benefited from the services. As one young woman explained: “I was isolated and lost. I had anxiety and depression. I had very negative experiences at school and a troubled home life. I didn’t know what was out there or what I might be capable of. I now have a job I never thought I could do. The people at Creative Youth Network had faith in me when others didn’t.”

I very much look forward to giving some of my time and attention to Creative Youth Network and meeting many more of the young people that come through their doors.