Former Cameron advisor: Impossible to measure youth work impact

The former advisor to ex-Prime Minister David Cameron has said there is no reliable way of measuring the impact of youth work and the sector should “stop looking” for one. Paul Oginsky, CEO of Personal Development Point, which helped develop the government’s flagship National Citizen Service (NCS) initiative, said that organisations which work with young people need to change the way they calculate the value of their work.

In a recent white paper entitled ‘A Way Forward For Character Development: The Missing Piece Of Education’ Oginsky quashed the existence of the ‘Holy Grail’ of youth work – a definitive and universally accepted way of measuring impact. “There is no such thing as a unit of confidence, loyalty, honesty, motivation or any of the characteristics which this kind of work seeks to impact.”

Instead, Oginsky calls for organisations to concentrate on assessing impact through a combination of consulting individuals and verifying what they say through witnesses. “Far more effective is to ensure programmes include robust methods to assess the progress made by young people, as evidenced by them and witnessed by others.”

Over the past 100 years the UK has been at the forefront in developing services for young people to grow in character. More recently however, financial austerity has created difficulties in access to funding opportunities for the third-sector as a whole. This in part has led to organisations increasing their evidence base in order to secure funding that makes projects sustainable in the long-term.

Our Engage, Influence and Inspire programme is lottery funded and has been developed following extensive work with hundreds of young people in pupil referral units, secondary schools, youth offending services and young offender institutions. The programme provides prevention and deterrent messages to those most at risk of exclusion.

Our broad evidence base includes both quantitative and qualitative data, which ranges from retrospective questionnaires and group interviews with the young people involved to surveys with parents, carers and school staff. This we believe is an inspiring collection of data that keeps integrity at the heart of what we do. Our website also hosts an independent evaluation on the programme which you can download as a PDF document (see ‘Our Impact’). We look forward to sharing more of our impressive outcomes with you in the near future.


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