School’s out for the summer in the UK, and while the kids are out enjoying the summer break, Mandy Potter is also enjoying a recess of sorts.
“June and July are typically our busiest months, since it’s usually when the schools finish our awards program,” she says. “They usually start calling us up during that time to ask for certificates and badges for the participating children.”
Mandy works for The Archbishop of York Youth Trust, a non-profit organization in the UK that focuses on empowering young people via their Young Leaders Award program for schools within England’s northern regions. Their motto: “Be the change you want to see.”
“The Archbishop believes deeply that young people have the potential to change the world for the better,” Mandy explains.
“He had noticed that in the media, young people and the word ‘youth’ seemed to always have a negative connotation. He wanted to challenge the stereotypes and negative media coverage of young people and instead prove that they are the ‘solution’ to society rather than the ‘problem’.
“He wanted everyone to know that a small act by a group of children can actually have a really big impact on the world.”
Small Acts of Kindness
The Young Leaders Award program is a curriculum-based program that aims to teach children how to be good leaders, capable speakers, and develop skills outside of the typical maths and English lessons they learn in school.
It is run in primary and secondary schools for children aged 9 and up and has seen great success since the Youth Trust was established in 2008.
Almost 400 schools have already signed up for the program, with some running it year on year. Most of the schools are within the Northern province, which is the Archbishop’s remit, although the Youth Trust is also contacted by schools across the UK as well as even a few international ones.
The Award comes with a host of resources and guides for schools who want to participate which means it is ready to pick up and run with. Mandy says that when it comes to the projects and challenges participants undertake, however, the program encourages them to think outside of the box.
“Children are very dynamic and come up with fantastic ideas of their own,” she enthuses. “We give them all the guidelines and help them but we don’t want to tell them what to do. We encourage them to think for themselves; to find their own charities to look at; different action projects to do.”
Just last month, students from Heworth primary school in York successfully raised over £1,000 in memory of a departed former classmate.
Another recent successful project involved a group of children taking it upon themselves to clean up a beach. Not only did the project bring the students and the program lots of publicity, it also helped the children’s local community in a concrete and visible way.
“Students from Westview looked around in their local community and saw that this area was really dirty and not very nice and thought that cleaning it up would be a really good act of kindness,” says Mandy.
“They organized for the children to work on that area and make it all nice and tidy, ready for the start of the summer season, so that families could actually enjoy the beach.
“It’s all about community and raising the profile of young people and helping them be the change that they want to see in society. We help them look at the world on a local and a global basis.”
From Profit to Non-Profit
The Youth Trust was just short of being a year old when Mandy joined up in 2009. She had had no prior working experience with non-profit organizations, but a serendipitous football match brought her in contact with the Youth Trust.
“I looked after the commercial side of the York City Football Club,” she recalls, “and one year club management organized this off-season charity match between the club and some cast members of the British soap Emmerdale.
“We invited the Archbishop, since the money from the event would go to the Archbishop of York Youth Trust, plus he was a very keen football fan. He used to come and watch matches quite a lot.
“That was how I became involved with the Youth Trust originally, and when a job opened up I immediately applied. Fortunately, I was successful in getting it.”
When Mandy first came on board, the Youth Trust was already using WORKetc, albeit in a different way compared to how they use it now. Back then, it filled the role of a contact database for everyone the Youth Trust came into contact with — schools, people who gave donations, everybody.
The Youth Trust also had only four schools signed up to the Young Leaders Award program at the time, but over the years that figure grew by over 9,000%. The massive growth of the program prompted the Youth Trust to start using WORKetc to keep track of participating schools only.
Now, every school that joins the program is immediately entered into the system. That way, the Youth Trust can keep track of the school’s entire history with the Young Leaders Award program, whether they’re a returning or an entirely new participant.
Snapshots of History
Most of the heavy lifting is done within WORKetc’s projects module as well as its corresponding activity history. When a school completes the program and asks for certificates and badges, for example, Mandy and her colleagues can quickly check the school’s progress and clearly see that yes, they are due to receive certificates and badges.
“We use it for lots of different reasons, but mainly it’s so we have a historical view of a school to see what they’ve been doing, what they’re up to, and where they’re at,” she explains.
“The projects module basically gives us a snapshot in time of that school. If, say, a teacher left and a new one came on board, and they didn’t understand what history the school has had with the awards program, we can walk them through that school’s activity history in the WORKetc project.
“My colleague and I tend to split the work; I look after secondary schools while she looks after primary. It’s a system where I feel like if I was ill or if I was on holiday for two weeks, my colleague can clearly see where I’m at with every school I’m looking after. It’s the same with her; I can look at her school files and I’ll know exactly where she is with everything and I’ll immediately know who to contact.”
Mandy and the Youth Trust have also gotten a lot of mileage out of WORKetc’s tags. Since the Young Leaders Awards program is available for primary and secondary schools, participating schools are tagged as appropriate. They also tag schools according to diocese, of which there are 12 in the Northern province.
“The tags let us easily find schools in, say, just the York diocese,” Mandy explains “If we were holding a conference, we could just choose schools within a certain region.
“WORKetc also helps us see how successful we are in certain areas. For example, if we have 50 participating schools in the diocese of York, but in the Sheffield diocese we’ve only got 10, that would prompt us to think that maybe we should hold a conference and invite other schools in Sheffield.”
“Without WORKetc there’s no way we could do 90% of our work. We rely on it so much, it’s literally our bible for the schools participating in the awards program. We’d be lost without it.”
A Novel Use for Reminders
They’ve also set up an interesting invoice reminder system within the projects module itself. Instead of using recurring billing, Mandy and her colleagues use tasks and reminders to let them know whenever an invoice is close to being sent out.
It may not seem like the most efficient method, but it works quite well for the Youth Trust’s needs. Participating schools pay per pupil, so the subscription price can vary wildly from year to year. It’s very unlike a recurring subscription that costs the exact same amount year after year.
“It’s never quite as straightforward as like, ‘They paid for 20 people last year, they’re going to pay for 20 people again this year,'” Mandy says. “Quite often they’ll come back and tell us that actually this year it’s half the number or it’s double the number.”
Tasks and reminders set within their projects have also helped the Youth Trust appear more automated that it actually is, according to Mandy.
“We try and make it look like an automated system, but really it’s just reminders,” she reveals. “When a school downloads the resources, the website they download it from sends me an alert to tell me they’ve done so. I would then go into WORKetc and send out a standard email saying ‘Thank you for downloading.'”
They’ve also set up their projects to remind them about program milestones, such as when a school reaches the halfway point or when an invoice is due to be sent out.
“It keeps us aware of what’s happening with the school’s award program to a certain extent. And when you’re dealing with 300+ schools, you need this. It creates reminders and deadlines for us to deal with things.
Be the Change You Want to See
One of the main tenets of the Young Leaders Award program is to teach children to believe in themselves and in what they want to achieve. As Mandy puts it, this confidence is something that all leaders and entrepreneurs — whether age 6 or 60 — should always have.
“What we’re finding out with our young leaders is that belief and confidence are very important values,” she explains. “They may not think that they’re capable of actually changing the world, but we’re teaching them that they can. A little idea might start from something tiny, but then when they get other people on board to help them support it they can do anything.
“And I think that’s what the young leaders program is showing them, that their little ideas or their little acts of kindness have such a massive impact on everybody else. It’s like a knock-on effect; they do something nice and someone else does something nice and suddenly they can change a whole little community and can change things within their school.
“It’s about them having confidence. The kids that are maybe not so strong academically, we’re teaching them that OK, you might not be the best in maths or the best in English but you’re very creative in this, or you’re a really strong leader, or you’ve got other skills apart from the basic things they try to teach in school.
“It’s not always about book smarts. It goes beyond that. It’s important and they have to try their best at academics, of course, but some of the most fantastic leaders or the most successful entrepreneurs didn’t do very well in school. They didn’t get the best grades, but they just kept that vision and that flair. Everybody’s important and what they do within the leadership program does have an impact.
“We let the children know that they are important and that they do make a difference.”