The birth of something new is nearly always a good reason to celebrate. The birth of the new Ending Youth Violence Lab is no exception.
My day job is leading the Youth Endowment Fund. I and my team go to work every day with a single mission in mind: To find what works to reduce violence involving young people and to build a movement to put it into practice.
A lot has happened since we were ourselves born in 2019. We have launched the YEF Toolkit – a single guide to what works and what doesn’t. We will have launched 30 high quality impact evaluations by the end of the year to learn more. We have supported thousands of children to keep them away from violence.
The main thing I have learnt though is that we can’t possibly fulfil our mission alone. We are a very small cog. We rely on the wonderful work of youth workers, teachers, police and social workers. We rely on brave people prepared to not just do great work but have it evaluated. We rely on leaders deciding to do what works not what is business as usual. We rely on children and young people to advise us and guide us. We are part of a village working together to save lives.
That village has been missing someone. We needed an organisation that could do something rather special.
At the Fund we often hear about some amazing work that sounds like it could save lives. We want to support and evaluate as much of it as possible. But we can’t. There is just too much good stuff to do. So some brilliant stuff doesn’t get done.
One of those things is providing support and help to organisations and ideas that have huge promise but are not quite ready for really rigorous evaluation. This troubled us.
We thought – if only there was an organisation that could help these ideas to get ready for rigorous evaluation. If only there was an organisation with the expertise, open-mindedness and determination to do this.
That’s exactly what the Ending Youth Violence Lab is. A new organisation focused on supporting brilliant ideas to get ready for high quality rigorous evaluation. That’s why the YEF has been so involved in setting it up and making it a success.
Of course working with the Lab can’t guarantee an organisation gets YEF funding (we will need to kick the tyres as ever). But the potential is huge. If the lab can support ideas and organisations to develop a strong theory of change, establish if they can recruit and retain participants, and measure outcomes accurately then we will have a much clearer idea if an intervention is ready for a large-scale evaluation.
That means better knowledge about what works to reduce violence. Which gives us a chance at making a lasting difference in this country to the children who most need it.
That’s why I celebrate the birth of the Lab – in the safe hands of Tom McBride – because it might mean the world of difference to the lives of children whose own birth was being celebrated just a few years go.