Project 2020 was officially launched in January 2013 and is led by Homes for Haringey which is an Arm’s Length Management Organisation (ALMO) set up in April 2006 to manage Haringey’s council housing. It aims to reduce the number of young people in Haringey who are not in education, employment and training (NEET), initially targeting the over 1,700 young people living in the Northumberland Park ward of North Tottenham of whom 24% are NEET (ONS, 2011). Northumberland Park was named in 2010 as having one of the highest concentrations of unemployed people and NEET young people in the whole of London, and the second highest in the UK.
Project 2020 describes itself as unique because it ‘pulls together the expertise of a range of partners and companies committed to dealing with youth unemployment’ and champions its greatest strength as ‘the mentoring that each young person receives during their employment journey. It provides the necessary emotional support that is required to enable each young person to achieve their employment goals’ (Homes for Haringey, 2014). Having raised over £90k (€112,000) funding from the Department for Work and Pensions, Jobcentre Plus, Haringey Youth, Community and Participation, Community Funds and sponsorship, Project 2020 partners including Badenoch & Clark (recruitment services), Business in the Community (business-led charity), Haringey Council, Jobcentre Plus, Martin Arnold Associates (chartered surveyors and construction consultants), Northumberland Park School, Standard Chartered Bank, Lewis Silkin LLP (law firm) and Tottenham Hotspur Foundation offer support in a variety of ways.
Starting with ‘light touch’ community activities (often funded, led and or supported by partner organisations) aimed at building relationships and trust the teams are then able to conduct a one-to-one assessment focused on identifying the development needs of the young person and starting their achievement portfolio. Young people are then matched with professional/trade mentors to offer support throughout their journey. Skills training is offered to help young people become ‘employment ready’. Partners provide young people with work placements, apprenticeships, volunteering and training. Finally achievement ceremonies are held to celebrate a cohort’s completion of the programme including a presentation to each young person of their achievement portfolio. The project also runs ‘rewarding residents’ events, coffee morning drop-in sessions for single parents and visits to local schools working with the Metropolitan Police. Its activities are delivered from ‘Off Road’ which is the site of Project 2020’s office and youth hub in Northumberland Park. Previously a disused community space, it now hosts an IT suite and music studio as well as video games area and pool table with private spaces available to confidentially discuss career plans and ambitions with staff. The site is championed for providing ‘a meeting place offering young people the opportunity to receive expert advice and support on accessing education, training and employment opportunities, as well as relax and make new friends’. Speaking at the official opening of ‘Off Road’ Paul Bridge, former Chief Executive of Homes for Haringey, advocated for the importance of the work of Project 2020 by saying:
“With 40% unemployment among young people in the Tottenham area, some have few or no aspirations for the future. Project 2020 is about providing those young people with the opportunity to not only develop, but realise their aspirations, fulfilling their potential and contributing to their local community”.
Perception and use of the concept of diversity
The Homes for Haringey Equality and Diversity Strategy states that as an organisation they ‘…will work with our partners to provide services and opportunities in a fair and equitable way to meet the needs of diverse groups and will continue to address any imbalances that exist in relation to our operations to enhance the services we provide’ (Homes for Haringey, 2013: 3). Homes for Haringey have established a Single Equality Scheme and Action Plan which sets out how they addresses their responsibilities for promoting equality and diversity which includes collecting monitoring data from its clients on criteria including ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation and conducting equality impact assessments to ‘mainstream equalities into [their] policies and practice, target resources more effectively and increase transparency in the way services are developed and delivered’ (Ibid, 2013: 4). It lists its six diversity objectives as to ‘know our residents and their needs; deliver excellent and responsive services accessible to all; involve our residents in everything we do; work in partnership to deliver stronger, safer communities; ensure procurement is transparent and fair; and value diversity in our workforce and be an employer of choice’ (Ibid, 2013: 4).
Main factors influencing success or failure
One of the greatest strengths – and reasons for the success – of Project 2020, as identified by Homes for Haringey above, is the tailored and bespoke nature of the support available. This is achieved via mentoring programmes which are based around the specific background, needs and experiences of the young people involved, which inevitably vary greatly from person to person. The tailored nature of the support young people receive from Project 2020 would not be possible without the combination of two vital ingredients. The first is the approach to community engagement and the importance of positive relationships between the young people involved and Project 2020 staff. These positive relationships facilitated the conversations necessary to identify the various interests, skills and experience of the young people involved and the support and steps required to enable them to reach their goals. The second is the wide range of partnerships which the project has successfully developed with other organisations and businesses that help to open doors for young people seeking to gain employment via work experience placements, apprenticeships and paid job opportunities. Neither step would be effective without the other. It is the combination of these two that is a driving factor behind the success of Project 2020 in enhancing the social mobility of the local people of Haringey by offering support, training and the opportunity for work experience, apprenticeships and long-term employment. This is evidenced by the funding raised by the project and the various sources from which it was raised; the Future Workforce Award it received from Business in the Community’s ‘Race for Opportunity’ campaign which celebrates outstanding practice in race/ethnicity, equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace (BITC, 2013); the number of young local people receiving support and gaining placements and further employment as well as the various fora at which Project 2020 young people have been consulted including the Institute of Government, Department for Work and Pensions, Haringey Council and the Mayor of London as part of work linked to regeneration in Tottenham.
Another major factor behind the success of the project’s activities is the ‘Off-Road Hub’ where Project 2020 is based. Situated on the ground floor of one of a series of 16-floor council-owned tower blocks in the heart of Northumberland Park experiencing acute deprivation and unemployment it provides a visible – and conveniently located – presence for supporting local residents. The youth club facilities (including IT suite, games consoles, music studio and pool table) are undoubtedly a major attraction in an area where local community facilities are increasingly scarce as a result of austerity measures. By offering people a local space to socialise as well as seek support, advice and training the initiative is ensuring its services are welcoming and focused in the area most in need. If activities were based in Haringey Council offices over 20 minute bus-ride and 50 minute walk away it would certainly be less effective at engaging its target audience.
Project 2020 represents a good example of the way that locally-focused interventions involving effective partnership working across a variety of different bodies can have a positive impact upon levels of social mobility within areas of multiple deprivation.