Ways to inspire youth

1st February 2008 at 00:00
'A 'venture philanthropy approach' is being used to reduce the number of young people joining the Neet group.

Scotland is claiming a world first in its efforts to prevent young people drifting away from education, employment and training.

Private companies, the voluntary sector and the Scottish Government have come together to provide a diverse range of long-term projects for 14 to 19-year-olds.

The Inspiring Scotland initiative claims to mark a new type of philanthropy by giving government an equal role - in contrast to countries such as Australia and the United States, where tycoons typically drive projects without government involvement.

The Scottish Government has underlined its commitment by investing pound;9.44 million over the next three years. That will be bolstered by contributions from individuals, trusts, foundations and businesses.

The initiative also claims to be ground-breaking in that its "venture philanthropy approach" has emerged from the voluntary sector itself, the initial idea having come from the Lloyds TSB Foundation.

Venture philanthropy means that long-term plans can be made - in this case, that should mean a pot of pound;10 million a year over the next seven to 10 years. It means, too, that financial backers offer continuous support to projects, rather than providing a grant and waiting for a report back some time later.

The initiative also claims to be different from previous projects by looking at the "big picture". In other words, staff will be aware of many different sources of funding throughout the country and able to co-ordinate them more efficiently.

Inspiring Scotland hopes to cut through the inevitable bureaucracy that blights charities with so many financial backers. At a launch event this week, the example was given of the Aberdeen Foyer charity's reliance on 51 different funding streams.

Lloyds TSB's Andrew Muirhead, who is leading the development of Inspiring Scotland, said: "Government involvement is vital, as we'll be able to deliver more for everyone by linking our work to local and national strategy."

He added that Scottish philanthropy already tended to be more "hard-nosed" than the "paternalistic" approach found elsewhere. "In Scotland, I think that people want to see results," Mr Muirhead said.

Fiona Hyslop, the Education Secretary, said the Government had got involved because Inspiring Scotland would provide charities with "crucial funding" to help youngsters "get their lives back on track".

The chairman of the Smith Group, the schools-business partnership endorsed by the former First Minister, Jack McConnell, conceded that the involvement of business was not purely altruistic and stemmed instead from "enlightened self-interest". But Sir Robert Smith added that it was in the interests of the whole country - not just business - to get young people into work and boosting the economy.

Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said Inspiring Scotland was "great news for Scottish charities".

The initiative will initially focus on getting 14 to 19-year-olds into education, work and training, but in future should broaden its scope to other types of social projects and age groups. Although operated by the Lloyds TSB Foundation, it is hoped that Inspiring Scotland will become a wholly separate entity within three years.

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