Create Your Future is a Big Lottery-funded programme to support economically inactive BAME women into sustainable employment. We aim to provide opportunities for participants to find their voice, test out their aspirations and make steps towards a sustainable future. With this in mind, we’ve designed a participant led-model that takes an iterative approach and has yielded progressive development in so many of the women we work with.
Building soft skills
Create Your Future kicked off 2018 with a new addition to the team boosting our capacity to deliver a dynamic and unique programme. Our team ethos is to get the most out of everyone; we see each participant as an individual and support them as a ‘whole person’ with a unique set of needs. We know that barriers to employment do not come in one-size fits all categories. Therefore, CYF works collaboratively with other departments in Community Links and local organisations to provide a supportive eco-system.
Earlier in the year, we opened up the garden for a Spring Market for the local community. CYF participants sold a range of items from our jewellery, craft-making and enterprise sessions. We invited community stall holders who sold various items such as hand-made leather diaries, notebooks and food. Everyone at Community Links got involved, including our Director of Action & Advocacy Venu Dhupa who held a (hugely popular) pancake and crumpets stall. The event was a success with many members of the local community popping in to see what was happening. Some even ended up staying to get advice on how to access our services.
Just before summer, we ran a professional sewing course facilitated by the London College of Fashion as part of their 1000’s coats initiative with Burberry. Participants learned how to use a professional sewing machine to make a coat for a small child; these coats would then be donated to disadvantaged schoolchildren across East London. Our partnership with the London College of Fashion (LCF) aims to foster links with the local community and LCF in advance of its move to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford. In 2019, we look forward to developing further programmes with LCF.
During the summer, CYF teamed up with Caramel Rock, to run a series of employability sessions for creatives, to which participants progressed on to an intensive Creative Careers programme facilitated by Rakesh Tailor, founder of Freshcanvas.co.uk. This year, we have taken in all the learning from the first course and upped the ante. We restructured the Creative Careers course and developed a more intensive accelerator designed for women who are at the cusp of starting their careers but are held back due to socio-economic barriers to employment.
Alongside the Caramel Rock cohort, we ran sessions with economically inactive women fleeing domestic violence. The CYF team have been taken back by the amount of resilience and tenacity demonstrated by this group. Many of the participants have the arduous task of rebuilding their lives amidst unthinkable trauma and continue to do so with unwavering strength and adaptability.
We ended our summer programmes with our most ambitious workshop ever! CYF advisors designed a programme called succeeding through failure with Role Play London. We organised a community treasure hunt of some sorts; Succeeding through Failure required participants to work in small groups and follow a series of clues to find specific characters (played by actors) plotted around the local community. Each group had to answer a set of questions about the characters and travel across Canning Town and Canary Wharf and get back in time for the debrief. This was such an exhilarating experience for both participants and advisors, it pushed people to reconsider their own cultural biases and highlighted the importance of embracing failure as a tool for achievement. One participant said she always wanted to be able to speak to people she doesn’t know but was always scared to start a conversation. The session helped her work through her anxieties in a safe space.
In September, Create Your Future participants took part in a store tour of the M&S Stratford store and retail interview skills session. We met members of staff from different departments and listened to their inspiring personal journeys within the organisation. In addition to this, we ran a documentary-making course with Foreign Body, who donated film equipment to Community Links as well as providing internship opportunities with Rogan productions. Participants explored a series of hard-hitting topics and will be screening their shorts this February.
We closed off a fantastic year with a photography course facilitated by the V&A and acclaimed photographer, Eddie Otchere. Participants were given the task to explore juxtapositions between the old and regenerated Canning Town. An exhibition was held with the young people speaking about their work at the V&A and a showcase will soon be coming to Community Links.
Looking forward to a great year!
It really has been a whirlwind year for us on the CYF team. We have learned a lot and we hope to expand on this in the coming year. We’ve certainly found our groove as a team and are pushing boundaries more and more. We are committed to improving the programme and to continue to be open to new approaches to get the most out of every participant we work with. We’re in the last year of the programme (with hopes of an extension!) and I think I can speak on behalf of the CYF team when I say, the best is yet to come!