Researching the youth sector

Published on
This newly published report highlights key issues youth organisations face, such as competion for funding and the importance of covering core costs

Since 2018 Quartet has managed the Youth Sector Support Fund on behalf of Bristol City Council. As part of distributing this important fund to Bristol’s youth sector, we are collaborating on an innovative research partnership with Bristol City Council and the University of Bristol. Using the talents of student researchers, the study has been investigating what resilience is and means for Bristol’s youth sector organisations.   

Our newly published report – the first from this ongoing study – highlights the factors that influence resilience, both for organisations and for the youth sector more widely.  If you’d like to know more about this research, contact Lucy Gilbert, Head of Policy

Summary of findings 

Resilience refers to the ability to recover from or adapt to threats or disturbances without compromising the character of the organisation at risk. The Covid-19 crisis gave us an opportunity to test our ideas about resilience in organisations.

Our initial findings cover five broad themes: organisational structure, funding, organisational networks, community engagement, and monitoring and evaluation. We found that it is the relationship between these five themes that promotes resilience and not any single factor in isolation. 

Understanding the main themes has given us insight into what prevents organisations from being more resilient and how this might be addressed.

What influences resilience? Some key insights 

  1. While no single organisational structure promotes resilience and it is unrelated to an organisation’s size, the study found that the coherence between an organisation’s mission, model and strategy forms the foundation of resilience. 
  2. Diversity of funding came out as the most important funding issue for resilience, making an organisation more stable and less susceptible to losses in any one area. A reliable source of funding for core costs allows organisations the time to plan strategically and build meaningful relationships with their partners and their community.  
  3. 100% of participants agreed that partnerships with other organisations are valuable to them. Partnering to deliver services appears to be the most valuable form of partnership for resilience as this promotes meaningful relationships. Partnerships developed only to access funding do not enhance an organisation’s resilience. Time and funding restraints were cited as the main barriers to building meaningful partnerships. 
  4. Respondents said that funders’ monitoring and evaluation requirements don’t always capture the social value of their work or help them demonstrate their impact. Overwhelmingly, organisations were positive about the capacity they gained when not having to carry out lengthy monitoring and evaluation procedures when funders relaxed the need for these during Covid-19.  
  5. The main barrier to resilience is funding competition across the sector. It not only creates direct competition for grants and contracts but also fosters an environment which discourages collaboration.  

What next? 

This research points to the need for more support for relationship-building between organisations and to finding ways to reduce competition for funding. We’re working with the local youth sector and with Bristol City Council on what this might mean for the Youth Sector Support Fund in future. And at Quartet, we’re reflecting on how we can learn from these findings and help foster resilience in our youth sector and the VCSE sector more widely.