by Sarah Robertson

I was extremely reluctant to join yet another ‘youth network’ in the borough after years of failed attempts, conflict, and unresolved issues.  However, I am getting older and with this I hope wiser.  Change is necessary, action is needed, and I want to work within a group that together is fully focused on building solutions for young people collaboratively. The networks in the past have failed to solve this.

Avril helped me to understand BD Collective’s main focus is ‘the collaboration & partnerships that are being formed – how we are all pulling together, for example through the networks, for the benefit of the borough.’

The collective is all of us, working together. BD Collective value the importance of reflecting the range of voices across sectors.  

Therefore, taking a deep breath, I have jumped in with an open mind and a positive attitude.  I am hoping that this is not yet another opportunity for larger organizations to grow themselves so that they can ‘show’ and ‘claim’ they are working in ‘partnership’ and then take funding from little groups who always remain struggling for survival. It is the smaller organisations in my experience who do the best amazing work with residents. Why should they exist on scraps of funding?  We need to move away from this negative environment.

We therefore decided to put ourselves forward as members of the steering group on this ‘ticket’ and subsequently became the lead organisation for the new BD youth network.  

My name is Sarah Robertson.  I have over 2 decades of youth & community work experience, I am one of the founders, current Managing Director and frontline worker for Future M.O.L.D.S Communities (FMC).  We have been working in the borough for over a decade and, as a small locally led organisation, have faced many challenges and had many successes.  We are, however, immensely proud of what we have achieved so far and will continue to work towards positive outcomes.  

As a key lead member of the youth network collective, we aim to help support:
•    Transparency and equality in the collaborative and partnership work that benefits everyone
•    Represent the voices of LBBD young people & youth organizations large and small
•    Maximise opportunities for organisations, young people and their families in Barking & Dagenham

We hope working within the collective will be helpful in terms of:
•    Working across and with the different sectors to avoid duplication and reduce conflict
•    Increase effective collaborative working
•    Support information sharing

Through the process so far, we have learned that there is still a lot to learn about complex systems and valuing and representing all of its parts.  Many voices of young people and organisations go unheard in the borough and this needs to be addressed.  All voices need to be heard and acted upon. We also recognize the network must be relevant, not time waste, effective and strong.  This is a huge piece of work, but we are up for a challenge.  

Some of the plans are to develop an evolving framework that suits purpose.  We will involve as many young people & agencies as possible, listening and responding to the needs of our borough.  It is important to develop information sharing, referral and signposting channels and this will be part of the initial work.

We really look forward to meeting and working with as many of you as possible during these times of change and hope you will find us to be friendly, open, and approachable.  Those of you who know me already know I am always happy to have a chat so feel free to get in touch.