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There is much to celebrate about both the strategic planning and delivery of youthwork at this early stage in the life of Northstowe. This is already having a measurable impact. But, in order to sustain current provision, and to grow with the town, further investment and deepening partnerships are needed.

Listening to Northstowe; recognising the needs; responding; sharing the stories; reflecting on the learning

In 2021, some of Northstowe’s young people wrote to Beth (Northstowe’s Pioneer Minister) and Amanda  (Community Co-ordinator for Youth in South Cambridgeshire) highlighting the needs of young people and asking for help developing facilities and activities. Beth and Amanda helped a 17 year old lead a youth survey, gathering over 100 responses as Northstowe’s teenagers expressed their needs for facilities and youth provision, and their desire to get involved in shaping their new town. We also hosted a campfire consultation, where ideas were drawn up on a whiteboard:

This provided evidence that two things were needed

  1. a locally-rooted charity to advocate for the young people, and work in partnership with key stakeholders and providers to find the right funds and expertise to ensure that both open access and behind-the-scenes youthwork happened.
  2. immediate meeting places for young people – the first request was for a youth drop in at a café.

Therefore the Northstowe Youth Hive was born as an umbrella organization – named by the young people themselves:



the Northstowe Youth Hive brought about the first organized open-access youth activities through volunteer “lay” led activities, while seeking professional expertise to take on and expand the delivery following the pilot. This has now happened. First through the Connections Bus Project while there were no indoor community spaces (grant funding secured by the Hive), and now with Romsey Mill (with funding for 2 years), who continue to use volunteers alongside paid professionals.

The Youth Hive recognise that Asset Based Community Development works well once you have a gathering point of young people. But it is very hard to “listen” to those you are not in contact with. This is a major challenge in the early days of a new town, especially reaching out to the older teenagers who don’t go to school in Northstowe! What is working well is multiple contact points starting in the primary school, community centre, and secondary school, with volunteers and youthworkers building meaningful connections.

Already, we can see the impact of having a professional Youth Development  worker in Northstowe. Her sessional work and open access youth clubs are important in their own right, but they also provide a visible framework that allows other, less public-facing work to take place. This includes working one-to-one or in small groups to help young people respond to the challenges they face. Challenges are often exacerbated by the uncertainties of moving into a growing and evolving new town. Learning from Cambourne and other new housing areas, we are expecting significant growth in numbers of young people. Planning for that demographic bubble needs to start now.

For every £1 invested in youth work, the benefit to the tax payer is between £3.20 and £6.40

So what are we focusing on now?

The next steps involved Listening, Recruiting and Training, Finding the Gaps, Networking, Responding to Needs, Researching, and Reviewing. Much of this is done through our partnership with Romsey Mill, but also a growing network of other youth and community groups. 

Already, the young people frequently tell us that they want a youth building that they can feel ownership of, making it their own. They want to be able to attend on multiple occasions across the week, confident of finding a safe space where they can belong, and get support when needed.

When Romsey Mill asked the young people what they think about the youth work in Northstowe, these were some of the replies 

  • “The youth club has helped me to build confidence and to make new friends.”
  • “Romsey Mill has helped me with qualifications in cooking, to learn new skills and trying new things.”
  • “The youth club is very important to me because it helps me with talking to people and it gives me something to do.
  • “I am listened to by the youth workers.”
  • “Everyone is nice and the youth workers have helped us if we ever needed anything to talk about”
  • “The youth worker has have given me techniques to help control my emotions more.”
  • “It’s really fun!”

The Youth Hive priorities for the next 5 years are:
LISTENING: Visiting existing youth providers (schools, uniformed organizations, our
own projects) to listen to the youth voice, identify the needs and assets in
the community, and find ways to support the young people to feed this
into developing structures
RECRUITING AND TRAINNIG: Recruiting and training a pool of volunteers to work alongside
professional youth workers
FINDING THE GAPS: Identifying key partnership opportunities for youth providers to work
together on projects too big for any one provider
RESPONDING TO NEEDS: Supporting networking Networking between youth providers
Joining professional and volunteer youth providers in responding to
identifiable needs
RESEARCHING: Researching and, if appropriate, exploring the delivery and running of
Researching permanent youth facilities.
REVIEWING: Reviewing these priorities regularly in accordance with Asset Based
Community Development principles, responding and reshaping as the
youth and community develop

More than youth clubs… but the youth clubs are excellent too!

We’re very keen to make clear that youth work is about much more just youth clubs. But that doesn’t mean that Northstowe’s youth clubs aren’t something to celebrate! So here’s the latest update on open acesss drop ins for school year 7-9  (meeting during School Term). We’re also exploring what is needed for older young people. And starting to make Summer Plans too. 

flier for the Wednesday afternoon Youth Drop In (4-5.30pm in the Cabin)