At the start of the year, we began a project to understand and think about how best to communicate the work that ReachOut does and the impact we have as an organisation.
Why? Partly it was because we had a hunch that we were underselling the scale and breadth of the work that the charity has been doing. Our last positioning review was almost ten years ago and things were, perhaps, starting to look a little stale. But mainly, in an increasingly competitive environment, we wanted to make sure that we were clearly communicating what was different about ReachOut and our approach to working with young people. Why should anyone choose to engage with us over the many other fantastic education, youth and mentoring projects out there?
After some brilliant initial work by our friends at Prophet, we took a couple of months to carry out a detailed research and listening project. In total, we heard the views of almost 100 of the ReachOut extended family – past, current and future: staff, volunteers, trustees, funders, partners, other charities and – most importantly – our mentees.
What did we find out? The short answer – more than we expected; much of which confirmed our thinking, but also some fascinating new insights, challenges, and curveballs.
Here are a few key insights which help explain some of the changes we’re making:
1) Mentoring is central to ReachOut, but talking about it in isolation doesn’t do justice to the breadth, length and intensity of the interventions ReachOut delivers.
2) Our focus on character is what makes ReachOut different. To some, talking about character can seem a bit old fashioned, but to us and the young people we work with, developing character is practical, urgent and more relevant than ever. Our Character Strengths of Fairness, Good Judgement Staying Power and Self-Control are a bedrock for aspiration, success and fulfilment. For more on what we mean by character see here.
3) Alongside character, confidence is recognised as perhaps the most important outcome of what we do. Unprompted, this is what the majority of our mentors, teachers and young people see as the primary benefit of being involved in ReachOut.
4) There are many other outcomes of the work that ReachOut does – social mobility, academic success and social cohesion being a few important examples. However, these come about as a result of our core mission to support young people to grow in confidence and character. It’s those two things which we believe spark change in young people and society.
5) We’re changing how we talk about the young people we work with. No one likes to be described as “vulnerable”, “disadvantaged” or “lacking aspirations”. We work with amazing and ambitious young people – individuals, facing individual challenges and barriers (which our interventions can help them to overcome). The language we use needs to reflect this.
6) ReachOut is widely seen as friendly, enthusiastic and fun (not to mention professional, efficient and even inspirational). Our close and local relationships with our mentors, schools and communities are among our greatest assets. As we grow and continue to develop a national presence, we don’t want to lose the culture and connections that make us different.
So, what’s changing?
Firstly you’ll notice our new logo and strapline. We hope this better speaks to the heart of what ReachOut is here to do. You will also see some new wording and imagery on our website and social channels. There are changes to how we explain what we do, what we’re trying to achieve and how we talk about the young people we work with. Over the coming weeks this will be rolled out across other ReachOut’s materials. There will also be plenty more exciting new content coming out across our channels soon… watch this space!
We’d love to hear your opinion! Do you like it? Love it? Hate it? Please do get in touch and let us know what you think (just be a bit gentle if you hate it!)
Finally, we’d like to say thank you to everyone who responded to our surveys and took part in our interviews. We’d also like to thank our friends at Prophet and Edmonds Elder for all their invaluable expert support at various stages of this project.
Head of Marketing & Partnerships
“At first, I was really hesitant to take on the Project Leader role, despite having mentored with ReachOut. However, with the support of the team I’ve really developed my skills. For example, at the Mentee Graduation, I stood up in front of 200 people and presented an award which is something I would never ever have been able to have done before, and isn’t an opportunity I could gain in my other situations.”
Amy McCutcheon, Project Leader at ReachOut Academy, Dean Trust Ardwick, Manchester.
“Being able to spend the summer working at Rede Partners, was an amazing experience. Whether it was working in HR or Finance, I learned so much about the world of private equity, made great connections with fantastic people and I got to learn first-hand what it would be like to work there! I really believe that I can go onto build the career I want now I’ve been a part for a workplace for real”
Victor Adekunle, 18 years old, ReachOut Ambassador, London
“When I first my mentee, she was very reluctant to participate in the sessions. Now, I see a completely different person! Her confidence has grown and she is happy to join in! She still has some self-doubt when it comes to academic work, but that’s what I hope to help her overcome, because she is a very bright person!
Through mentoring, I’ve learnt I’m a lot more patient than I realised. There will be days where she refuses to participate and those are the days that I really see the importance of the character strengths, for both the mentees and the mentors. It also makes it easier for the mentee to understand the character strengths, when I use them myself”
Myrtle, ReachOut Club mentor at Tufnell Primary School, London
“There are more distractions than ever outside of school, and the commitment of our students to attend ReachOut sessions is testament to the value they place on the relationships they foster there, and the challenge and enjoyment they provide.
ReachOut’s focus on communication skills and character development has become an important aspect of our provision of support for these students. The opportunity to relate to a positive role- model other than their usual teachers is key to the programme’s impact, and the evidence of this has been seen in the students’ attendance, resilience and to their overall progress across all the subjects in the school.”
Thomas Janvrin, Assistant Vice Principal at the Petchey Academy London