Can you believe it’s already the end of 2021?

"In many ways it's been another really tough year for young people and those who work alongside them in Foyers,” said Joel Lewis, our Chief Executive. “However, I can't help feeling really proud of the journey that the Foyer Federation and Foyers have been on in 2021. Personally, I've learnt so much from the staff and young people at all the events we've run and been a part of. Hearing the moving stories of lives changed at the Room for Young People awards, listening to people from across the country (and world) unite around the 10-year Advantaged Thinking celebration and reconnecting with a number of forward-thinking trusts and foundations has all brought a sense of focus and purpose amongst the uncertainty of the times we live in."

Although the year has sped by, there were some great moments that we’d like to reflect on. So here are our top 10 highlights from the year!

1. Launching our Youth Influence and Involvement Strategy

In February, we released this accompaniment to our Home for Advantaged Thinking strategy, which we launched at the end of 2020. It underpins our commitment to empowering young people to lead in their lives, communities and country, and outlines our roadmap to get there. Sharing power with young people was a key theme throughout our year, and it started here.

2. Joel Lewis confirmed as our Chief Executive

We celebrated Joel’s official appointment as Chief Executive in April, following 18 months in the interim position. As a former service manager, Joel has ‘Foyer’ in his DNA and is a values-led leader passionate about inspiring young people to realise their power and purpose.

At the time of his appointment, he said: “Conversations with young people, our members and our friends in the youth sector have made it clear to me that there is a strong need to unite as a movement for Advantaged Thinking – a steadfast community that builds a brighter future, with young people leading the way. Our ambitious new strategy, the Home for Advantaged Thinking, describes our vision for that future and how we’re going to take action. I hope you’ll be part of the journey with us.”

3. The 10th anniversary of Advantaged Thinking

14 May 2021 marked 10 years since Advantaged Thinking was launched on the global stage with Colin Falconer’s inspiring TEDx talk in Thessaloniki. To celebrate, we held a digital event in partnership with InspireChilli and Your Housing Group which was attended by more than 100 people. We shares stories, inspiration and Advantaged Thinking experiences from around the world. We think this quote sums it up perfectly: “Advantaged Thinking is pure sunshine.”

4. FOR Youth Foyers achieving improved outcomes with young people despite one of the toughest years ever!

Our June FOR Youth panel proved – if proof were needed – that an Advantaged Thinking approach can help services and staff weather stormy times and continue doing better and better for and with young people. Despite fears that the pandemic was likely to have a negative impact on young people’s Foyer outcomes, data showed strong and consistent performance from accredited Foyers. Dig into the detail with this report.

5. Launching our brand-new Powering Up Youth training

Through summer, we worked with a young person to co-create some exciting new training that explores how services share power with young people. It unpacks the way services involve, listen to and act on the insights of young people, and explores how power exists in your service, including where young people have genuine power to affect change and where they do not. We co-delivered the workshop with a young person at CHADD On-Route Foyer in August, and it’s now part of our core training offer. Find out more and book Powering Up Youth here.

6. Welcoming our new Director of Development and Partnerships

In September, we welcomed Katherine Bates – our Director of Development and Partnerships – to the team! She said: "Joining the Foyer Federation was incredibly exciting, and joining just in time for the Great Gatherings even more so. Being in a room with so many talented, passionate people was truly inspiring and I could feel the strength of the network immediately. Here's to more collaboration and innovation in 2022!"

7. FINALLY seeing our members in person at the Great Gatherings!

The last time we saw any of our members in person was in February 2020 – before you-know-what came crashing in and tried to make Zoom happen. We were ecstatic to see so many people at our Great Gatherings in Manchester and Bristol in October for a day of networking, inspiration and innovation. The feedback on the day was a resounding ‘more of this, less online’, which we’re taking forward into our plans for 2022.

8. The Room for Young People Awards

This year, Room for Young People was more youth-led than ever before. Young people from Clarion Housing and the Foyer Federation organised the event, held the Conversation Series through October and hosted on the night, Team Young People from InspireChilli made up the judging panel, and talented young people from LiveWest performed on the evening. It was also a fantastic celebration of Foyers, with 15 Foyer young people taking home awards on the evening – each with a story of inspiration, resilience and ambition.

9. Launching the Youth Power Fund

In early December, we launched the Youth Power Fund to empower Foyers to find creative ways to embed sustainable youth leadership and power sharing approaches within their services. We’ve partnered with the Blagrave Trust to offer 5-7 Foyers up to £15,000 per year for three years to support innovation around youth leadership and empowerment.

The fund is open to our supported housing members and the deadline for applications is 31 January.

10. Exciting new Board appointments

In December, three new Trustees joined our fantastic Board, bringing new perspectives, valuable experience and fresh insight to our work. We welcomed our first two Trustees under 30 – Fiona Lin, who has legal expertise and a keen eye for detail, and Damilaara Adeyemi, who brings experience in campaigning and social change. They are also both able to offer their perspectives as young people, which is invaluable to us as an organisation.

We were also delighted with the appointment of Alastair Wilson as our new Chair. Alastair has 17 years of experience as Chief Executive of the School for Social Entrepreneurs, founded Tonic Housing (the UK’s first LGBTQ+ retirement community), and has served on the Board of several fantastic organisations over the years, and we are looking forward to working closely with him as our Chair.

Our heartfelt thanks go to our outgoing Chair, Andrew Croft, who served for six years. Andrew’s support has been crucial during some difficult times, and his creativity and big-picture thinking helped us to lay strong foundations and set a course for growth.

Thank you to everyone in our network – both members of staff and young people – who have constantly inspired us and positively impacted our work. Thanks also to our colleagues in the youth sector, our fabulous Trustees and our supportive friends. We wish you all a very happy Christmas and new year!

The Foyer Federation is registered in England and Wales under company number 2699839 at Work.Life, Core Building, 30 Brown Street, Manchester, M2 1DH. The charity is registered under charity number 1040482.
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