In late August 2021, the Foyer Federation gained a new Director of Development and Partnerships, Katherine Bates. Two months into the role, she reflects on what she has learnt so far from the Foyer network.
“When I accepted this role at the Foyer Federation, I broadly thought that I knew what to expect. I’ve spent the majority of my career in the youth sector and like to think that I have a good understanding of the barriers young people face and the systems we work within. In many ways, I’ve had my expectations met; I’ve found passionate, skilled and driven people across our network going above and beyond to support young people to be the best they can be. I’ve found talented, ambitious, resilient young people taking ownership of their lives and working hard to realise their goals. And I’ve found a difficult external environment, inflexible systems and strained resources dampening the potential and hampering the progress of those same young people.
“The outlook and approach of the Foyer Federation and our network is inherently positive. Advantaged Thinking tells us that by identifying and building on our strengths, we can go so much further than by concentrating on our deficits. Our Foyers and their staff and young people are affected by the deficit-focused systems they operate within. However, I have seen fantastic examples of Advantaged Thinkers challenging people with the power to affect change. Through building a movement for Advantaged Thinking, we have a real opportunity to change things beyond our own organisation.
“I have already had the privilege of meeting and working with our members through the Great Gatherings in October. Staff had chance to share challenges, ideas and solutions, as well as to learn from inspiring external speakers. I was struck by how ready everyone was to share and to support one another. This openness is a major asset of the network and I am excited to see how we will continue to work together to provide the best offer for young people.
“My final reflections have to be on the young people I have met so far. In such a short space of time, I have seen incredible examples of youth leadership, whether it’s a panel of young people deciding our Talent Bonds or Foyer Federation Ambassador Molly and others running the 2021 Room for Young People Awards. Working more closely with young people at every level will ensure that we develop in a way that meets their needs. I am grateful to be in an organisation that is serious about youth voice and taking tangible steps to achieve it. I know that they will challenge us and demand that we continue to do the best we can for young people.”