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Improving capacity and capability – some real life examples

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Photo credit - Sound Connections

Do you need inspiration for your Youth Music Recharge Fund proposal? Our project community have shared some recent examples of how they’ve improved capacity and capability. We’ve added our own experiences to these, alongside some ideas about how you might measure progress.

What do we mean by improved capacity and capability?

Activities to improve your capacity and capability are those which increase your ability to do something. Whether that’s doing more, or doing it better.

This is no ’one way’ of doing this – everyone will have a different approach based on their specific needs.

Working with a business mentor

Songbirds CIC

Songbirds CIC used some of their Youth Music funding to pay for six months of mentoring with a business mentor.

“As a newly formed ’Community Interest Company’ (CIC), we felt that having designated business mentoring support would give our company the best start possible. It was important to bring an objective voice into our team - a specialist with business skills and expertise, who could work with us to define our vision, and support us to develop our own skills and understanding of business planning and strategy.”

Songbirds meet their mentor monthly to discuss tasks. “When everything is new, having this support is invaluable. Working with a business mentor is helping us to see our situation more objectively, think longer-term, and develop and refine our business strategy.”

While still at the beginning of this journey, the support has been great and has had an immediate impact. “Our mentor has always made himself available to offer advice, which helped us almost immediately to secure further funding."

An external business mentor or consultant are great ways to bring expertise, ideas and an objective view into an organisation. This can help build new long term strategies and policies.

Running a crowdfunding campaign

AudioActive, Brighton

AudioActive ran a crowdfunding campaign to open the Bottega Rooms, a new space for young people in Brighton.

The campaign, run through the Crowdfunder platform, raised almost £38,000 from 288 supporters in 24 days. As well as raising money, the campaign grew the charity’s profile.

“The campaign far exceeded its fundraising targets but the public profile and support it achieved was equally valuable and has had a huge impact on the sustainability of the project and organisation ever since.”

AudioActive’s crowdfunding experiences mirror those of other arts organisations. Read more in this report from Nesta.

Engaging external experts (Youth Music)

In the last few years, we’ve engaged various external specialist to help develop our organisation. For example, a safeguarding consultant reviewed our practices, helped us rewrite policies, upskilled staff and co-created a road map for continuous improvement.

More recently, we worked with a design agency to develop our visual identity following an in-house brand review. At present, we’re seeking a digital consultant. And for many years we’ve worked with a firm of chartered accountants to support our finance processes.

Being able to work with qualified and experienced experts means we can learn from others, increase our networks and grow our own skills at the same time. 

How should we measure progress?

Evaluation is an important part of learning and development. But when you’re thinking about tracking change, keep your plans simple. Try and work with data you already have. Only introduce new forms of data collection if they have long-term value beyond the scope of the grant.

The outcomes builder in Part 1 of our Plan, Do, Review guidance has a list of outcome indicators and data collection tools to help you to measure progress towards organisational outcomes. But the specifics of what you collect will be dictated by what you want to do.

  • If your proposal relates to financial sustainability then levels of income, reserves, and your cashflow position could all be useful metrics.
  • If you a running a digital project, then data analytics will be vital. Arts Council’s Digital Culture Network has a range of resources to help you make the most out of your data.
  • Perhaps you are seeking an accreditation or kitemark? Achieving this is evidence in and of itself.
  • If your proposal aims to improve an area of your operations, then the opinions of your staff, board or stakeholders are important. Annual staff and stakeholder surveys that ask the same question over a few years can be a good way of tracking change.

Still not sure?

There are many ways that the Youth Music Recharge Fund can support your organisation to grow, adapt and recharge in the aftermath of the pandemic. We hope these examples sparks some ideas. If you’re still not sure, have some honest conversations with your staff team and the young people you work with. Speak to peers for tried and tested solutions. And keep on reading for more support or resources.

Are there other helpful resources available?

recharge fund q&a details

Online Q&A

11am - 12.30pm Friday 10 December 2021

You can join us for a group Zoom session at 11am on Friday 10 December 2021. The Youth Music team will be available to answer any questions about the fund. If you can’t make the session, we’ll record it and post it online for people to watch back later.

Don’t forget that you can also email us on with any questions or to schedule a call. The email will come through to a member of our Grants and Learning team. We’re a friendly group of people and we’re here to help, so don’t be afraid to get in touch.

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