Following a successful pilot and subsequent evaluation in 2013, Venture Trust has continued to develop our On the Hoof programme and here’s an update on the year’s developments so far...
Venture Trust’s On the Hoof programme was developed to provide personal development support targeted to the needs of young people with learning disabilities. The programme builds upon Venture Trust’s 30 years of experience of working with many young people with learning disabilities across all of our programmes, introducing the use of ponies and, in doing so, creating additional opportunities for participants to learn and develop through taking responsibility for and building relationships with the ponies.
The programme has evolved in line with the initial evaluation over the year. The initial strategy was to use ponies as pack animals and this was implemented, with the help and expertise of Highlands Unbridled, in the first two pilot wilderness journeys. This allowed the group of young people participating in the programme to cover a greater distance and hence complete a more meaningful journey, whilst the challenge of caring for and travelling with the ponies added further depth to each young person’s development experience. In other words, having additional responsibility for the wellbeing of the ponies (with support and appropriate professional supervision) offered a greater opportunity to catalyse change in a participant’s thinking, attitudes, and behaviour.
The On the Hoof evaluation made a number of suggestion of which Venture Trust took on board and On the Hoof as we see it today began to evolve. Firstly, it was suggested that future courses should be run closer to the central belt (whilst still maintaining a commitment to using wilderness environments and a sense of distance away from home environments). This would minimise travelling and maximise the useable personal development time on the journey. It was agreed that more usable time would increase the therapeutic value of the ponies by giving time for relationship building between participants and ponies. We now run our On the Hoof programme in the Borders of Scotland in line with the evaluation’s suggestion.
Another consideration highlighted in the On the Hoof evaluation was that the programme should include a greater diversity of activities with the horses without losing the focus upon relationship building skills, working with others, effective communication, and organisational skills. Additionally, participants fed back that they thought the journey should be 5 days long, rather than the piloted 4 days, and Venture Trust staff agreed that the 4-day length limited the depth of personal development that could take place and 5 days would allow more bonding time with fellow participants, staff, and the ponies. Finally, participants expressed a preference for a centre-based expedition with only one or two nights camping. A centre-based expedition makes the trip more manageable for less fit individuals and makes group work sessions more effective in light of the needs of the participants.
To this end, Venture Trust explored a partnership with Equibuddy, who offer group and 1:1 sessions for riders with additional support needs working together to help develop confidence, self-esteem, balance, and coordination. This partnership has proven to be a huge success, with participants taking in part in riding, vaulting, grooming, leading, and tacking up lessons whilst simultaneously experiencing a centre-based Venture Trust wilderness-based personal development journey. Participants have the opportunity to really build a relationship with the ponies, are involved in a wide variety of activities including caring for the pony, riding, and vaulting, and the course is suitable for a wider variety of fitness levels ensuring all participants can benefit from the wilderness journey experience.
On the Hoof as we see it today is a tried, tested, and evaluated programme that has come a long way since its pilot. It continues to benefit a number of young people with learning disabilities and enables them to make and sustain positive changes in their lives. None of this would have been possible without the invaluable support of our funding partners, Children in Need, The Crerar Hotels Trust, and The Wessex Youth Trust. Venture Trust is looking forward to continuing the successes of the On the Hoof programme and witnessing even more of our participants’ successes along the way!
Next Steps: helping women make positive life changes and escape cycles of offending
Venture Trust is delighted to announce today that it has been awarded £840,320 from the Big Lottery Fund to expand its highly successful “Next Steps” programme, helping 360 of Scotland’s most vulnerable women to transform their lives.
Over the next 3 years, this national project will enable Venture Trust to work alongside established criminal justice partners across Scotland to address the needs of women who are currently caught up in a cycle of offending. It will provide a three staged approach tailored to the needs of each individual, including initial engagement and assessment, a wilderness-based personal development expedition, and community based aftercare support. In close partnership with fellow charity ‘Move On’, it will additionally train 60 women to become ‘peer mentors’ helping others in similar circumstances.
Linking directly with the Angiolini Report’s recommendations, Venture Trust’s work has evolved to improve support for women to escape offending. Building on Venture Trust’s established expertise, women will take part in a life-changing wilderness expedition. This is a key catalytic component for making and sustaining a change in their lives, and learning the life-skills necessary to sustain them. Individually tailored 1-to-1 outreach support provides support, advice and encouragement – a key relationship on which women can depend.
“Venture Trust’s Next Steps programme has been developed and refined over several years to address a number of the key issues highlighted in Dame Angiolini’s report. Thus far, we have worked closely with a small number of partners in Local Authorities. Thanks to this award from the Big Lottery, we can now further develop and deliver this service, with partners, on a truly national basis, improving the outcomes for women offenders and addressing Dame Angiolini’s observation that: ‘services which target the offending and rehabilitative features and characteristics of women offenders are not consistently provided throughout Scotland’”: Mark Bibbey: Venture Trust, Chief Executive.
One group of women each year will also use photography to document their experiences and journey through the programme. This previously piloted photography element enables participants to focus subjectively on what is important to them, deepening their personal development experience.
Venture Trust, in partnership with the Big Lottery Fund and Move On, will deliver bespoke intensive personal and social development services, which aim to reduce risk of re-offending and substance misuse and to support women to access other services that will further improve their lives.
“Next Steps has been innovative in both its approach to partnership working and in delivering a service that has outstanding outcomes for female offenders. We are delighted to receive this funding from the Big Lottery to extend this provision throughout the country for a very vulnerable group within our society.” Joe Connelly: Venture Trust, Head of Programmes.
Check out The Big Lottery Fund Scotland's blog, The Big Blog Scotland, for a Next Steps case study!
It’s encouraging to see how effective partnerships between the Private Sector and the Third Sector are developing.
The relationship between corporates and charities, which at times has been blurred and diffuse, is at a watershed with a refocus on shared values, community credentials, and an oftentimes explicitly stated commitment to be responsible and responsive. There is an imperative for change which benefits the young people with whom we work, and the corporate partners who we actively engage.
There is much optimism and a sense that positive change can be effected at a societal, a community, and an individual level. This is something to nurture and develop for mutual benefit. The look and the feel of these partnerships, and the ‘walk’ and the ‘talk’, are in step, and it’s coming from a good place... this is a good time for Venture Trust as we seek to develop and grow the scale and quality of our corporate partnerships.
The Venture Together programme is an outstanding example. It has the look and feel of a partnership that makes a difference to the lives of young people. Venture Trust, along with co-delivery partner Venture Scotland, has been working closely with Barclays, the UK based banking and financial services company, for nearly two years.
The partnership is grounded in a shared interest and desire to help young people grow their self esteem, their employability, and help them in their journey to becoming effective contributors in the future. The features of the programme are a series of employability workshops, delivered by Barclays staff, which includes CV writing, mock interviews, and budgeting. The programme culminates in a Bothy weekend, combining a wilderness setting with a personal development journey. A group of 6 – 8 young people, accompanied by Barclays staff, spend a weekend living in a Bothy and undertake a conservation project working as a team and learning a number of valuable life skills along the way.
The young people who participate in the Venture Together programme have typically spent 12-15 months on one of Venture Trust’s personal development programmes, having previously undertaken a wilderness expedition, and are now in the Phase 3 ‘community links’ stage of their journey . This is a real milestone for them and recognises that they have put in a lot of work to get to the point where the Venture Together programme has relevance for them. It is a huge affirmation of their personal commitment to bringing about the change that they want in their lives.
The relationship is characterised by the commitment of the Barclays staff, who give their time and talent to help young people and have genuine enthusiasm for being involved in what we do. The most recent Bothy weekend took place at Glen Etive at the end of May with Stephen, from Barclays, joining the group for the weekend.
Stephen reflects on his experience of being a participant and the insight that he gained from the weekend and said:
“It has been a real privilege working on the Venture Together programme. The combination of using Scotland’s wilderness with more conventional learning methods really does work and creates a very strong framework for the participants in achieving their longer term employment goals. To see how at ease all the participants were with the countryside was truly inspiring and the challenges set out allowed the team to demonstrate all the key skills needed in the work place – leadership, planning, team work, respect and of course good old fashioned hard work. Working with the participants and volunteers also taught me a lot about myself and represents one of the best development opportunities available to us at Barclays.”
To celebrate the achievements of the participants of the Bothy Weekend Barclays hosted a graduation ceremony at their splendid Georgian office in Edinburgh earlier in June. This marked a milestone in the delivery of the programme and acknowledged and affirmed the value it has for the partnership, the participants and the staff from Barclays.
Sheila, from Barclays, who opened the Graduation ceremony, commented:
‘At the Graduation ceremony, it was a privilege to meet the participants and hear how proud they were of what they had achieved. In hearing their own personal journey, it showed how much progress they had made as part of the Venture Together initiative since beginning this. The young individuals commented on their increase in confidence, the skills they now had to draw from and the hope that they now had in progressing their futures. Highlight of the day was hearing the success of those unable to attend as a result of securing a job, fantastic! It’s a pleasure for myself and all of the Barclays volunteers to be involved in partnership with Venture Trust, as we also get so much from this. It’s a terrific feeling to know you have contributed in some small way to these young people’s ability to move towards a better future’
‘John’ one of the Venture Together participants who received his award at the graduation ceremony said:
'I feel like a much more confident person and have learned some new skills especially in how to prepare for an interview and budgeting to manage my money. It has helped to make me more responsible and have more control over my day to day life. After the course I took copies of my CV down to Lennoxtown, where I live, and circulated them and also in Glasgow city centre. It felt good to be proactive and take action.'
Mark Bibbey , CEO Venture Trust, was invited to speak to Barclays Staff at their recent Townhall meeting in Glasgow at the end of June:
“Barclays investment of staff and resources in the Venture Together programme has had a multiplier effect on the outcomes achieved by our participants to the ultimate benefit of not only themselves, but also their communities. The employability master-classes have hugely improved our participants’ chances of getting a job, but the programme has also served to break down barriers, improve mutual understanding and to introduce additional positive adult role models into the lives of our participants. It’s not for me to judge the benefits for Barclays, but I would hope that Venture Together has served the Citizenship agenda well and that they feel there are real benefits personally, professionally and corporately from close involvement in the programme.”
The partnership has a distinct personal development flavour which resonates with Barclays and allows its staff to really engage with the young people through the programme. The opportunity to share a common experience with young people, and to shape that experience, has real meaning and value. Venture Trust’s programmes provide a safe space where participants are enabled to view themselves differently, be viewed differently by others, and look to a more positive future. A true partnership exists when there are common touch points, similar aspirations, alignment of values, and a willingness to work together and venture together. Upward and onward to future corporate partnerships!
Congratulations to all of Venture Trust's marathon runners... and a huge thank you!
Despite the initial wind and rain, the Edinburgh Marathon Festival was one of our best yet! We were delighted to have 7 runners taking part in a number of different races all in aid of Venture Trust, and between them, they are set to raise over £1,200!
A HUGE thank you to Sherien who ran the 10K run, Nikki who ran the full marathon, Graeme who ran the Hairy Haggis relay, and Ben, Sharon, Katrina, and Holly who all ran the half marathon... and got some pretty impressive times under their belts!
If you're interested in getting involved, just head over the our events page and have a look at the events we have coming up. Got your own idea? Perfect! Just email firstname.lastname@example.org (the more imaginitive the better we say!).
On Sunday 8th June 14 very brave Sainsbury’s staff got ready to drop 165ft from the Forth Rail Bridge in their abseil challenge... all in aid of Venture Trust!
Lined up in their Venture Trust T-shirts (and one volunteer in a Spiderman Costume!), Sainsbury’s staff got ready to lower themselves over the side of the iconic Forth Rail Bridge in South Queensferry. The sun was out, spirits were high, and despite a couple of members of staff having a crushing fear of heights, everyone reached solid ground without a hitch!
Venture Trust has had unwavering support from Sainsbury’s Quartermile who have chosen Venture Trust as their charity of the year for two years now. Over the two years, from June 2012 until June 2014, the staff at Sainsbury’s Quartermile have managed to raise over £4,000 for Venture Trust; an amazing achievement which has really made a difference in helping to support the young people we work with.
Venture Trust and Sainsbury’s have taken part in a number of fun and challenging activities together, some of which include running our first ever bake sale with the help of Sainsbury’s Quartermile, organising fun days together, taking part in Sainsbury’s Meadows Mile, and Sainsbury’s Quartermile have donated over £250 worth of hygiene packs for the young people Venture Trust work with, which made a real difference in helping to support their independence. Finally, let’s not forget the daunting Forth Rail Bridge abseil!
A massive well done to everyone who got involved in the abseil and a huge thank you to all the Sainsbury’s Quartermile staff that have supported Venture Trust over the past two years. We’re very much looking forward to working with many of you again, as well as any new staff that have started this year... now who fancies losing the abseil rope and skydiving next year?
For more information about how you too can get involved just visit our events page!