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An interview with James Clements Smith, Managing Director - Prevista

"I first met Neil about 2 and a half years ago, through a contact who suggested we look at working together. We began our first conversation looking at Grit (or Youth at Risk as it was back then) getting involved directly in the work we do. We soon came to the conclusion that Grit would be better placed to work with our staff team, supporting them and increasing capacity in our delivery of young people’s programmes.

I quickly organised a workshop for my whole staff team, closing the business for 3 days to ensure every staff member could participate. Mark Charley came over from Florida to deliver the workshop and took us through a process which opened up spaces we hadn’t really explored before as a business.

The way the workshop was delivered challenged the way we were working and importantly, challenged our perceptions of young people. Mark helped us to look at young people in a more positive light, instead of negative stereotypical characteristics, looking at the things they are not doing or achieving.

I organised a similar workshop for Prevista’s supply chain as I thought it’d be helpful for them to be aligned with the new ways we were approaching our provision and the work with young people. I’ll be honest, I was worried no-one would turn up. We’d paid for it and wanted to invest in the supply chain but it was a risk.

I was very pleased to see every person turn up to the workshop and they reported good benefits from participating. From Prevista’s point of view, we saw positive changes in the way the supply chain worked with us and with young people. We particularly noticed increased performance of approx. 25% in all programmes targeting young people which increased our profit by about 8% that year.

The next step was that I began looking with Neil at how to put together a programme to directly impact young people, out of which we came up with the Youth Congress London community programme. I was quite sceptical in the beginning but I believe it’s been really positive for the young people involved. There have been a lot of lessons learned but also some excellent outcomes.

We’re now looking to the next community programme, with more focus on East London, working with more young people and a wider stakeholder group. I feel we have a clearer mission this time.

From a personal perspective, I have found the relationship with Grit really positive. The work has allowed me to do things in a completely different way to how I had been doing them. I’m looking through a different lens now in the way I approach things."