Towards a Basic Package of Support – a year of great milestones

Image: Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash.

The Basic Package of Support for NEET youth (BPS) project, i.e. youth who are not in employment, education or training, is coming to the end of its first year of piloting the programme. This evidence-based intervention has now been implemented across four pilot sites – two as direct implementation models (Atlantis, Western Cape; and Orange Farm, Gauteng) in which the SALDRU-based team works in close collaboration with the Centre for Social Development in Africa at the University of Johannesburg and DG Murray Trust (DGMT) to implement and test the various building blocks of the programme; and two as partner implementation models (Alexandra and Jabulani, both in Gauteng) where the programme is rolled out by Amandla Edufootball in partnership with the BPS consortium.

The Atlantis site remains the flagship pilot site of the BPS project, as it has been the longest running and has been fully operational for 11 months. The team and the young people accessing the BPS service in Atlantis have consistently provided great insight into what works well and what could be improved at their site going forward, and for the other sites.

To date the BPS has enrolled 258 eligible young people into the programmes in Atlantis and Orange Farm, and is working with these participants in various ways. Early evidence indicates that we are indeed reaching young people who face multiple challenges in their transition to learning and earning. We are beginning to understand how much effort goes into walking alongside these young people as they seek to reconnect to services and to learning and earning opportunities. But, while we are continuously reminded of the significant barriers youth face in trying to reconnect, the coaching and community of practice (COP) approaches of the BPS are showing early signs of success.

Qualitative data indicate that young people demonstrate signs of reduced discouragement and improved navigational capacity, as illustrated in the words of the following young people from Atlantis:

“So, I feel that before this programme, I was like lost with what direction to go into […] I was very despondent and thought I was not going to get into university. She showed me that there’s a chance that I can still do what I really want to do. […] Now I am not just at home so much. I am like going out, I am looking for part time jobs and I am busy studying, so yeah […] I know that there is still a chance for things.” (Respondent 2, Atlantis)

 “Before I even knew about BPS, my life was so messed up […]. When I came here, we did an ‘assessing life’ about ‘who am I’. That really helped me. Because I didn’t know who I am. […] I learned that I am creative […]. And I am worth it, although people make me feel like I am not worth it. I have built a lot of confidence. (…) I don’t normally talk to people because you know people talk behind my back and stuff (but) the first time I came here, […] the first time [I met my coach] I felt very comfortable. […] [And] look where it has gotten me! [Before I met BPS] I would be at home, just like in my bed now or I would be helping my mommy [who had an operation on both her arms and cannot take care of herself right now]. [The programme] is actually a thing for me to get up in the morning. It gets me excited. […] We apply at the colleges now [so I have been getting here every day now], we must get it done now.” (Respondent 3, Atlantis).

In addition, the BPS COP approach is showing signs of success in its aim to bring community service providers together to collaboratively problem-solve for young people’s challenges. In Atlantis, some COP members have indicated positive changes in their perceptions and understanding of youth, a growing sense of belonging to a space for collective learning and sharing, and to a trusting space where challenges can be brought to the larger group and resolved together. One member mentioned:

“I can take something out of every meeting. The fact that we have different things going on when we actually do meet. The fact that we can work together. So, if I wanted to know something, I can bring it to the COP. If something is challenging, I can bring it to the COP, and we can brainstorm, and that is important because other stakeholders might sit with other challenges perhaps and they bring it to the COP”. 

More learnings from Atlantis will be released in Learning Briefs early in 2023, reflecting on the value of a COP approach to strengthening service delivery for young people; as well as what it takes to “get young people through the door” and to keep them engaged, in a community beset by mistrust of service provision borne of many years of service delivery failure and neglect.

Earlier this year, the BPS was excited to receive an additional grant from the Innovation Fund to support the overall management, training, monitoring and evaluation, and systems work required to implement the current pilot phase, and to consider what would be needed to roll out the BPS at scale. We remain enormously grateful to UNICEF, DGMT, the Western Cape Government, and the Standard Bank Tutuwa Community Foundation for supporting the various pilot site implementations, as well as to our many partners in the programme. The BPS team also remains part of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, aligns with this policy priority, and contributes to knowledge sharing with the other pilots in the Intervention.

As BPS wraps up the year of successful operations, the team looks forward to opening the final pilot site in KwaZulu-Natal, conducting scoping work to inform the adaptation of the programme for rural areas, and working on models of institutionalisation and scale.