The financial model of YouthLab rests on 2 pillars.
- The youth are at all times paid for their contribution – there is no question about it. If the YouthLabis requested to deliver training and decides to accept the assignment, but the interested organization does not have funds , the YouthLab host should reimburse the youth from its own pocket. The exact amount will depend on the host organization and you might want to consider the local costs of living, national and taxing legislation, etc. In some cases, the youth might feel that being paid makes their engagement feel less sincere – in this case, you can encourage them to donate the money instead of not accepting the payment. The payment is not only a way to encourage youth’s participation, but mainly to demonstrate that their contribution is valuable and can make a positive impact.
- YouthLab raises money just like a consultancy bureau would: by ‘selling’ consultancy services and training courses. The ‘ clients’ of YouthLab services are aware that they are paying for a ‘social enterprise’: the revenue covers the expenses and payment for the trainers (youngsters), the YouthLab organization as well as the leadership course to prepare the experience experts. When the YouthLab starts out, it will often be the case that its revenue will not be enough to cover expenses. In the Netherlands, for instance, it often required supplementation with contributions from equity funds.
Tailored agreements with partners
The term ‘consultancy bureau’ works for the youth—it gives them a sense of pride—but it is also misleading. In the end, YouthLab tries to create ‘tailored’ agreements with partners regarding coverage of expenses. For example, in The Netherlands there are separate price agreements with the Public Prosecution Service: one half-day training session ‘costs’ 1000 euros. With the Ministry of Security and Justice we charge the same fee, but we also charge extra personnel costs. Thus, YiP charges both partners the market rate, corresponding with the regular costs of hiring external contractors. The partners are aware that they are supporting the financial model of a social enterprise.
However a new YouthLab organization can choose not to charge participants for the full service in order to gain practice, finetune their training and build a demand. That has been the case of Defence for Children – Italy. Nevertheless, a small fee was charged upon registration so that professionals feel commitment to the training throughout the sessions.
At the same time, the YouthLab also works together with colleges and universities, which usually have less available funding. Thus, when it is financially feasible to do so, YouthLab will also accept these assignments. After all, the YouthLab does not strive for maximum financial gain, but the maximum number of learning opportunities for the participating youth and the justice/youth care professionals.
Formal starting point of acquisition: for youth, for professionals
In many countries, professionals working in the judiciary and/or (forensic) youth care are required to take classes in order to improve their communication and social skills. Moreover, some occupational groups, such as (juvenile) lawyers, are also required to complete a number of classes linked to ‘training points’. Only when they have achieved sufficient training points can they remain a member of the occupation. Thanks to these requirements, many budgets will have resources set aside for the education and training of justice and/or (forensic) youth care professionals; these are often explicitly labeled as such. In the ideal situation, the YouthLab will come to be seen as a place where one can meet these educational requirements in an interactive, highly insightful and fun way.
Informal starting point of acquisition: searching for connection
More often than not, professionals working in the judiciary and (forensic) youth care participate in the training course not out of requirement, but from a deep seated desire to ‘truly’ connect with youths. This is not a straightforward matter with youth who have been in conflict with the law, for the simple reason that this conflict frames and accompanies nearly all contacts they have. Due to this, many meetings are negatively loaded from the outset, which should be seen as a consequence of the structure framing the relationship between youth and professional.
The YouthLab exists both inside and outside this structure. Outside, because the YouthLab organization ideally operates separately and autonomously from the judiciary. Inside, because its outsider status forms a good basis for partnering up with the judiciary. The blend of insider and outsider status increases the chances of a ‘successful’ interaction with the youth; and this is reflected also in the training and/or consultancy services. Because of this, the training courses are able to fulfill a deeper need for a real and reflective conversation.
A final element of added value: the YouthLab organization takes on the risks
From the very first moment that the YouthLab starts providing training courses, the question will arise:
‘What if a juvenile prosecutor receives training from a youngster, who later will have to appear in court again?’
The odds are very real, because the rate of recidivism among juveniles is often high, and also because ‘old cases’ can follow youths for a long time. It is therefore possible that a youth does not realize that he is part of a criminal investigation, even though a justice professional is aware of this already.
For that reason, it is wise not to assert that YouthLab youths will never re-offend, and to position this risk as a starting point for collaboration. This means that the YouthLab never makes the promise that the participating youths will not re-offend, all the while committing itself at all times to prevent this from happening. Secondly, this also means that the YouthLab will enter appropriate agreements with the partner organization and, if necessary, formulate protocols that enable YouthLab to respond swiftly when a youngster re-offends or falls under suspicion again.
For example, in the Netherlands the following agreements apply: a younster must notify the YouthLab immediately, when he becomes aware that he is the subject of criminal investigation. Subsequently, this individual may not join in or provide training sessions in this period of time, unless agreed upon differently with the partners.
In the Netherlands it has happened that a youth, who provided many training sessions, committed a serious (and media sensitive) offense. The Ministry of Justice swiftly declared the matter as ‘sensitive’—however, the protocols that were agreed upon beforehand were able to disarm the situation very quickly. What proved to be especially important in this matter was that the news reported that ‘a juvenile of the YouthLab umbrella organization’ (in Dutch: Stichting Young in Prison) committed the offense, and not a ‘trainer from the Public Prosecution Service’. In short, the host organization functions as a buffer, insulating the partner organization from these types of risks. This too is an important reason why partners choose to work together with the YouthLab organization.
I get paid to tell my story?
When Joel joined a YouthLab training for the first time, he was very pleased when he received his envelope with his contribution. Out of honesty, he came up to me: “Is this the right amount? My travel expenses were much lower than this.” The trainer explained to him that he will get a contribution for each training, as well as a refund for his travel expenses. He added, your experiences and your time are very valuable to us and many professionals. We can learn from your experiences, and you deserve to get paid for your efforts.