A youth mutual exchange


Youth First, Lewisham’s fledgling employee and young people-owned mutual delivering provision for local young people, sets a new direction for the borough’s youth provision as a new social enterprise that aims to support and improve young people’s lives. We interview Paulette Watson, the newly appointed CYP Forum non-executive director of its Board.



What first attracted you to the role?

I was intrigued by the setup of Youth First (YF), as the UK’s first young people and staff owned social enterprise giving young people in Lewisham the chance to have a voice and be involved in the design, delivery and quality of youth provision at every level.  

I also saw it as a unique opportunity to represent the voluntary sector by listening to, sharing and delivering the changes that young people need.   In particular, the aims of YF seemed to fit well with my commitment and passion for implementing equality and diversity legislation in a way that puts the needs of young people first.


What will the role involve?

One of the key responsibilities of the role will be maintaining a strategic overview of the current challenges for young people within the borough.

Another important part of the role will be communicating VCSE insights as a ‘critical friend’ when looking at the objectives and plans devised by the Board. 

Liaising with the sector and including their voice in the decision making process when reviewing and evaluating the procedures and practices of Youth First, will be another focus.


What is your background, and what skills and experience do you think you bring to the role?

I have lived with my child in Lewisham for over 23 years, which gives me direct experience of the challenges for children and young people in the borough.

My educational background provides me with the theory that underpins my expertise and includes a degree in Social Policy, PGCE and MA in ICT and MBA in international schools leadership.  My teaching experience will also come in useful as it spans inner city, grammar, boarding and voluntary aided secondary schools.  I also have experience of a range of voluntary strategic board level roles, including being the treasurer for EqualiTeam and a school governor.

I think the fact that I’m a team player is one of the most important strengths that I can bring to the role. When YF was being conceived I was able to understand how HeadStart and CAMHS could work collaboratively with the proposed new mutual and communicated this at the CYP Forum. 


What do you think will be the main challenge in 2017 for Youth First?

If Brexit triggers a recession, young people are more likely to suffer from reduced job prospects, poverty and poor education. We need to invest to help our young people overcome the inequalities that they face, and prepare them for a fulfilling future.  I personally think that the game-changer here is the strong link between staff, young people and the organisation. It’s the key feature of YF that has the potential to ensure its continual improvement and sustainability of Lewisham’s youth provision.


How do you see your role in linking the VCS and the mutual?

This role excites me because I love the idea of helping to shape the organisation.  I plan to do this by connecting YF with VCS people and organisations and acting as an ambassador by developing a strong and positive profile for YF. By standing on the shoulders of the voluntary sector, I believe that we will make big strides in dealing with burning injustices that have an impact on our young people in Lewisham.


Get in touch

Paulette will be giving regular updates on developments with Youth First and opportunities for organisations to engage with the mutual. If you have any questions please contact her on info@academyachievers.co.uk