The Bytes Project - working in collaboration with Tides Training

Laura Couser, Chief Executive, Bytes Project and Mary Montague, Chief Executive, Tides Training

This case study examines how collaboration grew from a simple enquiry to address staff training needs. A shared ethos and strong relationship between CEOs resulted in innovative training for staff and service users and new business opportunities.

Organisational details

Set up in June 1993, The Bytes Project is an initiative that offers free, unlimited access to information technology in a non-pressurised environment to young people aged 16 to 25.   These young people will have left full time education, are not participating in further education, training or employment and are felt to be at risk in the community. There are six centres in Greater Belfast, Short Strand Community Centre, Tullycarnet Resource Centre, Sally Gardens Community Centre in Poleglass, Townsend Outreach Centre in Shankill, Rathcoole Youth Club, Strand Foyer in Derry and Belfast Foyer with additional outreach centres in Coleraine, Lisburn, Lurgan and Bangor. The project now attracts funding from a variety of sources, including the Department of Education (DE) and the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL), and exists as an independent company limited by guarantee, with charitable status.

The collaboration project

The Bytes Project and Tides Training have worked together for over four years. The working relationship between the two organisations began when the chief executive of The Bytes Project contacted the chief executive of Tides Training as a result of identifying a staff training need.

“The young people we work with would be involved in conflict issues in interface areas or their own communities and they have very challenging behaviour. We needed training to deal with conflict resolution and Tides Training has expertise in this area.”
Laura Couser, Chief Executive,
Bytes Project

A member of staff at The Bytes Project had attended a training programme facilitated by Tides Training and brought back information on available training. The chief executive of The Bytes Project reviewed the training list and felt that some of it was relevant to their training needs but that the training needed to be more practical in nature. She met with the chief executive of Tides Training to discuss the possibility of altering the mediation training programme they offered so that it would give staff the skills to mediate conversations with young people.

Process

The two chief executives met several times to discuss the vision of the programme and to design the training package. Initially the chief executive of The Bytes Project envisaged a short training programme but what was developed was a series of training building blocks for both staff and some service user representatives in developing mediation skills suitable for people with different abilities and a train the trainers programme. Both chief executives ensured that their shared ethos was core when developing this training. Each organisation had expertise in different areas and worked together to include their expertise in the design of the training. To ensure that the training was appropriate Bytes staff undertook the training first and altered it to suit the needs of their services users. Once staff undertook the training they worked in pairs to develop new material which they rolled out to service users.

“We never offer young people training that staff has not undertaken. Staff undertook it first and then worked in pairs to develop new material.”
Laura Couser, Chief Executive,
Bytes Project

Through the process of designing and evaluating the training both organisations recognised that they had started a partnership and created a new relationship.

“Through this partnership we had developed new material. There was commonality in that we both want to do our upmost to help these young people.”
Laura Couser, Chief Executive,
Bytes Project

One of the advantages of the partnership for Tides Training was that previously they had never worked with young people, so it was a learning experience for the staff. Young people previously had not been a priority for the organisation but through the partnership it became one of its strategic priorities. Another advantage for both organisations was that on occasion they have shared staff.

“If we have a particular community relations need in a community we would support the other organisation with each other’s staff team.”
Laura Couser, Chief Executive,
Bytes Project

In addition they have put in joint funding applications and have had some success with regards to mediation and conflict projects.

What went well?

The success of this partnership can be seen by its duration and the development of it outside the creation of a training programme. Both chief executives monitored and evaluated the partnership and have found new ways of working together to the benefit of both organisations.

“Both organisations feel strongly about providing appropriate intervention and providing engaging opportunities to prevent anti-social behaviour which often acts as a gateway to a criminal record and subsequent barrier to employment.”
Mary Montague, Chief Executive,
Tides Training

“This partnership is continuing today, that shows how successful it is.”
Laura Couser, Chief Executive,
Bytes Project

Advice

Laura Couser believes that both organisations are clear about what can and should be achieved by the partnership and that the best interests of service users are vital. The chief executive of The Bytes Project believes that there is honesty to the relationship which has been vital in establishing and maintaining it.

“There is an honestly between us. We are very clear about what works and what doesn’t. There is an understanding that works well for us.”
Laura Couser, Chief Executive, Bytes Project

Every effort is made to ensure that the contents of this document are accurate, but the advice given should not be relied on as a definitive legal statement.

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