As a small charity we rely upon donations from generous individuals, trusts and companies to support our work with children and young people across London.
Innovate – Fresh thinking for everyone
An article written by Nicky Dewar, Programme Manager at Sound Connections.
Having returned from observing one of our current Innovate projects I’ve been thinking about how important the programme is to Sound Connections’ work.
Last Wednesday I spent two hours in small community space in an outer London borough, observing and talking to the lead musician, her volunteers and assistants and the different project participants. Although our diaries are busy, seeing a project in action is fundamental. However well written and enthusiastically described the proposed activity is, it can’t let you see the faces of those taking part at the moment of sheer joy at joining in or achieving something new. During my visit I saw some great interactions between musicians and children, I heard what the session meant to participants and I saw useful examples of good project administration. I am now able to share my reflections and recommendations with the leader that will help her explore next steps for the project and how she might develop her own skills.
A strategic response
In this way, the Innovate programme encapsulates many of our key responsibilities – the aims for our organisation’s role within the music education sector – providing financial support, practical guidance, forging new connections, and advocacy. In doing so Innovate provides the potential for a project to be more impactful in wide-ranging ways.
Since the programme’s conception in 2007 we were clear that the opportunity needed to support individuals as such a large percentage of our community are freelancers or those making a living though a portfolio of employment activities. We also knew that small or new organisations saw Innovate as an opportunity to gain experience and recognition in a competitive field. And more recently we have established, larger organisations engaging with Innovate as a way to test radical approaches they hope to add to their offer.
“We value enormously the opportunity gained through the Innovation programme.”
Adele Drake, Liquid Vibrations
These motives provide Innovate with a clear strategic relevance. The music making opportunities we offer to our children and young people need to be reflective, both to understand what works and, more importantly, consider why things don’t work. We need to share that in an open and honest way and in doing so can build a quality experience that has the power to make a real difference. How else can practice respond to a changing landscape of need, technology and policy?
“As a result of this project we have good evidence of what benefits this sector derive from musical activity. We have a clearer understanding of what is wanted and the best ways to facilitate it.”
Melanie Jones, Family Fantasia
Strengthening the sector
Innovate is currently embedded into our work funded through our Youth Music Fund C grant. This has enabled us to offer three rounds of Innovate projects between 2015 and 2018. The number of projects and amount of funding is small. But that larger offer of support adds incalculable value. The benefit of working with a few projects each year allows us, specifically the Programme Managers at Sound Connections, to develop a close working relationship with each individual or organisation. From the launch of application to the final reporting could span a period of 20 months. This length of time allows us to get to know the leaders, their aspirations and needs. By using a combination of mentoring and coaching we can offer as much or little bespoke support as is required. It becomes clear which areas may benefit from further development and how we can offer guidance to strengthen activity or the individuals themselves.
“It’s amazing that Sound Connections offer this programme. It is so useful. I feel so supported.”
The large majority of Innovate projects find the experience hugely beneficial and for many it can often be the start of an ongoing relationship with Sound Connections that continues to offer numerous advantages.
The future for Innovate
Beyond 2017 we will need to raise further funds to continue the Innovate Programme. As we collect success stories we can demonstrate that our role as critical friend has been crucial. We hope to strengthen our evidence base to secure greater funding from funders who themselves see the benefit of taking a risk and experiment with innovation.
We want Innovate to remain a key part of our offer and to continue to allow those wild-card ideas to be thoroughly explored and new approaches meeting the needs of our young people.
Music Excellence London: Webinar - 'A practical guide to composing and arranging music for the KS3 classroom and school ensemble'
Thursday 27 April 2017
4.30pm - 5.30pm
Music Excellence London: TeachMeet - 'Building a department from the bottom-up: a musical vision'
Thursday 4 May 2017
5.00pm - 7.00pm
Samba Drumming and Body Percussion
Wednesday 24 May 2017
2.00pm - 5.00pm
What’s That Noise? - Encouraging child-initiated musicality with John Webb
Wednesday 21 June 2017
9.15am - 3.30pm
- Did you see the @SConnections newsletter this week? Exciting #Innovate2017 + workshop announcements. Read it here: https://t.co/JqrOJ77mAm,
- Experience hands on child-initiated music making with John Webb @KintorewayNS on 21 June #LEYMN #earlyyears… https://t.co/z1dLeVpoIZ,
- Next @MusicExLondon TeachMeet, May 4 'Building a dept from the bottom up: A musical vision' thanks @listermusicdept… https://t.co/66RHCEPzrn,
- Uniqueness of three orgs coming together on one project. @Seriouslive @lsostlukes Discovery and @hackneymusic Shari… https://t.co/Vo3riyQGEC,
- Chris Mackin from Ickburgh School - working w @hmdtmusic @lsostlukes @hackneymusic - just finished project for… https://t.co/amvFPJi8e5,
- "Take the risk to put young people in driving seat - they will always surprise you & create brilliant projects" #YouthVoice @hackneymusic,
- Great #YouthVoice presentation from Kenia, Takiyah, Caitlin @hackneymusic #YouthMusicForum. Young people must have… https://t.co/Qwc4oUbV0r,
- "Collaboration is vital defence to reduction of our provision as music educators. Think about schools,… https://t.co/s71tsbVMum,
- Great to be at this @hackneymusic event this evening. A brilliant network doing fantastic partnership work with sch… https://t.co/oGEqGvW3Eb,
- MT @sfhannan Gr8 to hear from a music coord @hackneymusic event that theirHT sees music key to curriculum & focus not just on maths/literacy,