Writing applications to Youth Music is quite an undertaking, and I do often feel like I look like this puzzled baby. However, once I have got into gear, I do actually quite enjoy the process.
It's a chance to reflect on the work I have done over the last year, and get my teeth into something new.
I am in the process of co-writing an application to Youth Music to do some work in a school in Gateshead. I have been reading over all of the guidance notes before I start, and have reminded myself that it is never a good idea to just launch straight in with writing.
Why do the children in this school need this project? That is surely the central purpose of the project and application process. You must identify the need for your potential project before you do anything else. It is no good just deciding that it's a good idea to set up a rock band in a youth club, until you have genuinely consulted those who run the youth club and the young people who use it. It sounds really obvious doesn't it, but it is easy to overlook just how important it is to prove and provide evidence for the need for the music project. Many applications fall down because they haven't properly demonstrated the need for the funded project.
For the application I am writing, this potential project is needed because the children in this school are coming into school year after year unable to speak properly. It is a trend that is really worrying the head teacher and early years team lead. They approached me as the early years team leader's daughter is taking part in More Tuneful Tots, the project I lead on in North Tyneside. She told me that her daughter (age 2) is gaining so much from this music project, she started to think this is 'just the thing we need' for the children she teaches in Gateshead. The existing project is focussed on music as a tool to support early communication. So the children need this project because they are starting school unable to speak clearly and be understood. We are going to use music to support and develop the children's communication skills, with the aim of improving their speech.
So, how can we develop and deliver music activities which meet the children's needs? The first thing we need to do is decide what our aim is.
The outcomes approach
Youth Music call themselves an 'outcomes funder' so you really need to make sure you understand this stuff before you start to write about it.
I often start with the outcomes guide, before I even write anything. This got me thinking and I had a go at a little outcomes triangle.
(Click on the image to see the full-sized version)
I wondered whether I have got this about right or am I way off the mark here? Have you ever tried using this approach to plan a project? Did it help you to shape the work?
Take your time
Use all of the supporting information and documents on the Youth Music network to support your application writing.
Decide with your delivery partners what you plan to do and how you plan to use music to meet the aim and outcomes for your project.
Map out your ideal project together, staying focused at all times on how you are meeting you aim and outcomes through the project activity. You may have to refine this, but start off with what the children need, and the ideal musical activity to meet this need.
Find appropriate delivery partners and get letters of support from them. Who is going to deliver the musical activity? How do you know they are good enough?
Look for as many ways as possible to disseminate effective practice with other professionals to leave a lasting legacy.
Try to start to work on a budget as soon as you have a clear idea of a project shape, and the deliverable activities. Work out how much match funding is required and set about sourcing it as soon as possible. You will have to prove you have this at stage two of the application process.
Once you know your project plan, budget, aims and outcomes, then you can...
It helps to write the sections of the stage one (or two) application in word rather than online. This avoids any crashes losing you hours of work, and makes it easier to work collaboratively with others on it.
Get help! Do not try to write one of these beasts on your own, especially if this is your first time writing one.
Yes, Youth Music have simplified the process by going to a two stage application process, but this is still a big job which requires some time to do well.
If you are working in partnership with other organisations and people, part of partnership working is sharing the workload. If you want a funded project to happen, a few people need to get their heads together and write a good application. Get other people to proof read for you. Show it to people who know nothing about it, and check it makes sense.
Try to have it ready a week before the deadline. That's March 20th for the March 27th deadline this round. This gives you breathing space and time to re-read this a few days before you submit it. Give yourself some head space away from it, so that you can do your final read throughs with a clear head. This is far better than typing with fingers on fire right up to the 5 pm deadline (from experience!)
Once it's gone it's gone.
Go get a huge G & T or go for some exercise. It's a painful wait til you get the news but you have to try to let it go and forget about it. This, in my experience, is always the worst bit of any application process, and I would welcome any other top tips about how to do the waiting bit without tearing your hair out!
I hope my little rambling blog post might help someone out there get started and stay focused through their stage one funding application. The first time I wrote one, I had a lot of supportive friends and colleagues helping me, and without their help I never would have submitted one, two, three, and this one now four Youth Music applications.
I hope others will add their top tips in comments below, as I am just one person, and am also just getting stared on an application, so if you are further down the line with yours, what are your top tips?