Formed in 1956, Tall Ships Youth Trust (TSYT) is the UK’s oldest and largest youth development sail-training charity. With a particular focus on helping the most disadvantaged in our society, its mission is to enable young people, aged 12-25 years, to fulfil their life potential through experiences at sea and by breaking down the barriers they face in society.
In November 2021, the CEO of TSYT, Alastair Floyd, came to Cranfield Trust seeking support to help him and his board create a new Strategic Plan for the charity. The previous five-year plan had been developed in 2018 and, with activities resuming post-Covid, plus a largely new team in place (Alastair had only just joined the charity, as had several new Trustees), it was the right time to take a fresh look at the organisation’s aims and opportunities.
They were particularly keen to re-define a set of strategic objectives which would support the charity’s manifesto in its broadest sense:
“We are not a sailing charity. We're a young people’s charity with tall ships. We're about giving the next generation skills that set them up for life.”
Cranfield Trust Regional Manager, Sue Elder, was able to match Alastair with Cranfield Trust volunteer consultant, Robert Robson. Robert’s background made him the perfect match for Tall Ships Youth Trust: following an early career in the Royal Navy, he held several senior roles in commercial banking, then made the switch into the third sector, and as the first CEO, led the Royal Navy and Royal Marines charity for ten years, through its formation and development as a national charity. He has also served on the Boards of many other charities in a range of different fields.
Robert facilitated a series of working sessions with the Board and Senior Leadership team of TSYT over a period of nine months, helping them to explore more innovative ways to deliver their programmes of support for young people, to extend their reach, and to look at possibilities for collaboration with other organisations in order to achieve their aims.
The new strategy was adopted by the Board of Trustees in October 2022. Alastair said:
“We’ve set out a challenging strategy which will significantly increase the value of our charity to the team, donors, and beneficiaries. It is fundamentally different in two key respects: firstly, instead of single voyage interventions, we will be developing three-voyage programmes for young people, centred around exploration, empowerment and leadership which will offer a more sustained and deeper level of support; and secondly, from 2023, we will actively be building collaborations and networks which will help us extend our reach and gain a presence in areas of high deprivation across the UK.
Alastair continued on to explain how working with Robert had been:
“Working with Robert has been fantastic. He brought a level of focus, experience, and knowledge to the process of developing our strategy which instilled confidence from the outset. He has also been instrumental in helping us as a team to adopt a growth mindset. We now have a clear sense of our real purpose and the relationships, skills and capabilities we will need as we move forward.”
The new strategy for Tall Ships Youth Trust has the potential to deliver far-reaching positive impacts for young people and society as a whole. Alastair explained:
“Our new strategy, when delivered effectively, will support young people’s outcomes through a more sustainable and impactful journey over multiple years. Supporting them into adulthood and potentially, employment in the maritime sector and blue economy.
“We have already secured six figure funding to fund the new young person's journey over three years from an existing funder (an increase from £20k to £300k value). While it is difficult to quantify exact value at this stage, initial indications are that there is significantly more interest in funding a three year journey for young people that is more impactful. Potentially, it could reduce the downstream cost of social, health and justice care for young people if we can put them on a different path in life.”
Alastair summed up his Cranfield Trust experience:
“Our volunteer consultant was engaging, an effective listener and understood the nuances of working with trustees, leaders and the team. His knowledge, expertise and approach ensured an incredibly successful journey for us in developing our new strategy to change the lives of young people in the UK for the long-term.”
Robert said of his volunteering experience:
“Cranfield Trust take the time to know the client and match the volunteer to the need. It's impressive how it works. I found the project very interesting and thoroughly enjoyed working with Tall Ships Youth Trust. It is an excellent cause, with a really impressive CEO, a good team and an exciting but doable vision.”