Abianda is a social enterprise that works with gang-affected young women and the professionals that support them. Gang-affected young women are a hidden group in our communities, experience sexual violence and exploitation and can’t always access services for help. We aim to bring about a culture change in the way services are delivered to gang affected young women in order that:
- They are no longer a hidden group in our communities;
- Services can respond in partnership to their complex needs;
- Young women and their children can be safe, and;
- They can make the changes they want in their lives and contribute positively to their communities.
We work to the assumption that GAYW are the experts on their lives and that those people affected by a problem are best placed to find solutions to it.
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Social Impact Statements
The Social Enterprise Mark criteria includes a requirement that the applicant can demonstrate that social and/or environmental objectives are being achieved.
In support of this, new applicants and renewing Mark holders are asked to respond to a set of social impact questions, which are designed to help them think about the social impact they create, and to articulate this clearly and succinctly.
Updated May 2022
1) What social differences and changes have you aimed to create (or supported)?
Our mission is to bring about a culture shift in the way services are delivered to young women affected by gangs and county lines, so that:
- they feel safe to access help
- they are no longer a hidden group in our communities
- they are free from harm and abuse
We were set up specifically to address the challenges young women affected by gangs faced in accessing statutory services. Young women told our founder/CEO that they neither felt safe accessing, nor trusted, statutory services. These young women would therefore deal with adversity, risk and harm within their peer group, rather than reaching out for professional support. As this service provision was not working for gang-affected young women, our founder wanted to create something that did. Abianda now does this through our unique model of practice. We address the barriers that stop young women from seeking help and work alongside them to design and deliver our services. These services and training in turn bring about a culture shift in provision.
2) What actions have you taken to address the above social aims?
Since we were founded in 2014, we have built a breadth of unique insight and expertise into the challenges young women affected by gangs and county lines face. We are embedded in local authorities including Islington, and deliver a pan-London service, and overall work with around 150 young women per year. We are therefore continually informed of the realities of young women’s lives, and have unique insight into the challenges they face including a range of mental health issues, homelessness, isolation, poverty etc.
- The Star Project
This project is a wraparound and advocacy service for young women affected by gangs and county lines.
Services currently available are:
- Islington 10-16-year-olds (co-located with Targeted Youth Support Service)
- Islington 16-24-year-olds (co-located with the Integrated Gangs Team)
- The Star Group Work Project
This service is for young women aged 10-16 years old. The focus of the service is to work preventatively with young women who may be at risk of being affected by gangs and/or county line activity. Young women in group work who are identified as having more acute needs and vulnerabilities can also be referred into the Star Project (10 - 16) for ongoing 1-to-1 support.
- Rescue & Response
Rescue and Response is a pan-London service that supports London young people aged up to 25 who are involved in or affected by county line activity.
The service is delivered in partnership by:
Young women get a dedicated Abianda practitioner who will meet with them weekly (or more if needed). They also get access to all other aspects of the Rescue and Response provision (detailed above) if this is useful for her support and in our efforts to keep her safe.
- Gender Mainstreaming & Consultancy
We upskill local authorities and communities to:
- better identify and consider young women and girls affected by, or at risk of involvement in gangs and county lines;
- critically review and analyse cases and systems in order to support the gender-mainstreaming of provision for young people affected by gangs and county lines;
- increase the capacity of local authorities and partners to better respond to young women and girls affected by, or at risk of involvement in gangs and county lines.
- Work in Schools
Our mission is to bring about a culture shift in the way services are delivered to young women affected by gangs and county lines. We are funded by the Mayor’s Office Young Londoners Fund to deliver works in schools to young female pupils and to staff to bring this culture shift to the classroom.
- Training Modules for Professional Development
Our training is informed by current and former service users, who may facilitate training if they wish, as part of a paid contract with Abianda.
Having young women who have been affected by gangs or county lines influence training content and delivery ensures that professionals from a wide range of sectors and specialisms understand the realities of young women’s lives and experiences. Attendees' knowledge of how to respond to gang-affected young women rose from 2.5 / 5 to 4 / 5 after Abianda training, and 89% of attendees would recommend our training to their colleagues.
We are currently in the process of expanding our training modules to offer professionals a wider range of topics including intersectionality, adultification, dealing with difficult emotions, sexual violence, child sexual exploitation and domestic violence etc. Excitingly, we are also going back to delivering one and two-day training in person!
Our hope is that, by expanding our module options, professionals will further be able to expand their knowledge on the vast obstacles and barriers that young women and girls face when accessing services. Growing this branch of Abianda allows us to create meaningful systems change by integrating young women’s voices and needs into each module. By engaging directly with the professional network these young women may encounter, we can ensure that we are creating the change young women want to see.
We also take part in various public engagement events including regional and national conferences (Westminster Insight, NHS Commissioning Boards, Public Health England etc.). Our Founder and CEO Abi Billinghurst has also acted as peer reviewer for a briefing on safeguarding and exploitation for the prestigious Research in Practice Strategic Briefing series in 2018.
3) What has changed and what benefits have been realised as a result of your actions?
Abianda supports young women affected by gangs and county line activity to develop their knowledge, critical thinking and resilience, and to move towards their best hopes. For all our services we expect to see – and have a strong track record in securing – the following outcomes:
- young women progressing towards their Best Hopes
- young women demonstrating increased knowledge of sexual violence, exploitation and domestic violence in the context of gangs
- young women demonstrating increased knowledge of the risk of violence and exploitation in groups, gangs and county line activity
- young women demonstrating increased knowledge of healthy and unhealthy relationships
- young women demonstrating increased skills to identify and negotiate risk and keep safe
- young women with indicators of increased resilience and self-efficacy
- young women reporting being better connected to services
Through our training, we equip professionals with the knowledge and skills to respond effectively to gang-affected young women. By growing their understanding of the issue, knowledge of services like Abianda, and our unique model of practice, we will enable professionals to work effectively with gang-affected young women and thereby bring about the culture shift in services we want to see.
For our training outcomes, we expect all attendees to have:
- increased awareness of how young women are affected by gangs and county lines
- increased confidence to respond effectively to young women and girls affected by gangs and county lines
- increased skills to respond effectively to young women and girls affected by gangs and county lines
4) How do you and other people know your aims are being achieved? Or how will you know?
For the high-risk, high vulnerability cohort we work with, we are really pleased with our levels of engagement. We have a 73% engagement rate beyond the first two sessions across all referrals, exceptional in the field.
Theory of Change
Over 2020-21 we worked with WSA Community Consultants to develop our Theory of Change, which has a strong focus on participatory practice. One of our key outcomes is that “young women participate in the design and delivery of Abianda programmes and the strategic direction of the organisation.” To support that strategic priority, and strengthen links between young women, our Participation team, and our Board of Directors, we are introducing a new member of our Senior Management team. This Head of Safeguarding and Participation will bring additional academic and practical expertise in participatory practice, and support the development of our participation team’s work. They will also hold Designated Safeguarding Lead responsibilities for Abianda, overseeing the development of a safeguarding framework rooted in contextual safeguarding principles, and participatory principles, so that young women influence the safeguarding processes and services that surround them.
In our services, we work to shift power to the young women. Rather than us setting an action plan, we ask young women what their Best Hopes from our work together are. Young women’s Best Hopes have included:
- “Having freedom and safety”
- “Being a good mother and keeping my child safe”
We ask young women to self-report at each session on a scale of 0–10, where ‘0’ is the worst things have ever been and ‘10’ is when she has got her best hopes. All service users start at 5 or below, and end at 6 or above, with 40% of participants reporting 10. The average increase was 5 points up the scale. The largest increase was 7, for 40% of young women. When looking at women part way through their work with Abianda, all are at 6 or above.
Practitioners explore topics such as sexual violence, healthy/unhealthy relationships, risks for young women affected by gangs. By tallying the answers given to questions, we can evidence significant increases in young women’s knowledge and understanding.
At the start of the programme, on average young women can articulate just 4 examples of sexual violence – by the end of the programme on average they can articulate 8 examples. One young woman could articulate 6 additional examples of sexual violence after exploring this topic with her Abianda practitioner.
On average young women can identify 5 risks for gang-affected young women at the start of the programme, and by the end 10. In terms of what young women affected by gangs can do to keep safe, again we evidence a doubling of average number of answers from 3 to 7.
In terms of indicators of healthy and unhealthy relationships, young women on average at the start of the programme can list 8 indicators, and at the end of the programme 14 indicators. The greatest growth by one young woman was 9 additional indicators of a healthy or unhealthy relationship.
We also use a Bar of Change to assess young women’s resilience and sense of control over their own lives. At the start, middle and end of the programme we ask young women to respond on a scale of 0-10 to statements including “When difficult things happen I find it easy to stay positive”, and “I am able to influence decisions that affect me”. We see significant increases across the board, particularly evidencing young women’s engagement with services.
We are pleased to see that young women feel more able to influence decisions that affect their lives, as this is central to Abianda’s model of practice. In response to the statement “When difficult things happen I find it easy to get back up and keep going”, one young woman reported 1.5 at the start of her work with Abianda, and 9 at the end. In response to the statement “I am able to influence decisions that affect me”, one young woman reported 0 at the start, and 9 at the end.
We share young women’s work with them, so that they have a portfolio to reflect on at the end of The Star Project, or at the end of Train the Trainer. After working with Abianda, one young woman said: “I feel like I am living now…I can breathe.”
90% of training attendees would recommend our training to a colleague. 70% of attendees said they would make changes to their practice after attending Abianda training.
We share training feedback with commissioners after each event.
The below questions are not mandatory, but Mark holders are encouraged to answer them where possible, to provide a fuller account of their social outcomes and the social value they create.
5) How many people have benefitted from your actions?
Over 2018 we intensively supported 50 young women affected by gangs and county line activity across London. We also trained 4 more young women to work with us as Young Trainers.
As of 2022, we have reached over 800 professionals through our training and professional development courses, as well as public engagement events.
We have grown from working in one London borough to all 32 London boroughs. We have seen financial growth of 400% this financial year. The full-time team has also quadrupled in size.
6) What additional social benefits have you been able to deliver within your core services that distinguish you from other “for shareholder profit” providers?
Abianda provides ad-hoc consultation with external organisations on topics including: working with gang-affected young women; growing a participatory business; recruiting professionals to grow diverse income streams for not-for-profits; speaking with other organisations that want to adopt a similar model of practice, including training young women up to take on professional roles within an organisation.
Abianda also delivers regularly at conferences, with experts by experience sharing best practice for professionals working with young women affected by the issues.
Our integrity, and loyalty to our model of practice and values, differentiate us from “for shareholder profit” providers, and we are committed to relinquishing power to those people we support in order that they can influence the growth and trajectory of our organisation.
7) What social and environmental benefits have you created from internal operational policies and actions?
One of our founding principles is to have a growth model that delivers social impact.
For example, as our core functions within the infrastructure of the organisation grow (finance, HR, commercial), this is an opportunity to move young women from service users into a shadowing role where they develop business and professional skills alongside adult professional experts.