Babbasa was formed in 2010 by four young graduates who observed rising levels of youth unemployment, educational underachievement and the rapid decline in youth aspirations in Bristol’s ethnically diverse inner city communities.
The group named the organisation ‘Babbasa’ – a word which represents the idea of ordinary citizens coming together to support members of society in need.
We shared two strong beliefs; that young people’s aspirations and opportunities should not be determined by their background, and that every young person has a unique skill or talent which, if explored and nurtured, can advance humanity in a significant way.
Since 2009, Bristol’s economy has grown faster than any other city in the UK, outside of London. It has a booming tech and creative industry, and boasts a massive population of entrepreneurs.
However, not all of Bristol’s citizens share in the city’s success.
60% of the city’s ethnic minority population live in areas of economic disadvantage and two-thirds of these in Bristol’s most disadvantaged inner-city wards.
The city is also marked as the 7th worst of 348 districts in England & Wales for black and ethnic minority communities to live and thrive, with equality gaps failing to improve since 2001.
Bristol’s ethnic minority employment gap is also over twice the national average (6.4% difference in unemployment rate compared with 2.9%), and those from ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to be employed in low-skilled jobs.
In 2019, we completed our latest research, which engaged 83 young people, 104 local inner-city Bristol residents and 47 employers, and which identified the current employment perceptions, career progression support needs, and the wider interventions needed to close Bristol’s employment equality gaps.
We found that young people in Bristol’s ethnically diverse and low-income communities have high levels of ambition, with 60% knowing what career they wanted to pursue. However, only 19% of young people knew what they needed to do to achieve their professional aspirations.
We start from the premise that every young person is unique, with their own capabilities and potential for growth.
Through three core programmes – Support, Challenge, and Placement Programmes – we bring together a mix of soft skills training, mentoring schemes, career- oriented events and personalised recruitment support.
These create a pathway for young people – working at their own pace – to build confidence, develop skills, connect with employers and mentors, and access workplace experience. Our approach is different from standard employability programmes because we:
- Recognise young people’s unique experiences of culture, family, community and sometimes trauma, to understand their challenges and work with community organisations, volunteers and statutory agencies to offer personalised support
- Engage and enable young people using ‘learn by doing’ methods rather than more traditional classroom-based teaching approaches that have often failed to engage young people from ethnic minority and low socio-economic background
- Build strength-based personal development plans, and encourage creativity, self-belief and limitless ambition
- Recruit staff and mentors who are representative of their background, who act as role-models and understand language and cultural references that resonate with young people and succeed in engaging them on an intellectual and emotional level
- Partner and work with local employers to create real opportunities and conditions for young people to access work opportunities (examples include Kinneir Dufort, Burges Salmon, LettUs Grow, Plimsol Productions, Bristol 24/7, and UWE)
Today, Babbasa is a well established, multi-award winning youth organisation.
We have developed a collaborative network of over 500 cross-sector organisations, and our unique programmes have supported over 2,500 young people, from 67 different cultural groups, to successfully advance their professional ambitions.
We also work closely with 124 professional mentors, who are paired with aspiring young professionals, based on their interests and professions and given the opportunity to help young people develop their skills and their networks.
In 2019, we established the Babbasa Hub – a community hub in St Pauls, which gives young people a third space, outside of the home and school, to grow, learn and receive professional support.
In 2020, we were awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Promoting Opportunity (through social mobility) for our dedication to bringing equal opportunity to Bristol.
We’re therefore grateful to our supporters, and proud of the inspirational young people who have taken action to overcome adversity and pursue their ambition. We invite you to read and share their stories – and support our Bristol youth to realise their potential.