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What Can We Learn From the Closure of Kids Company?


By James Mills, Associate Partner, Lighthouse International 

Recently we have seen the closure of Kids Company, a charity serving some of the most vulnerable and at-risk young people in society. The organisation has been running for almost 20 years, served thousands of young people, won the hearts of highly influential figures and raised millions over the years for its work - so what can the fall of Kids Company teach us?

The Challenge of Balancing the Short and Long Term

Kids Company was working right at the coalface supporting some of the UK’s most vulnerable young people. On a daily basis their services would have been under constant pressure to meet the demands of young people, as well as source the required resources to keep the organisation going. The constant challenge of addressing a continual stream of crises and emergencies, whilst ensuring that longer term financial and material needs are met, doesn’t just apply to Kids Company but to organisations of any size.

The Importance of Developing Leaders Throughout the Organisation

A big driving force in the establishment and growth of Kids Company was its charismatic founder and CEO Camilla Batmanghelidjh. It seems, however, with the pressures of balancing demands from all sides, that she didn’t have enough people throughout the organisation with similar levels of resourcefulness and initiative who could support her to ensure Kids Company could survive absolutely any challenge. It’s a difficulty many many organisations face and one that Jack Welch had to go to great lengths to change during his tenure at GE.

The Strength of the Network is Key

It was because of the relationships built that Kids Company grew to the size and stature it achieved. Camilla was very successful in fundraising over the years - through her networking abilities she secured more than £150 million for kids from government, as well as individual celebrities and philanthropists. However, when embarking on any initiative or building any organisation, it’s vital that the network around you is strong enough to ensure you can come through the toughest of times. Sadly it seems the lack of central funding and allegations against staff, as well as the increasing demands upon Kids Company’s services over the last few years, may have led to that breaking point.

It’s crucial that organisations of the future, particularly ones working in such a challenging area as with our children, have the right foundations, resources and people in place from the start. It’s one of the reasons why we structured our sister organisation Lighthouse Kidz as a self-sustaining Community Interest Company so we can help kids to get the best upbringing possible while also developing adults to a level where they have more wealth and influence to invest in those young people. We wish the staff, the trustees and most importantly the young people helped by Kids Company well for the future.  

How do you feel about the fall of Kids Company?

What do you feel we need to do to ensure all young people get the best possible upbringing?

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 Image courtesy of Anthony kelly@ Flickr