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Story: Mixed Grant & Loan

The Highlife Centre

Fund: Flexible Finance
Type: Mixed Grant & Loan
Location: Coventry
Date: February 2024

Key achievements:

  • Recruited full-time operational staff and maximised their business offering.

The Highlife Centre used the Recovery Loan Fund (RLF) with Flexible Finance to recruit full-time operational staff and maximise their business offering.

The Highlife Centre, based in a deprived and multi-cultural part of Coventry, wants every young person to become confident and productive in their communities so that they can have a sense of purpose, access resources and skills that could turn their aspirations into reality, and make positive changes in their lives to aspire and achieve their full potential.

Investing in tomorrow’s entrepreneurs

The Highlife Centre was set up 13 years ago by CEO Christabell Amoakoh, who had a vision of creating a welcoming environment that removes life-improving barriers for people from disadvantaged and minoritized groups to improve their productivity and self-worth.

The Centre’s Youth Programme supports young people from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. And their approach to working with young people is all about giving them the best opportunities to thrive. They believe in empowering young people to develop leadership skills, helping them to articulate their voices across various media, create a sea-change of youth leadership, social activism, and entrepreneurship, to become role models and an inspiration to the younger generation.

A secure future

But The Highlife Centre’s current building is in a terrible state; the roof is leaking; it is damp and hard to heat. The condition of the building is so bad that it’s preventing young people from using space. It is damp, so not a good environment to anyone with a health condition such as asthma. The building is not completely accessible, and the current entrance is isolated and not very welcoming. Although they have tried to fix some of the problems with small pots of funding, it needs a major transformation. Now a grant from the Youth Investment Fund, plus a blended finance package from Social Investment Business, will give the Highlife Centre “peace of mind” and means they can expand their centre and youth offer and give the space a secure future.

Giving new opportunities to more young people

The grant will pay for a major capital refurbishment and expansion, including a new roof, insulation, and everything it needs to make the building accessible, sustainable and energy efficient. The centre will also be big enough to introduce new activities and double the number of young people it supports, while tripling the weekly activities on offer, and it also means that they can open seven days a week. The Highlife Centre will be able to expand its in-house Beauty Salon, a space that the community can use to run their mobile hair and beauty services and share their experiences and learning with young people too. Highlife’s Café space will benefit too. The Café will provide a safe evening space where young people can talk about any issue, especially things they can’t discuss at home.

Empowering young people

Every young person coming to the Highlife Centre is empowered, and given life-changing opportunities to build confidence, develop leadership skills and gain skills to further their career opportunities. Older young people are supported to become “Executives” who then go on to work with younger people through peer-to-peer training the trainer activities. Young Executives also gain paid work experiences within Highlife Centre. In keeping with this ethos, young people informed the Youth Investment Fund grant application, coming up with new ideas and new activities for their revamped youth centre.

Maximising their potential

Whilst the Youth Investment Fund has paved the way for a new capital project, Flexible Finance, and a Recovery Loan from Social Investment Business, will completely transform The Highlife Centre’s business offer.

The additional support will enable The Highlife Centre to build its long-term financial resilience and growth and maximise its potential. The blended finance package will pay for more operational staff and means the centre is not so reliant on volunteers. The newly funded posts will manage marketing, administration, and day to day operational tasks, which means that CEO Christabell Amoakoh will have much more time to focus on strategy, HR, and financial management. It will create time and resource for future-proofing the Highlife Centre and their ability to explore new business opportunities, and more capacity to drive growth.

The Youth Investment Fund, together with the Flexible Finance pack, is giving the Highlife Centre much more than just peace of mind. It means that there are no limits to what we can achieve for our community. The funding is helping us to be more resilient, sustainable, and much more agile, enabling us to take advantage of new opportunities and more able to respond to challenges. In the long term it will enable us to diversify our funding model, grow more capacity to try new things and respond to every new opportunity that comes our way. “

Christabell Amoakoh
CEO for the Highlife Centre

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