How It Works

“Our long-term aim is to achieve a ‘tipping point’ in one neighbourhood – changing the story for enough young people to become positive influencers, driving change for an entire generation – ultimately creating a model that could be replicated around the UK.”

Louisa Mitchell, West London Zone, CEO

WLZ is a place-based collective impact project, a partnership of organisations which together deliver support to children and young people living in three square miles of inner west London.

The project is inspired by the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), a charitable enterprise supporting 12,000 0-25 year-olds ‘from cradle to college’ in 100 square blocks of central Harlem, New York. We are also inspired by Promise Neighbourhoods, President Obama’s programme to replicate HCZ across America. Promise Neighbourhoods rely on cooperation between public sector, private sector and social sector agencies, pooling budgets and coordinating action around a shared agenda.

WLZ is founded on the belief that the challenges facing children and young people are too numerous and complex for any one agency – including their families – to manage alone. The ‘whole community’ – from schools to public services to charities, neighbourhood groups and private funders – needs to get around the ‘whole child’ i.e. support their full range of needs. Only by working together can we make sure our children and young people grow up safe, healthy and happy. This is what we mean by collective impact.

Theory of Change

WLZ developed its Theory of Change in collaboration with the 40 local delivery organisations who contributed to the design of our model.

This underpins our work by explaining how we see the world we’re working in, what we want to achieve, and how.

  • Problem

    The community of agencies around children and young people is insufficient, ill-fitting, or incoherent; the right support doesn’t reach the right people

  • Activity

    1. Identify children and young people who need extra help by effective data gathering
    2. Support them through personal engagement and coordinated specialist help
    3. Monitor progress and drive improvement with a rigorous measurement system

  • Outputs

    Support that is accurately targeted at the children and young people who need it; sufficient (i.e. enough of it), bespoke (i.e. tailored to the individual) and coherent (i.e. agencies share common values, goals and information)

  • Outcomes

    Children and young people are progressing towards becoming flourishing adults, or avoiding risk factors that could hold them back, according to a set of agreed metrics

  • Impact

    Flourishing adults with a safe, healthy and happy life, and a community where most people have positive experiences of learning, work and family

The Model

WLZ does three things: we identify the right children and young people to work with, we support them to get the help they need, and we monitor their progress and our work.


WLZ conducts an in-depth survey with all children and young people in an anchor (children’s centre, school or employment agency) to identify those at risk of negative outcomes later in life. Our Link Workers then work closely with each child or young person to identify their talents and ambitions – so we focus from the outset on their ‘strengths’ as well as their ‘needs’.

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Each child or young person in WLZ gets a bespoke package of support tailored to their strengths and needs. This support is delivered by our social sector partners i.e. charities with specialist expertise. Link Workers help young people engage as well as possible with this support and liaise between anchor, charities and families.

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WLZ manages a comprehensive database bringing together data provided by anchors, charities and Link Workers. The initial identification survey is repeated on an annual basis, enabling us to track a child or young person’s progress over time. Each charity partner produces regular data on attendance and applies robust evaluation to their work. Each child or young person, and each partner, has a dashboard summarising their progress, so that we can quickly see who is flourishing and what’s working, and who isn’t and what’s not.

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Funding the Work

WLZ has been funded during its design stage by private philanthropy with additional support from the Big Lottery. For the period from September 2016 we are preparing a unique finance model called a Collective Impact Bond. This brings together funding from local authorities, schools and private philanthropists, topped up by central government and Big Lottery money, paying partly up-front and partly on outcomes.

Data System

Data is a central pillar of the West London Zone model, as it is through the collection of accessible, accurate, consistent and protected data that West London Zone’s impact on the lives of young people can be tracked, measured and communicated.

West London Zone makes use of data for a number of operational purposes. In particular, data is collected in order to help track student’s progress towards outcomes. Data is also used to drive evidence-based decision making by management and other stakeholders. Finally, data is used by West London Zone to help deliver new insights to help test, improve, and refine policies and practices.