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Paisley YMCA serves the local communities of Paisley and the rest of Renfrewshire by providing a variety of activities for all ages, though focussing primarily on young people.

Our activities are designed to promote citizenship and develop community spirit by encouraging people to consider their environment in terms of our values – we’re a values-based organisation and we try to lead by example in treating other people the way we’d like to be treated ourselves, and being prepared to help people in need, whoever they may happen to be.

Our aims are to support children, young people and adults to reach their potential by overcoming barriers that would normally exclude them, e.g. age; ill health; disability, financial hardship, racial discrimination and social class. We do this through a range of clubs (mostly youth clubs).

Our clubs enable young people to access STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Maths) and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts anmd Maths) based activities and digital skills development in a safe, supportive, inclusive and fun way. All of our clubs are focused on empowerment, building confidence, developing relationships, learning new skills and peer support. We address barriers which exist for people around math-anxiety, financial and digital literacy issues by creating accessible, engaging and enjoyable opportunities to learn through activity. We support ‘stealth learning’ (it’s not more school, it’s fun, and learning is natural).

Our activities are unique and varied: coding, podcast production, digital media, art, team games, designing games, creating 3d printed objects, t-shirt design and growing food in our smart gardens. We work with young people with additional support needs, young carers, those who are care-experienced, have parents who are in prison, or are experiencing mental ill-health. We also work with young people who struggle to engage with school-based learning.

All of our clubs and sessions are free to attend and open to all.

Many of the young people we support are referred by Social Work, Barnardo’s, CAMHS and other local organisations.  Most just come along…

We exist to support people to develop and thrive as a result of our activities, which means that we involve them in the design, delivery and evaluation of our work.

The young people we work with are involved in all our major decisions. They were involved in setting our strategic priorities in an exercise late 2021, which led to our current three-year strategy. They were involved in initial decisions to recreate our makerspace in the centre of Paisley after a devastating fire in our original premises early 2021 and have been involved in decisions about the technology to be deployed, the physical layout of our space, the programmes we run and the learning which arises from them. Some of this involvement has occurred through invitation to participate in special sessions, like the strategic review process which also included staff, board members and partners. Some involvement is facilitated by youth work staff setting aside time to discuss issues and decisions with young people as they arise.

Fine tuning of our activities to suit collective decisions involving young people occurs naturally because of Paisley YMCA’s adoption of the ‘Dojo’ approach, inspired by the lessons learnt by staff in delivery of Coder Dojo sessions and since adopted generally as part of our approach to supporting young people. A ‘Dojo’ approach is one in which all participants (including staff and volunteers) have equal status and power is shared, where learning is facilitated rather than taught, where all participants are encouraged to support others, passing on knowledge as acquired, and in which the learning undertaken develops organically through the interests of all individuals and groups within the clubs.

This approach makes sure that personal development feels natural and is based on the existing and developing interests and skills of the participants at the time. Paisley YMCA benefits from this approach because the activities undertaken go beyond the limits of existing staff knowledge, supporting staff to learn and develop alongside the young people and supporting young people to gain ownership of their clubs and associated activities.

Much of our work is delivered through digital youth work programmes based at our Makerspace or business incubator online, school based workshops and detached youth work activities focused on STEM/STEAM based learning, enterprise and digital literacy skills, together with issue based work such as mental health, employability and intergenerational projects. 

Paisley YMCA MAkerspace at the High Street in Paisley, featured as part of a series of short videos by YouthLink Scotland
Scottish Charity SC017206