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Going the Extra Mile − a GEM of a project

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Co-ordinated by Gloucestershire Gateway Trust and led by Gloucestershire County Council, the GEM Project is a social inclusion programme aimed at moving disadvantaged groups closer to the labour market, training and education. The project gets its name from ‘Going the Extra Mile’ (GEM) and is funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund.

Since its start in 2016, the programme has engaged 1,668 participants, of which 429 have moved into paid employment and 148 moved into education and training.

On-going monitoring and evaluation of the project by the University of Gloucestershire, has revealed a range of positive, and often life-changing outcomes for the vast majority of participants, most notably in improving their personal and motivational attributes and through removing barriers to the provision of advice and support. Prepared by the University’s GEM Monitoring and Evaluation Team, a detailed report of the project’s latest achievements is now available online for all to read.

Whilst GEM is predominately an employability-based programme, the report shows that during 2020 the all-round wellbeing of participants took centre stage. From early April 2020, the project’s focus quickly adapted to support individuals’ mental health and safety; ensuring people had access to basic needs including food and medication, whilst also providing access to resources and relevant support both from an employability and wellbeing perspective.

The GEM Project’s Monitoring and Evaluation team include project leads Paul Courtney (Professor of Social Economy) and Leonie Burton (Client Development Manager).

The wider GEM Monitoring and Evaluation team includes Colin Baker (Senior Research Fellow), Abigail Gardner (Associate Professor of Music and Media), Isabel Fielden (Project Support Officer), and Fahimeh Malekinezhad (Research Assistant). Further project support is provided by Chris Rayfield and Carol Markey of the Countryside and Community Research Institute.

The latest project results, which take into consideration a comprehensive set of data across the last four years, indicate that participants have experienced a 25% improvement in resilience and self-esteem and a 17% improvement in physical and mental health. Furthermore, participants who recorded a mental health condition when registering for the GEM Project, experienced above average improvements to their physical and mental health; clearly evidencing that since GEM began, the programme has had the greatest impact on those who have needed it most.

The results would not have been possible without the partnership organisations and GEM’s team of Navigator Developers supporting individuals and providing opportunities to keep them engaged, learning and connected to one another during this significantly challenging year.

Leonie Burton, GEM Project Lead, University of Gloucestershire said:
“The GEM project has influenced Gloucestershire’s vision, and realised the employment and learning ambitions of hundreds of vulnerable people. Since COVID-19 arrived in the UK, wellbeing has been at the forefront of most people’s minds. Within the project, each person played their part in making sure that GEM continued to support individuals, keeping them well and helping prevent social isolation. The team introduced new ways of working and discovered just how adaptable and resilient the GEM workforce and partnerships are.”

The GEM Project provided a significant lifeline to many during an incredibly difficult year, providing a vital role in supporting the welfare of vulnerable people. Originally due to end in December 2019, the project has received additional funding for two further years.

The GEM Interim Monitoring and Evaluation report can be downloaded here.