6VT opened 18 years ago to provide a safe social space for people aged 15 and over in Edinburgh. It now provides a drop-in service which is open three nights a week, providing a range of personal development support, educational workshops, advice and information. Over the years, 6VT’s areas of expertise have grown and it now also provides housing services and an integrated community support service for young people facing the prospect of foster care, residential care or being housed in a secure unit.

6VT opened 18 years ago to provide a safe social space for people aged 15 and over in Edinburgh. It now provides a drop-in service which is open three nights a week, providing a range of personal development support, educational workshops, advice and information. Over the years, 6VT’s areas of expertise have grown and it now also provides housing services and an integrated community support service for young people facing the prospect of foster care, residential care or being housed in a secure unit.

6VT aims to give vulnerable young people a high-quality, holistic service where they can be safe, grow and develop. There are more than 500 regular café users, one of them is Andy, 16 (not his real name) who has been a regular at 6VT for the last four years: “My parents died when I was 12 and me and my big brother started going to 6VT drop-in because we were really unhappy. 6VT staff are like my family now, they are there to listen and help as well as have good times together. If I had not been coming to 6VT I would probably have just got into trouble and been hanging about the streets drinking. I am going to be a youth worker when I’m older.”

Chief Executive, Dot Horne was one of the founders of 6VT and still finds her work motivating: “It is exciting because there are a lot of challenges and there isn’t a single day that repeats itself.”

The café has grown rapidly over the last five years and now has an annual turnover of £400,000. Dot approached Pilotlight for assistance with financial management: “Our growth means we are competing for the same funding pots as the more ‘professional’ charities that have big ad campaigns. At the same time, we are excluded from the smaller funding pots because our turnover is too high to apply. So we’ve found ourselves stuck in the middle and having to decide which way to go: do we keep growing or slow down?”

Rather than applying for any funding that was available, the Pilotlight process encouraged Dot’s team to look at where they wanted to go as an organisation.

“The Pilotlighters made us think about what we were good at, so that we applied for funding that we had a better chance of getting, rather than chasing money that was available but didn’t line up with our core values. This gave us a clear direction.

“We have got this far by saying ‘we will manage, the money will come from somewhere’, but having the forward-thinking to plan ahead, to see how we could be sustainable certainly helped me,” she says.

It also taught her to be more business-like, she says. “It opened up roads for us to be more direct in terms of managing performance and resources. Sometimes in the charitable sector we are too charitable for our own good and there are lessons to be learnt from colleagues in the business sector. Hard decisions need to be taken for the organisation’s future and we now feel more equipped to action these.

“We benefitted immensely from Pilotlight. It is going to change the organisation – it won’t be instantaneous – but we will be a more secure and sustainable service with a clear focus, thanks to this process.”