Changemaker Joel Dunn

Joel Dunn is the founder and CEO of Paradigm Project, a project working with students in years 6 and 7, to support their transition to secondary school and disrupt problem behaviours or patterns that put young people at risk of committing or becoming victims of crime.

Why is Paradigm Project needed?

We already know that there are some key social indicators, such as experience of poverty and domestic violence, that are often at the root of long-term problems and criminal behaviour. Our ambition is to create a paradigm shift in the way young people’s needs are addressed, so we identify and tackle issues early.

What does Paradigm Project do?

We work with young people to address some of the common factors that lead young people into crime and equip them with the tools they need to reach their full potential.  We have recently launched My Next Steps, which supports students in year 6 to prepare for the transition to secondary school by helping them to develop the emotional intelligence and sense of self-identity. We also run sessions for both parents and teachers, helping them identify young people who need additional support.  Once we understand their needs, we support those identified as at risk through a 1-2-1 mentoring programme in year 7 that focuses on their well-being and personal development.

What inspired you to set up Paradigm Project?

I realised that many of the things I took for granted, like completing my education, were not the norm for other people, and that young people’s life chances are hugely influenced by their childhood experiences.  I started volunteering as a mentor and worked with Youth Offending Teams and other statutory services, but was frustrated that once young people are in the system, it is hard to break the cycle.  I began looking for the spaces where I could make the most change in young people’s lives. Paradigm Project and our approach of specialist prevention mentoring grew from there.

What challenges is Paradigm Project facing?

The closure of schools due to COVID 19 obviously had a huge impact on our programme as we had to suspend our programme and are now working with head teachers to look at how we can safely go back. We know that missing the last part of year 6 will have a huge impact on young people now starting Year 7, so there will be more work than ever to do with them.

How do you work with Blueprint for All

The Trust is a huge support! Through the Trust I have expanded my professional contacts, leading to Paradigm Project being commissioned by new organisations. One of the schools in the Trust’s Pathways to Professions programme has been our pilot site for the My Next Steps programme. As a small organisation, affordable office space is a real challenge, so we’re lucky to be based at the Trust’s co-working hub, Your Space. Not only is it a brilliant working environment, but it has been a great opportunity to network and I am now working with some of the people I have met there. The Trust’s BME Network, which supports small groups and organisations working with people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, is a really helpful forum for sharing knowledge and skills. As well as running sessions for Network members to share my own expertise I am now on the Network’s Steering Group.


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To support Paradigm Project you can donate here.