Providing Recommendations for a Community Center (The Winch) in Response to Severe Government Budget Cuts in London

Sponsor: The Winch
Sponsor Liaison: Jayanti Durai, Henry Walker
Student Team: Alex Hunt, Nicole Kuberka, Adam Santos, Nils van den Boogaard
Abstract: Severe reduction in government funding to the Winch, a youth center in London, and the Belsize Library it operates have significantly hindered their ability to serve the community. The goal of this project was to identify areas where the library and Winch can improve their services for youth by enhancing community presence and increasing funds. We conducted fifteen interviews with staff members at Belsize Library and the Winch and surveyed community members. We explored new opportunities for marketing and collecting donations. We recommended the use of a cashless donation system for the library and improvements to the room rental system, an important source of revenue. To promote awareness of the services the library and the Winch provide, we created a historical narrative for its website.



Executive Summary

Urban poverty poses broad challenges to youth who grow up within it. Youth growing up in such environments face many obstacles, including exposure to crime, a lack of educational opportunities, and a lack of positive role models. These challenges can inhibit youth from rising above their economic circumstances and lead to a multigenerational cycle of poverty (Hegde, 2019). Local organizations such as community and youth centers help provide opportunities, guidance, and resources that can enable youth to overcome the challenges they face. However, community centers often struggle to provide adequate services because of a lack of funding. In Greater London, UK, there has been a 44% youth service budget cut since 2011 (Berry, 2018). The UK government reducing the funds it gives to public youth centers has resulted in the closing of 81 centers and the cutting of around 800 permanent youth worker positions. In Camden, the council budget for youth services has decreased by 25% since 2011 (Berry, 2018).

The Winch, a youth center operating in Camden, has suffered from financial uncertainty due to Camden Council’s funding reductions. Despite its own financial struggles, the Winch operates a local community library, the Belsize Community Library. As a major part of their income, Belsize Library and the Winch offer many of their rooms for public rent, but as of June 2019, room booking does not generate enough income to relieve the financial dependence on grants and government funding. To address their financial hardship, Belsize Library and the Winch have developed a new business plan to implement from 2019 to 2022. This plan has laid an excellent foundation to assist Belsize Library and the Winch in helping the community, and some recommendations could greatly enhance their ability to provide resources to impoverished youth.

The goal of our project was to identify opportunities for Belsize Library and the Winch to improve their services for impoverished youth by enhancing their community presence and increasing funds. To accomplish our goal, we:


  1. Identified events that may enable Belsize Library to increase its community presence
  2. Identified marketing and fundraising opportunities that may enable Belsize Library to become more financially sustainable
  3. Identified potential features for an online room booking tool that may enable Belsize Library and the Winch to increase unrestricted funds
  4. Created an interactive historical narrative that may enable the Winch to build a stronger connection to the community


To complete these objectives, we conducted fifteen interviews with staff members at the Belsize Library and the Winch. Additionally, we formed a survey and distributed it to the patrons of the library and residents of the surrounding area. For our fourth objective, we gathered information from our interviews, looked through archives housed at the Winch, and collected data from the Holborn Library archives. We compiled our research and data into a detailed timeline and narrative.

We formed our recommendations around the data we collected from the surveys and interviews. Our surveys indicated that the patrons would be eager to see new events for all ages at the library. Our survey also indicated that Belsize Library lacks a strong presence in the community because of its lack of advertising. Our results suggested that the most lucrative fundraising and marketing methods for Belsize Library would be increased advertising for room booking, a membership/loyalty program, and a cashless donation box. From our interviews with staff members at the Winch that are currently in charge of room bookings, we learned that an online calendar scheduling system would provide great benefits to the Winch. Our last finding suggested that a historical narrative could enhance Belsize Library and the Winch because many people are unaware of the connection between them.

We recommended that the Belsize Library and the Winch expand their current advertising for room booking. We also recommended that the Belsize Library establish an optional membership or loyalty program to increase funds and explored perks related to such a program. We recommended that the library invests in a cashless donation system to make it easier for patrons to donate. The library should also offer more events that can raise more revenue. For the historic project we recommended the continuation of research to put more details into our timeline and narrative. The digitization of the current archives housed at the Winch would be the best way to expand our timeline. Finally, we recommended that the Winch put contact information at the bottom of the webpage such that Winch alumni can add to or correct any data in the timeline or the narrative.

Belsize Library and the Winch currently face a challenge in providing the financial support needed to continue operating the library. With greater support from fundraising events, donation, and a stronger advertising scheme, Belsize Library can become more financially sustainable. We hope our findings will provide Belsize Library with the resources to organize fundraising events that enhance its community presence. Additionally, a preservation of the organization’s history will help convey the value the Winch provides to the community it serves, especially once they vacate the historic building they currently occupy in favor of a new location nearby in 2022. By enhancing community presence and increasing funds, Belsize Library and the Winch can continue to help local youth overcome financial and social challenges well into the future.