His Royal Highness, the Duke of Sussex, paid a surprise visit to Thrive Teams, an initiative of Innovista, an Oxfordshire based project that trains and mentors young people living in disadvantaged areas around Oxford.

Following a walkabout, The Duke visited Barton Neighbourhood Centre, on the outskirts of Oxford, where he spoke to and encouraged young people from the Young Leaders Programme and members of staff from Thrive Teams. The Duke also spent time hearing from young men and women who have graduated from Thrive Team’s mentoring programme, who have benefitted from the support and gone on to become a positive influence in their communities. Many young people have used the programme to overcome their challenging upbringing in a neighbourhood where underachievement and crime are commonplace.

Devon, 20, has benefited from being part of the Thrive Teams and local volunteers from the programme have worked with him to help him find, develop and release his stored-up potential. “I’ve learned and grown so much, and I feel like I’ve got a contribution to make. I don’t know if anyone realises what an impact Thrive Team’s Young Leaders training programme has had on me. Now I want to do that for someone else,” says Devon.

There are now Thrive Teams in three Oxfordshire communities; Barton, South Abingdon and The Leys. Despite its reputation as an affluent and prosperous city, some parts of Oxford are among the more deprived communities in the UK, and are characterised by poor health, high obesity levels, and hospital admissions for self-harming and alcohol abuse. One in four children in Oxford live below the poverty line and areas such as Barton and Blackbird Leys experience multiple levels of deprivation such as a skills gap, low incomes and high levels of crime.

Innovista exists to identify, equip and develop leaders to change their communities for good. The leadership training programmes that Innovista has developed are run in countries across Europe and Central Asia. By 2020, the organisation hopes to be able to impact 250,000 people every month.

Jason Lane, Innovista’s founder and International Director, said; “The visit of His Royal Highness, has been a wonderful encouragement, but it’s only one day in the lives of many young people, who have been disadvantaged all their lives and who face a daily struggle to reach their potential. We strongly believe that this visit is just the start of a long journey on the road to transformation for both young people and the communities they serve.”