About Abianda

Abianda is a social enterprise that works with young women affected by gangs and provides training for the professionals who work with them.


We provide frontline services for young women aged up to 25 and training for professionals who work with them. We set up Abianda to address the gap in services for gang-affected young women and to change the way services are delivered to them, so we can more effectively respond to their needs. We do this through our unique model of practice – we address the barriers that stop young women from seeking help & work alongside them to design & deliver our services.

Our Guiding Principles

​We believe that:

  • Young women are experts on their own lives.

  • Young women have innate resources, competence and resilience.

  • People affected by a problem are best placed to find the solutions.

  • We must shift traditional power hierarchies in service delivery in order to enable young women's participation in solution building.

  • We must support young women to have their voices heard in order that they can influence the design and delivery of services.


Organisation Background

Abi Billinghurst founded Abianda in 2014. Her vision was to create an organisation that would bring about social impact through frontline services and training for professionals.


These services and training would, in turn, bring about a culture shift in provision for gang-affected young women who traditionally neither felt safe accessing, nor trusted, statutory services. These young women would therefore deal with adversity, risk and harm within their peer group, rather than reaching out for professional support. As this service provision was not working for gang-affected young women, Abi wanted to create something that did.


Keen to embed participation at the heart of the organisation, she therefore founded Abianda so that it would:

  1. Stand shoulder to shoulder with young women

    • No one knows a young woman’s life like the young woman herself, so it is right and logical that they are embedded within the organisation so that we can understand the realities of their lives.

    • We work in a collegial and collaborative way so that these young women influence the design and delivery of our services.

  2. Have a model of growth which supported social impact

    • Young women are embedded into the infrastructure of the organisation, so as Abianda grows, we have the opportunity to support young women to develop new skills and to learn new organisational functions themselves. All our training is co-facilitated by young women who have used our services, received training, and are paid for their work.

    • We therefore can deliver social impact through the services we deliver, as well as through our infrastructure as we grow, thus staying loyal to the principles of participation at the heart of the organisation.

  3. Work as a not-for-profit business, and not a charity

    • We are self-sufficient and innovative in our income generation, working to be sustainable and commercially viable, with the freedom to pursue social impact defined by young women.


As an example of these founding decisions in action, we have a Young Women’s Business Advisory Board in addition to a traditional company Board of Directors, so that young women can have their say on our strategy, help design new training activities, and influence the design and delivery of services to future service participants.


Abi's Other Work

Abi’s background is in youth work and she has collaborated with a number of organisations to develop participatory approaches to working with vulnerable adolescents. She has worked with The International Centre: Researching Child Sexual Exploitation, Violence and Trafficking at the University of Bedfordshire, supporting specialist social care teams in Wigan and Rochdale to implement strengths and participatory approaches to Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). Abi co-wrote training for these teams with Dr Camille Warrington on behalf of Research in Practice


With the University of Bedfordshire, Abi also worked on the LEAP project (2015-17) with Dr Kate D'Arcy. Abi wrote training tools for young people and professionals across Europe, in order to respond to young people's experiences of sexual violence and to support efforts to prevent sexual violence. The three-day youth facilitator training programme is called “Life-skills, leadership and limitless potential (LLLP)” and can be found on the Child Protection Hub for South-East Europe website. All these programmes provide knowledge and tools to apply participatory approaches to practice with young people.


To learn more about Abi’s work and Abianda, you can listen to a podcast she recorded in January 2018 for two organisations: the Contextual Safeguarding Network, and Our Voices - a programme of work coordinated by The International Centre at the University of Bedfordshire. The podcast is available on the Our Voices page on our website.