#iwill Ambassador Naomi shares her thoughts.

Despite the progress on youth social action in Wales, there’s still room for further change.

First, there’s a lack of leadership opportunities for young people on boards and a lack of opportunity for young people on boards to share their experiences with each other. To compound this problem, young people sometimes don’t understand what trustee work involves, so training needs to be available for young people who are interested.

Travel in and around Wales can also be difficult for young volunteers, which creates barriers to young people accessing meaningful opportunities.

However, one of the key barriers to participation is making sure that young people know about high-quality volunteering opportunities. Right now, if you’re not already part of the right network, these chances can pass you by.

Across Wales, organisations need to collaborate to share information about opportunities. Rather than relying on advertising in main networks, they should do more to reach young people through social media and their peers.

Finally, let’s have less emphasis on how social action is good for your CV. That’s not the only draw for young people. We’re doing it because we want to make a difference, not just to help our career.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges for young people - organisations must step up to help address these, and meaningfully involve young people.

Flik Walls from WCVA reflects on the challenges ahead and the opportunity this presents.

Volunteering in Wales is changing. Volunteering across the world is changing. The seismic shifts in how we work, live and play caused by the recent pandemic are having a ripple effect on how we volunteer, who we volunteer for and our motivations for doing so. Whilst we do not yet know the full extent of the changes to society, or what we will need from our volunteers and how this volunteering might best be done, we know volunteering is a big part of the future.

During the pandemic, volunteers across the globe stepped up in a phenomenal way, many of these people had never volunteered before and whilst there were new barriers to overcome in how we best supported our communities, the spontaneous community response and virtual forms of volunteering shone brightly. Young people were a key part of these renewed voluntary efforts and across Third Sector Support Wales, we will continue to champion young people as volunteers at all levels in organisations and projects across the nation and beyond, as we believe young people are capable and valuable members of our society.

This year, with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on sectors and society, there is much yet to be explored, discussed and decided with stakeholders, including volunteers with regards to the future of volunteering, and that of youth volunteering.

With the declining number of opportunities for young people to formally volunteer in Wales in contrast to the increase in young people seeking avenues for skill development and desire to be part of positive change, I would invite organisations across Wales to consider what steps they might take to meaningfully engage young people in social action, volunteering and decision making. To support these considerations and developments I recommend organisations begin by engaging with young people themselves and view the Youth Volunteering and Social Action Charter alongside ‘Involving Young People in Volunteering and Social Action’ e-learning course (which was co-created with young volunteers in Wales).

The future of youth social action in Wales

WCVA, in partnership with other organisations, such as Scouts Cymru, has been listening to its members, partners and young people regarding what is needed for youth volunteering to continue to flourish in Wales as we move into the recovery phase and beyond. The insights gathered will be used to create a paper of recommendations on the future of youth volunteering and help to shape future events and workshops that will inspire and enable youth volunteering in Wales to grow.

Wales is built on community spirit, but people can’t pour from an empty cup. With threats to livelihoods, health and wellbeing caused by a global pandemic, the nation needs its strong and resilient communities to be there. Where better to start than ensuring our current and future generations can contribute to, and benefit from, a thriving voluntary sector.