#iwill Co-Founders

Inspiring change in challenging times

In 2013 we could not have foreseen seven years of austerity, Brexit, a burning environmental emergency and now a global Covid-19 pandemic.

Interestingly, though, during these years youth activism has soared to the front of the agenda. Just think of Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg.

Like all optimistic campaigners, we haven’t achieved everything we’d hoped for. Austerity has devastated the youth voluntary sector and some great services for youth engagement have gone to the wall. Most worryingly, there’s still a stark socio-economic gap between those who can and cannot get involved, based almost entirely on post code.

However, more young people now have a voice in education, health and social care, and the environment. Young people have built strong partnerships between their schools, colleges and communities and the causes they care about. The campaign has opened up opportunities in the health and social care sector and catalysed a ten-year strategy of youth involvement in the NHS. #iwill4nature, initiated by HRH The Prince of Wales, is supporting young people to tackle the climate emergency.

The continuing inspiration for the campaign has to be our 300 outstanding #iwill Ambassadors. They are an endless source of energy and insight, and we hope this network will continue in the next decade.

Over the seven years of the #iwill campaign, we have attracted the support of over 1,000 organisations across the UK, inspiring innovative work in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with key Government departments, companies and leading voluntary organisations.

Each has pledged to empower young people by making youth social action a key part of their organisation’s culture and practice. Forward-looking businesses and charities are now setting up youth advisory boards and appointing young trustees. However, less than 0.5% of charity trustees are under 25.

We always wanted to increase funding, but never in our wildest dreams envisaged a 25 funder-strong collaboration investing £100 million in youth social action, enlisting match funders and young people as equal partners in its allocation. What’s more, the lessons from its unique Learning Hub will support the development of youth social action in the future.

Every year since the start of the campaign, in partnership with DCMS we have gathered compelling evidence of the benefits of youth social action through our pioneering National Youth Social Action Survey. This annual survey must continue!

Looking ahead, the younger generation face serious challenges. The pandemic has disrupted education for millions of young people, and they will be hardest hit by shrinking job opportunities. Against this backdrop, youth social action has an even more vital role to play by equipping young people with vital leadership, empathy and employability skills.

This time-limited campaign has proved the importance of listening to young people, amplifying their voices and giving them a seat at the table when decisions are made. Their energy, ideas and passion can help us create not just the leaders of tomorrow, but a better, fairer and more sustainable future for us all. The #iwill staff team, led so brilliantly by Charlotte Hill and Rania Marandos, has achieved everything that the Co-Founders could have asked for – and much more!

Dame Julia Cleverdon and Amanda Jordan, Co-founders of the #iwill Campaign