Creating changethrough collaboration

#iwill has played a crucial role in driving investment in youth social action, including through the establishment of the #iwill Fund in 2016

the #iwill Fund

The launch of the #iwill Fund prioritised collaboration from the outset, establishing a unique structure that has brought together funding from Government, the National Lottery Community Fund and a diverse group of 25 Match Funders to invest in youth social action in England. Throughout the lifetime of the Fund it will have turned £25 million of government investment into almost £100 million to support young people to take action in their communities.


#iWill Fund Model

Between 2012 and 2016, a number of funding initiatives for youth social action were run out of the Cabinet Office in Westminster. The creation of the #iwill Fund in 2016 was able to widen the pool of funders investing in youth social action, and encourage them to work together. Four shared priorities were created for the Fund, called the investment drivers. Each funder within the #iwill Fund must follow the investment drivers, as well as the six quality principles for youth social action when distributing their funding or delivering their programme. The impact of having these shared priorities is clear - almost 60% of participants across #iwill Fund-supported programmes are under 13 years old, over two-thirds of opportunities (68%) are in the 40% most deprived areas, and four out of five youth-led activities (79%) give young people the choice as to what they do.

Over the last twelve months, the Step Up To Serve team has gained insight and input from #iwill campaign partners and young people across the UK on what more needs to be done to sustain progress and impact beyond 2020. This has included:

Working Together

By working closely together under these shared priorities, it has also encouraged the sharing of learning across the #iwill Fund through the #iwill Fund Learning Hub and meetings of all the Match Funders. This shared learning has helped the #iwill campaign and other organisations with an interest in investing in children and young people to understand what works, and what barriers remain to funding youth social action, and has helped bring more coherence to the fragmented youth funding landscape.

The #iwill Fund has supported programmes that deliver a ‘double-benefit’ - supporting young people to build their confidence, skills and wellbeing whilst also driving wider social change.

Developing the Young People’s Forest

As part of the #iwill campaign, The Woodland Trust has been funded by Pears Foundation and the #iwill Fund to develop the Young People’s Forest. In this pioneering project, children and young people will plant over 250,000 trees in Derbyshire to create a thriving new woodland.

The involvement of the #iwill Fund has allowed the Woodland Trust to develop new youth social action opportunities. Here, Jules Acton, an Ambassador for the Woodland Trust, describes how the project has developed.

“I’ve been involved with the youth voice since the age of fifteen and over the last five years I have witnessed leaps and bounds being made in the youth sector. While the sector has always been aware that it exists to serve the needs of young people, I think that there is now a more in-depth understanding of what it means for youth work to truly be led by young people. It is much more common for projects to have steering groups and advisory panels of young people than it was when I first got involved, and the voice and impact of these groups has grown substantially. While there is still work to be done to ensure all opportunities are meaningful, I do believe that the sector is starting to move away from seeing youth voice as a nice ‘add on’ and instead treating it as a fundamental aspect of all of its work.
One of the most exciting things I’ve witnessed is the increasing trend of really handing over power to young people. In the last year I have become the youngest trustee ever of Volunteering Matters, a nationwide volunteering charity, and been elected the co-chair of the Back Youth Alliance, which represents huge reach across the entire youth sector. A few years ago I’m not convinced that many organisations would be in the position to take a ‘risk’ on placing young people in such leadership positions. Embedding youth voice, however, clearly isn’t a ‘risk’ - it’s an opportunity! My hope for the future of the youth sector is that youth voice becomes embedded at every level of decision making across all organisations.
Every time decisions are being made that will impact the lives of young people, we need to be there.”


Boosting female empowerment

EmpowHER is a social action programme established to increase self-esteem, and build confidence and wellbeing in young women and girls. It is funded by Spirit of 2012 and the #iwill Fund and delivered by partners including UK Youth, British Red Cross and Young Women’s Trust.
The support of the #iwill Fund has encouraged the organisations involved to adapt and extend practices from youth work to involve youth social action.

Patrick Shaw-Brown, Director of Programmes at UK Youth, explains why a partnership approach was appropriate for this project: “UK Youth are very experienced at working with young people but we can’t offer social action within an existing national infrastructure. We partnered with British Red Cross so we could plug into their volunteering expertise and opportunities - from charity shops and first aid to emergency response and refugee services, and with Young Women’s Trust for their gender-specific expertise.”
The programme also gave British Red Cross the chance to develop its youth social action offer.
“British Red Cross has always engaged with young people,” says Mairi Allan, Head of Youth Engagement at British Red Cross. “When we started to deliver EmpowHER, 15% of our volunteer workforce was already made up of 15-25 year olds. Developing an explicit focus on youth social action was a natural progression.”
“Thinking about how to engage young people and looking at social action from young women’s viewpoints is having a knock-on effect on the rest of the organisation,” she adds.
“Our volunteer experience team are also looking at more flexible ways for people to take social action. More under 25s are getting involved outside of formal volunteering roles, through partnerships or one-off projects. Our intergenerational approach leads to people of all ages working alongside each other which is really energising. It is also the case that the young people we engage with tend to be more diverse. This has had a very positive impact.”

Hear from Cain Green, one of the young participants on the Clarion #iwill Fund project.

I’ve always had a vision to uplift and empower young people who are growing up in the urban lifestyle of gangs, crime and violence. I’ve done this by working with young artists through my record label, Grafterboy Records.
Youth social action has the same ability to transform lives. It brings young people together, gives us a collective voice, and empowers us to make change happen.
I first got involved with the #iwill Fund through its support for a UK-wide youth programme delivered by the Housing Association Youth Network (HAYN) and led by Clarion Futures.
As a National Ambassador at Clarion Futures, I carried out projects to improve services for young residents, including running youth workshops and arranging local community events.
Joanne Rich, the chair of HAYN, directed me towards the Young People in the Lead (YPIL) panel at The National Lottery Community Fund, which she founded. Following an audition, I joined the panel, which meets every week to discuss how young people can make a difference in their communities.
Most recently, I’ve joined the #iwill Fund Leadership Board, a panel which decides which projects will be funded. It’s made up of people from government, The National Lottery Community Fund and Step Up To Serve. I was quite nervous before the first meeting, but everyone was very welcoming.

It’s a big deal to be involved, because it means I can help make important decisions on which proposals to approve and which to reject. This is amazing as it means I have a say in funding youth-led projects that have a major impact on young people’s lives.
All these experiences have made it clear to me that it’s vital for young people to have a place on boards. It’s such a brilliant way for us to become leaders and to plant seeds that will grow for future generations.

Football Beyond Borders' Girl's Programme is supported by the Sport England #iwill Fund. Here’s one of their projects - ‘The Women who Changed the Game’:

The #iwill Fund has influenced funders to think differently about how they invest in young people - both within the fund, and beyond.

Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation

PHF and Esmee Fairbairn are both match-funders to the #iwill Fund and have established the partnership ‘Act for Change’ Fund. Both have recently launched new Foundation strategies which have drawn on their experience with the #iwill Fund and put children and young people front and centre.

“We support work that is led by young people, where power is shared, where work is developed and delivered in partnership with them, and where youth voice and experience influences decision-making. We have a particular interest in young people leading social change and shaping the world around them.”
Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Strategy 2020

“Young people can play a vital role in driving change. We value the energy, insight and leadership young people bring and the impact this work can have on young people, their communities and their sense of civic engagement.” Esmée Fairbairn, Strategic Plan 2020-2025

BBC Children in Need

BBC Children in Need sees its involvement with the #iwill movement and Fund as an integral part of a more strategic shift in the way it operates and works with young people. To mark BBC Children in Need’s commitment to the Power of Youth Charter during #iwill week in 2020, CEO Simon Antrobus said:
“Already we are involving young people more in our decision making, we’ve appointed two Youth Advisors to help co-produce funding programmes and gain insights from young people to inform our work, a partnership with the #iwill fund to co-invest in youth social action opportunities for young people. We are committed to being a champion for young people, to standing alongside them as their advocate and investing in organisations that help them drive positive change in their communities.”
Read Simons Blog
The #iwill Fund will continue until 2023. Hear from new co-chairs Tessy Ojo and Haroon Ahmed: