Supporting young people to change the status quo
Funders increasingly realise that they must support young people to shape their communities and the wider world. It’s time to move beyond raising awareness, into the realm of social action. But sometimes we have held back because, to put it simply, there are too many unknowns. How will young people challenge authority? What will the outcomes be for young people? Are there risks involved? And what do those organisations who may be asking for institutional funding for the first time need from us?
By learning alongside our funded organisations over the next two years, Act for Change Fund aims to explore these questions. Act for Change Fund aims to provide a legacy of opportunities for young people with lived experience of inequality and injustice to lead social change on the issues that impact them. We’re exploring what the impact on wellbeing and skills is for young people when they stand up for and take action about things they believe in.
The Fund is a joint initiative between Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation in partnership with the National Lottery Community Fund. Both foundations are acting as match funders and are awarding grants on behalf of the #iwill Fund. The #iwill Fund is made possible thanks to a joint investment from The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to support young people to access high quality social action opportunities.
We are seeing first-hand what Sheila MacKechnie Foundation says: that funders need to trust young people to produce and share knowledge about their communities as a basic starting point. Young activists know their peers, their wider communities – and they know their issues. We are hearing about the roles that supportive adults can and should take in youth-led work for change. Change-making is full of ups and downs, as well as emotionally tough when you’re drawing on your own life. Relationships of trust, support and belonging with adults and peers underpin this work.
We are beginning to find out about the similarities and differences in youth-led social action for change depending on where you live, what issues you’re addressing and what tools you use. The young people are using a range of approaches: co-producing online campaigns; using the law to challenge school exclusion; mobilising through spoken word and art; developing skills in campaigning at summer schools; organising their own social movements; operating radical democracy to show powerholders how it’s done and hold them to account.
This impact of this work chimes with the words of young activist and educator Grace Jeremy whose work centres on peer-to-peer education and mental health: “A generation of young people who understand their rights and responsibilities is a generation who are empowered to hold services to account and create social change.” Given the high social, political and economic stakes we currently face in Britain, the work of these young people couldn’t be more timely.
What adults can do to act as allies to young activists is still very much being debated, not least in the philanthropy sector. Act for Change Fund provides resources for young people to challenge social injustice, find ways of overcoming inequality and give voice to issues they are experiencing.
We’ve already funded eight organisations to take this work forward, and will make around 30 more grants this autumn to organisations where young people are making changes based on their own experience. All funded work will share certain core qualities: they set out a clear ambition for change to unjust and unfair systems; changemaking is led by young people; and those young people have direct experience of the injustices and inequalities they’re addressing.
Over the next couple of years we’ll share more about the work supported through Act for Change Fund, as well as learning and insights. To keep up to date, sign up for the PHF newsletter.
A joint initiative between Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, matched by the #iwill Fund, Act for Change Fund will promote the potential of young people with experience of disadvantage to devise and develop activities and programmes to shape the world around them. We believe young people play a critical role in delivering social change. By prioritising support for those with experience of disadvantage, Act for Change Fund aims to create a more diverse group of social, cultural and political leaders for the future.