Creating a legacy through our #iwill Fund partnership

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In 2022, we launched our five-year strategy ‘Building Communities of the Future Together’. As part of this work, we asked young people to shape our organisational vision. Now, we’re working with them and others to place youth voice at the heart of what we do. One of the ways we have worked to do this is through our #iwill Fund partnership, listening to and learning from young people.  

Our #iwill partnership 

Our £5m #iwill Fund is our longest serving funding partnership. The #iwill Movement demonstrates the power of youth social action and encourages others to work with young people who want to help others. This has the triple benefit of helping the young people, their local community and their peers.  

Co-op Foundation’s original 2017-20 partnership with the #iwill Fund was extended through a £3 million grants fund in 2019. This extension focused more on social action drawing on young people’s lived experience, through peer support and youth-led advocacy.  

42 projects were funded in this version of the programme, with 30 of those projects choosing to take up an additional year of funding in 2023. These are grouped into three strands:  

• Bereavement Support, providing young people with safe spaces and support to share their experience of bereavement  

• Community Spaces, helping young people to improve the design and use of community spaces  

• School Transitions, supporting young peoples’ wellbeing in the transition from primary school to secondary school  

These strands meant our partners were able to develop focused programmes, built around the lived experience of the young people involved and centring youth voice. 

Getting (and keeping) young people involved 

We wanted to aid partners to facilitate peer support and encourage young people to help and speak out for other young people. We invested £1.2 million in continuation funding grants to those that demonstrated that young people would be meaningfully involved – from co-designing programmes and services to supporting research and evaluation.  

A strong end to the programme needed a considered beginning.  From the outset, partners were encouraged to explore how they could embed youth voice into the daily operations of their organisation and the fabric of the wider community.   

Long-term benefits 

Our partners were really positive about this focus. 

It benefited young people in a number of ways:  

• They obtained qualifications, for example, AQA accreditations. In some instances, they used their projects as evidence of volunteering for their Duke of Edinburgh Award. Many of the projects supported underserved young people who may not otherwise have had the opportunity to obtain these qualifications, providing them with a chance to enhance their CV. 

• They have become more confident in expressing themselves. Partners found that young people who took part were much more likely to express their needs and wants. This had the added benefit of encouraging their peers to voice their opinions too. 

• Young people have developed skills and coping strategies that they will be able to draw upon for the rest of their lives. Some bereaved young people, for example, gained an understanding that “there is power in being vulnerable”. 

Long-term reported benefits for the local community include: 

• Young people becoming trustees, joining steering groups and volunteering. We hope this will create a volunteering habit for life. 

• Young people getting involved with organisational operations, including social media takeovers. This has helped organisations to more authentically engage with other young people 

• In some instances, embedding dedicated mentoring initiatives and counsellors in schools. This ensures that other young people can benefit from these services in the future 

•  The establishment of ‘Friends of’ groups to take responsibility for the maintenance of community spaces that young people initially developed, demonstrating a commitment from the local community to continue what young people started 

• Developing toolkits, booklets and resource banks to share learning. This has helped key decision-makers to identify what works.  

A lasting legacy 

Focusing on legacy and sustainability from the start helped with both long-term outcomes for young people and the local community. It also amplified the impact of our funding and our strategy. When we talk about building communities of the future, this is what we mean – funding with young people involved throughout the process, which impacts not only themselves, but their peers and their local community.  

You can read more about what we learned from our #iwill Fund partners in our final #iwill Fund evaluation report.

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The #iwill Fund is made possible thanks to £66 million joint investment from The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for  Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to support young people to access high quality social action opportunities. The Co-op Foundation acts as a match funder and awards grants on behalf of the #iwill Fund. We currently support 39 projects through our £5.3m fund.   

The #iwill Fund supports the aims of the #iwill movement – to make involvement in social action a part of life for young people. 

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