Our Future Communities Vision – shaped by young people 

“Young people have so much more to offer the world than they are given space to” – thoughts from a young person who helped to shape our Future Communities Vision.  

Young people are concerned about today’s pressing issues, such as climate change, the impacts of the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis and social justice. They envision a fairer future that they want to actively help to build rather than passively wait to inherit.   

In May/June 2022, the Co-op Foundation invited young people from across the UK to help shape a ‘Future Communities Vision’ for our new strategy

Ninety-four young people got involved through focus groups and WhatsApp diaries. They were aged between 11 and 25 years old, from diverse backgrounds and lived in a mixture of rural and urban locations. They told us what they thought a fair community could look like in 10 years’ time, and their insight has helped us to create our vision and our strategic funding priorities.

Thank you to every young person who honestly and openly shared with us their concerns for the present and their thoughts and hopes for the future.  

You can download and read their insights in our new 24-visioning report . I hope this is useful for charities and other funders also looking to build a fairer future for us all.

Let’s build communities of the future together. 

How we did it 

Co-op Foundation is the Co-op’s charity and we’re co-operating for a fairer world.  

We believe co-operation is at the heart of strong communities and this makes us a different kind of funder. When it came to developing a Future Communities Vision as part of our ‘Building communities of the future together’ strategy, we knew we had to put young people in charge because they would be the ones who would inherit the communities we wanted to build. 

We used a social media advertising campaign, funded partners and our own networks to reach out to young people. Final participants had diverse backgrounds in terms of gender, disability, ethnicity, location and socio-economic status. They were also reimbursed for their time to lift barriers to participation. 

  • Focus groups: We ran eight virtual and two face-to-face focus groups. Focus groups work well with young people because they give them the chance to talk openly on set topics. Virtual focus groups allowed us to reach young people more widely, including those from rural areas, young people with limited time available and disabled participants. Thank you to Connell Co-op College, which hosted our first online focus group. Our in-person sessions allowed communications between participants to flow more naturally and we’re thankful to our partners, Off the Record (Bristol), Youth Focus North East, in Gateshead, for their support. 
  • WhatsApp diaries: 10 young people were also sent four WhatstApp prompts across four dates. This form of engagement allowed us to capture more considered and thought-about data as young people could respond in their own environment and space.  

We worked with an insight and engagement agency for this research and the team working directly with the young people were young and diverse. They established rapport and trust with the participants from the very beginning.  

Contact our Head of Comms, Andy, if you’d like to know more about our recruitment. 

What we learned 

Young people were invited to envision an ideal future community built on co-operative values in each of our sessions.  

Some participants found no difficulty articulating a future full of hope; others found it hard to think positively. Young people related to our co-operative values and interpreted them through their lived experience. They talked about the power of collective action and acknowledged the benefits of co-operation in a future, fair society.  

The emerging themes from young people’s discussions reflect their experiences, influences and concerns. Below are the six strategic priorities that our funding and campaigns will now support to bring this vision to life: 

  • Prosperity and access to opportunity: The cost-of-living crisis was a concern for young people. They also aspired for good quality education and fulfilling careers. 
  • Safety: Reducing crime, particularly against women, was spoken about often as was the meaningful rehabilitation of offenders.
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion: This was mentioned more than any other topic and often referenced against the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements. 
  • Health and wellbeing: A topic closely linked to the covid pandemic, including an emphasis on mental health. 
  • Sustainability: Climate change is an issue high on the public agenda. Young people emphasised that governments, corporations and individuals all have a responsibility to adopt more environmentally friendly practices.  They demanded a just transition where everybody could afford to live a more sustainable life. 
  • Youth activism, shared power, and transparent governance: Young people called for those in power to be more diverse and representative of the population. They imagined a future where young people are given leadership positions and are part of a bottom-up movement that can bring change effectively. 

Check out vision webpage to read more about the steps we’ll take to make progress against each of our strategic priorities and ‘Future Communities Vision’. 

What’s next? 

“I feel that the only way to achieve my community [of the future] is to refresh the system in place and give people the power they deserve” – thoughts from a young person who helped to shape our Future Communities Vision.   

Our vision, the strategic priorities and steps provide the scaffolding for the design of our future funds and campaigns.  

We will provide flexible and unrestricted funds to those working with us to build fairer, more co-operative communities of the future. The vision also sets out an agenda for future advocacy by the Foundation and wider Co-op. Where we are not able to solve issues ourselves, we will inspire others to contribute to, or bring about, change.  

Read our Future Communities Vision and join us as co-funders or campaigners to turn young people’s vision into reality.

Let’s build communities of the future together. 

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