Young people are influencing decisions at Co-op Foundation

Young woman speaking

Having a diverse representation and an inclusive approach to funding projects related to young people is often the key to ensuring the project [that receives the grant] is something which young people genuinely need or want to see …This is one reason I believe young people should have their say – nothing about us, without us.

Louis Groarke, Youth Advocate

At the Co-op Foundation we’re committed to amplifying the voices of young people so they can meaningfully create change. One way we do this by funding youth-led social action projects through our £5m #iwill Fund. This has the triple benefit of helping the young people taking part to boost their skills, while also improving life for their immediate peers and the wider community. 

We also want young people to have an impact on decisions within the Foundation, utilising their skills and lived experience to help others. 

Our #iwill youth panel 

In June, we ran a panel with young people to ask their advice on which youth-led projects we should support through our #iwill Fund. 

Louis Groarke and Meera Saravanan (both 19), from our partner organisation, Youth Focus North West both helped on the day. In this guest blog, they tell us why they’re advocating for change and what impact they want to have. 

Louis has worked with youth organisation Warrington Youth Voice since he was 13 and currently supports two youth charitable organisations as their CEO. Meera has just completed her first year at university studying Politics and has been involved in her local youth action scene for seven years. 

Why did you volunteer for our panel? 

Louis: I had prior connections with the Co-op Foundation as a member of your Youth Advisory Group. I was enthusiastic about supporting you and the fabulous work you support through funds such as the #iwill Fund. 

Meera: The panel was a safe space where I knew I could voice my opinion. The Co-op Foundation colleagues were welcoming and allowed us to freely discuss issues that were important to me. It was conducted in a relatively informal setting which allowed more natural discussion to be created and allowed me to settle into the space. 

Why is it important for you to have your say, especially on things that affect you? 

Meera: Young people have long been cast aside during conversations surrounding their own future and the opportunities available to them. Recently, there has been a shift in the prioritisation of young people, with more organisations willing to hear our opinion. I think it’s important to take these opportunities. 

As a young woman of colour, I know how important it is to include different groups of young people in decision making. Being able to have my say could positively impact so many other young people who look like me. 

How do you feel about the Co-op Foundation having input from young people? 

Louis: I think this greatly supports both the Co-op Foundation’s mission and the young people participating with their self-development – not to mention the quality of overall diversity and conversation. Diversity in decision making should reflect the diversity in our communities and has been shown to increase results. It’s a positive and benefits everyone involved. 

What impact would you like this panel to have? 

Louis: I want this panel to have an impact in two ways: contributing to improving lives through well-thought-out projects and showing that more organisations should adopt panels with young people.  

In terms of the projects, I hope we have an impact by bringing together all of our unique experiences to make sure the projects funded are those vitally needed by young people and their communities. I hope they will have a profound impact. 

Meera: Impact can be measured in many ways. For the panel, my goal is an overall positive impact – specifically in terms of young people getting more opportunities to flourish and develop. 


We hope our panel has helped Louis and Meera to learn more about the projects we work with while influencing the work that we do to support other young people.   

As Co-op’s charity, we can deliver on Co-op’s vision of ‘Co-operating for a Fairer World’ through sharing responsibility with young people. Alongside this, our flexible funding helps to build fairer and more co-operative communities, in this case through young people having a say in funding that affects them and their peers.  

We want their valuable experience and input to influence how we work here at the Foundation. We are keen to amplify young people’s voices and become a funder where young people take the lead. 

Co-op Member donations have also enabled us to engage with even more young voices through the #iwill Fund. Together with the Youth Endowment Fund, Co-op is delivering the Peer Action Collective (PAC) – a £5.2 million programme that aims to give young people the chance to make their communities safer and fairer places to live. 

Subscribe to our blog below to keep up to date with all the amazing work we are doing with young people. We’ll be sharing some more about what we have learned about becoming a more youth-led funder later this week around International Youth Day.  

About #iwill 

The #iwill Fund is made possible thanks to £54 million 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.  

The Co-op Foundation acts as a match funder and awards grants on behalf of the #iwill Fund. We currently support 47 projects through our £5m 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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