Projects and partners

Young people beating loneliness

Loneliness can affect us at any time of life. Young people are no exception.

Research by the Co-op in 2016 found that 32% of 16 to 24 year-olds feel lonely ‘often’ or ‘always’.

The Co-op Foundation is looking at loneliness through young people’s eyes, to learn more about the factors behind this statistic, including:

  • Life transitions, such as leaving home or being bereaved
  • ‘Being different’ - for example disability or sexual identity
  • Poverty, inequality and precarious employment
  • The role of the internet and social media
  • How stigma can make lonely young people reluctant to ask for help

Our ‘Belong’ programme is building a national network of projects tackling loneliness among disadvantaged young people. By helping our partners collaborate and share learning, we’re facilitating a national conversation about youth loneliness and strengthening local practice.

To keep up with our progress, follow our blog.

Current projects and partners

Manchester Metropolitan University

MMU, in partnership with 42nd Street, have trained a group of young co-researchers who are investigating how loneliness affects young people across the UK. Their research findings will be widely shared to help raise awareness and improve support.


Envision’s ‘Community Apprentice’ project builds young people’s skills and helps them tackle social issues they care about in their local communities.

Youth Focus: North East

Building on their ‘Fast Friends’ project, Youth Focus: North East are introducing new drop-in sessions for young people to meet and make new friends.

The Royal Exchange Theatre

Supporting young disabled people in Greater Manchester, through local schools, to explore loneliness through creative arts.

The Prince’s Trust

Delivering skills workshops in the South East of England, including one with young offenders, followed by up to 6 months of individual support.


Working with award-winning children’s playwright Mike Kenny to develop a play about youth loneliness, with input from workshops in South London schools.


Offering a coaching programme to young care leavers in London, helping them to navigate through the challenging transition to independence.

Carefree Cornwall

Providing opportunities for care-experienced young people in Cornwall to volunteer as peer mentors, helping others navigate their transition out of care.

Changing Our Lives

Working with disabled young people, taking a Community Connecting approach to facilitate friendships and relationships that enable them to experience every day opportunities.

Clean Break

Using theatre to help young women with experience of the criminal justice system or at risk of entering it.

Whizz Kidz

Running a national leadership programme for young wheelchair users to increase their skills, confidence and aspirations.

42nd Street

Equipping local community groups in Greater Manchester with the skills and confidence to support young people who have experienced trauma following the Manchester Arena attack in May 2017.

Youth Action Northern Ireland

Working collaboratively with four regional partners to tackle loneliness through LIFEMAPS, an approach that focuses on mental health and participation in community activities.

Youth Cymru

Creating 3 ‘Youth Hubs’ in Wales to support and train young people to get involved with and deliver campaigns, volunteering and fundraising.

Young Scot

Working with young people in Scotland to explore ideas and information on youth loneliness that will be shared nationally.

We're reaching more young people through our £2 million #iwill fund

#iwill is a UK-wide campaign to get 6 out of 10 young people involved in social action by 2020. Social action involves activities like campaigning, fundraising and volunteering, which make a positive difference to communities while developing young people’s skills.

The #iwill fund is made possible thanks to £40 million joint funding from the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund, and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

£1 million from the #iwill fund will be matched by £1 million from the Co-op Foundation. Our grants will fund projects that inspire young people in disadvantaged communities to tackle loneliness, through social action that’s shaped by co-operative values.

We awarded the first grants from our #iwill fund in December 2017. We'll open applications for a further round of grants in 2018 - follow our blog to find out when we announce these plans.

Current projects and partners

Bradford Youth Development Partnership

‘Mind the Gap’ is supporting disadvantaged groups of young people in Bradford to learn new skills and deliver campaigns to raise awareness of youth loneliness.

Make Some Noise

In Stoke-on-Trent, older pupils will be running a family music festival to support younger pupils entering secondary school.

Off the Record

Running projects in Bristol to support groups of young people who are LGBTQ+ or have experiences of mental ill health to deliver youth-led campaigns.

The Proud Trust

Working with LGBTQ+ young people in Manchester through 1 to 1 support, community work, volunteering, social groups, and campaigns.

Twenty Twenty

Supporting young people struggling with education in Derby by matching them with a network of local mentors.

Young Minds

Delivering a ‘Youth Activist Programme’ in London aimed at training vulnerable young people to raise awareness of mental health through photography.


Bringing disadvantaged young people from Luton together, to learn how to cook and showcase their new skills by cooking for their local community.

Youth Focus: North East

Launching a ‘Young Volunteers’ network in the North East of England, enabling young people to volunteer and befriend lonely people on key days of the year.

Co-operative College

Supporting young care leavers in Greater Manchester to set up their own Co-ops which aim to understand and tackle youth loneliness.

Books Beyond Words

Using picture books to establish discussion groups with young people who have learning disabilities in Thanet to explore new ways of positively impacting the world around them

Get in touch

To contact the team, email

Please note that the Foundation is not inviting applications for funding at the moment. If you're looking for funding for a youth social action project, check if one of the other #iwill match funders might be right for you.

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