Young people have shown us how it’s done

“Being part of Lonely Not Alone [and] connecting with so many other young people who have experienced loneliness, has given me such a strong feeling of being understood.”

Nathan, lonely not alone young co-designer

By Sophie Beresford, Campaign Manager 

When I joined the Co-op Foundation’s Lonely Not Alone team in 2022 to help tackle the stigma of youth loneliness, I didn’t really know what to expect. It was my first time working directly with young people on a behaviour change campaign and I wasn’t sure how the power dynamic would work in reality.  

Ten months on and I’ve learned that sharing power with young people is key to generating meaningful change. We should create opportunities for them to take the lead on issues that affect them. Despite our best intentions, as adults we can sometimes be a barrier that prevents young people from making a real difference. That’s why it is important to hand over the reins and allow young people to drive the change they want to see.  

And it’s thanks to young people that we made something amazing again in 2022:

95% of young people who saw Lonely Not Alone took an action
28m people reached on social media through #LonelyNotAlone
294 stories on our digital universe
56 messages of support on our digital universe

As we look forward to a new year and a new Co-op Foundation strategy, now feels the right time to let young people take the lead again. Read on to find out why, and what we’ll do next. 

Youth driven 

We launched Lonely Not Alone in 2019 as our first ever behaviour change campaign. It’s made by young people, for young people, in partnership with creative agency, Effervescent and it’s built on our £7m of funding for youth loneliness projects. It focuses on giving young people power to make change, helping us to deliver on Co-op’s vision of ‘Co-operating for a Fairer World’.  

In 2019, young people came up with the name of the campaign and the idea to wear yellow socks to show you cared about youth loneliness. We carried this idea into 2020. Watch the video below to find out why. 

In 2021, we used our newly-developed theory of change to guide and update our campaign. This led to young people suggesting we launch a digital universe to share stories and build empathy…so we did! At its peak, 25% of young people in the UK had heard about us. 

In 2022, our young co-designers wanted build on our success by expanding the digital universe idea even further. We invited more young people to share their story and encouraged people of all ages to send in a message of support for lonely young people, too.  

Watch the video below to hear first-hand from our young co-designers about their idea for our 2022 campaign.

What we achieved and learned 

I’m so proud of what we created with young people in 2022 and what we learned as a result. 

Our incredible young co-designers showed us how good they are at raising awareness of issues they care about. This led to us launching a TikTok channel, which young people managed. They helped create and suggest content as well as interacting with people who engaged with us. This approach helped us to create authentic engagement and gave them the chance to facilitate conversations to truly tackle stigma. 

It can be challenging for young people to get experience in areas of work that interest them. That’s why we made sure that this TikTok role was a paid position. Not only do young people deserve to be remunerated for the work they are doing, but the role also gives them valuable experience they can draw on in the future.  

In the hands of young people 

Lonely Not Alone has allowed us to do so much with young people since we launched in 2019. Back then, our research showed just 43% of young people felt loneliness was a normal emotion for their age group – this is now 55%. In addition, only 73% of young people had taken an action to help others who may be lonely in 2019 – this has now risen according to 83% in our latest survey. 

Recently, young people have also directed us to focus on new, exciting strategic priorities as part of our new strategy. This is why 2023 will be the last year we work with young people on Lonely Not Alone, and we plan to spend the year celebrating our achievements and sharing learning.  

We want to thank every young person who’s stepped up to help themselves and others over the past four years. And we want to make sure young people, and the youth groups who support them, have the resources they need to continue making positive change for years to come. This is something we will look to do over the coming months to ensure Lonely Not Alone has a lasting legacy.  

Please join us in celebrating everything young people have achieved since 2019. Building communities of the future together is hard but they’ve proven that with co-operation, anything is possible. 

Working together

Keep reading  

This story is part of our Learning & Impact Report 2022. Head to our interactive webpage to read more and sign up to our blog to keep up to date with our plans. You can also help us do even more in 2023 by donating your Co-op Member Reward online or in App, or pledging to support us on JustGiving