Supporting the #iwill Fund to deliver learning on youth social action
I write this on the train back from Manchester, after an absorbing and challenging day with a group of #iwill Fund match funders, discussing whether it’s useful to think about youth social action (and specifically how to fund it) through the lens of ‘place’. This is one of a series of meetings and workshops that have been taking place since August when the work of the #iwill Fund Learning Hub kicked off.
Place-based funding hasn’t been the only thing we’ve been looking at – we’ve also brought people together on how to increase the take-up and quality of youth social action in education, and worked with match funders on how best to evaluate the social action they’re supporting. So who are we, and what are we up to? The first bit’s easy: the Learning Hub is a consortium of four organisations – Dartington Service Design Lab, Generation Change, Renaisi and the Centre for Youth Impact. We’re all bringing different strengths to the partnership, but working closely together.
What we’re doing takes longer, and we need to start with the #iwill Fund itself (you can find out more about it by visiting https://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/about-big/iwill). It set itself the goals of increasing young people’s participation in high-quality youth social action and creating a natural pathway of social action for young people. The Fund has a structure: Big Lottery Fund and DCMS each contributed £20million, and this is then doubled again via match funders – including foundations, businesses and football clubs. Each of these is funding multiple projects in schools, hospitals, and communities across the country.
“We’re all bringing different strengths to the partnership, but working closely together.”
The #iwill Fund supports the aims of the #iwill campaign: to make involvement in social action a part of life for young people, by recognising the benefit for both young people and their communities. So right from its inception, the #iwill Fund had the goal to generate and share learning beyond itself – this is part of making it easier to build a future where social action can be a part of every young person’s life.
That’s where the Learning Hub comes in. Through individual evaluations, data collection, and learning communities, there’s a torrent of information and evidence being created about what the #iwill Fund is achieving (and what more it can do) but also what can be drawn out from this and applied more widely to youth social action – how it works and why, what it can achieve for young people and communities and when it works best, and how to fund and deliver it most effectively. We hope this will create a body of knowledge that the #iwill Fund can draw on, but which will be of use far beyond.
Activity on the ground isn’t the only thing created by the #iwill Fund, and which the Learning Hub can draw on. We’re also able to work directly with the match funders to draw out their emerging insights, and support them to develop ways to fund youth social action that embodies the six quality principles, and can be sustained in key institutions and settings – like education, health, or ‘place’. Through Generation Change’s Impact Accelerator we’re also able to work directly, and intensively, with delivery organisations to help them identify the areas of their design and delivery that need strengthening, and help them to do so. We’ll be learning so much about how other organisations can take action to put quality improvement at the heart of what they do too.
This work isn’t a flash in the plan – the Learning Hub will be working until 2021. But it’s not too much of a slow burner either – we hope to be publicly sharing our first reports in 2019. We have chunky questions to deal with around how to engage young people who we know are less likely to participate, including those from less affluent families, and how you sustain youth social action in a community beyond initial funding. Sometimes we’ll have (some) data, sometimes we’ll have expert insights from those doing the work on the ground, sometimes we’ll have research from beyond the Fund to draw on. We’ll be making practical sense out of them – so please get in touch if you have knowledge we should be drawing on.
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