The Canal & River Trust is a waterways and wellbeing charity. Specifically, we’re here to care for and protect 2,000 miles of waterways, and to promote their use by the people who live around them. We believe life is better by water. As waterways flow through some of the most diverse and often deprived communities, there’s enormous potential for them to contribute to the wellbeing of individuals, communities and society.

Since we launched in 2012 we’ve grown youth engagement from a single project to a national priority, changing our culture to become ‘youth fit’. We’re proud to be one of the original #iwill partners, having made our first pledge in December 2013, shortly after the campaign was launched. And in 2017 we launched our first youth engagement framework. This set out our vision and priorities with social action as one of three key themes (along with skills development / employability and active participation).

We’re not stopping here. We want to grow the scale and reach of our youth work to engage one million children and young people in a range of activities across all communities by 2025. We continue to develop our youth offer. In recent years we’ve increased not only the number of young volunteers but also the breadth of opportunities we offer and the diversity of the young people engaging with us.

In 2017 we developed our Outcomes Measurement Framework. This put robust evaluation systems in place that mean we can now demonstrate the impact of our work, and ensure that everyone involved – including our volunteers and participants – understands the huge difference they’re making.

We commit to being ‘youth-led’ wherever possible, by providing opportunities for young people to be involved in our decision making at all levels. Since it started in 2012, our Youth Engagement Advisory Group has been chaired by a young person. And in March 2019 we set up our first ever national youth panel to work alongside our national and regional teams to develop and deliver our programme for year of green action / #iwill4nature.

Our backing of the #iwill campaign has been a catalyst for our youth engagement work. It’s helped us grow internal support for – and understanding of – youth social action, introducing us to new partners, and enabling us to reach new audiences across the youth sector. We now have strong foundations from which to build our approach to youth social action, with six quality principles that underpin all our youth work.

Our latest #iwill pledge, made in November 2018, reflects our journey so far and sees us continuing to build our internal capacity and grow our youth offer. We’re committed to getting young people more involved in our leadership and community programmes, and measuring the impact of youth social action, particularly in relation to the wellbeing of individuals, communities and society.