25 Feb 2021

Power of Youth Explained

The Power of Youth Explained is a six-part series of short interactive, digital articles curated by #iwill partner organisations and Ambassadors. The series aims to bring together research, experiences and resources that not only develops the readers’ knowledge and understanding of youth social action, but helps them turn it into action. They are also designed to help your organisation put your Power of Youth Charter commitments into practice.


Investing in youth social action


Children and young people have been one of the groups worst-affected by Covid-19. They face significant economic and social challenges including worsening mental health, widening educational inequalities and skyrocketing youth unemployment. 

Young people were particularly hard hit by the economic recession and austerity measures that followed the 2008 financial crisis, with significant funding reductions to the youth and education sectors. 

Without urgent action, they now look set to suffer the long-term consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, with poorer living standards and worsened life chances. 

We cannot meaningfully ‘build back better’ without significant investment in children and young people. Such investment must include empowering them to be active citizens, able to shape decisions and take positive social action on the issues that affect their lives, their communities and the future of the country. 

The work of the #iwill campaign and #iwill Fund show the significant benefits that come from working collaboratively with young people to tackle social and environmental challenges, including enhanced wellbeing, the development of key character qualities and skills, and community cohesion.


Drawing on lessons captured in the case studies below, key priorities for future investment in youth social action should include:

A commitment by Government to maintain collaborative funding for youth social action over the next decade, either through continuation of the #iwill Fund (set to stop in December 2022) or through a new Government-Funder partnership.

A focus on gathering more evidence of the economic, social and environmental benefits of youth social action, with a particular focus on addressing the climate emergency, youth unemployment and mental health.

Targeted investment to empower more young people from low-income backgrounds to take positive social action. That includes funding to embed youth social action in schools and colleges as the key gateway for disadvantaged groups to access opportunities; and removing financial barriers that can prevent young people from taking part, such as travel or suitable clothing.

Government and funders’ engagement of young people at all levels, including governance, decision-making on funding, programme design, implementation and evaluation. Both should use their leverage with grantees to grow participation of young people in decision-making at a national and local level.


Check out examples of investment that is enabling young people to take the lead, younger young people and young people from lower-income backgrounds to participate, and creating high quality opportunities.

Involving young people in funding decisions
Targeting funding to reach under 14s
Empowering young people from low-income backgrounds to take action
Investing in high-quality youth social action

Amanda Jordan, Former Chair, #iwill Fund Leadership Board

“The #iWill Fund is built upon the principles of collaboration. The main investors the Community Fund and UK Govt have been matched by a wide variety of funders all of whom have brought their own experiences and perspectives of youth social action to the table. 

At the heart of that collaboration has been young people themselves who have played an active part in both decision making as well as delivery of the projects . 

This unique combination has produced some exciting initiatives, engaging and empowering young people of all ages and settings in making their contribution to society in a practical way. The learnings have been shared through the Fund’s innovative Learning hub and will ensure that the Fund has a  lasting sustainable legacy.”


Findings from the #iwill Fund show how funders are investing in youth social action, who they are reaching and how they’re delivering their funding. For more learnings from the fund, visit the #iwill Fund Learning Hub.

56% of participants in #iwill Fund-ed social action opportunities are under the age of 14, and 15% are under 10.



86% of Match Funders involve young people in some way in #iwill Fund grant decision making and/or steering groups.


There are currently c580k participants in #iwill Fund-ed youth social action opportunities across England



INTERVIEW: Helen Whyman, Head of the #iwill Fund, The National Lottery Community Fund

What is the #iwill Fund and how does the #iwill Fund work?

The #iwill Fund is a collaboration of funders who’ve come together with seed funding from the National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). We’re working together to embed high quality youth social action across England for young people aged 10 -20, and helping to support the aims of the #iwill campaign. It’s all about those 25 funders coming together to embed youth social action, create a learning environment, work collaborativley and look to see how we can increase investment in this important area going forward.
Image of children at a Sport England #iwill Fund programme.
What impact do you think the #iwill Fund has made and why?
For me, I think there’s 3 main impacts of the Fund. The first that we’re creating a huge number of opportunities for young people that are high quality – progressive, embedded, reflective, challenging,  socially impactful, and importantly they’re youth-led. The #iwill Fund believes in being youth-led, which is why we have young people on the the decision-making panel for the Fund as a whole, and we’re working with funders and delivery organisations to embed young people into the decision making and design of the opportunities they’re creating too.
We’re working with funders and delivery organisations across a huge range of themes, types of social action, and in both local and national contexts, to work with young people where they are to identify what they want to be doing and the changes they want to be seeing. The opportunities created support the young people, and in turn also benefits their communities.
The second impact is that we’ve created a collaborative environment where funders and delivery organisations can come together to learn, challenge each other, and think about how we make what we’re doing better. Match funders are identifying what they want to learn, and the #iwill Fund is collating that learning and sharing – through stories, good practice, sharing things are not working well, and challenging each other to think how we can improve, always whilst being led by young people. There’s still more work to do on this – we’re striving for better and listening to what young people are telling us on how we can make this better.
The third is increased investment into youth social action. The Fund has allowed us to reduce duplication and think about how we fund better together. With different funders coming in with different focus area, requirements, restrictions – we’re constantly asking ourselves how make that collaboration works better, and in turn create more funding and investment available for young people to take action and make change.
What have been the main challenges the #iwill Fund has faced since its launch in 2016?
In some ways, the challenges are actually the benefits. One is the diversity of things that youth soial action can be – everything from volunteering, helping your local community, fundraising, campaigning – there are so many thing that young people are doing to help their community. And there are so many different types of community too – is it geographical, social, identity-based, thematic, based around an organisation like a school? It’s really difficult to collate all that learning together when it covers such a broad area. Young people are taking the lead – they are identifying what they want to be doing, and so the types of things they’re doing are naturally diverse! But this does create a challenge for collating learning!
The second is collaborating – it takes time, and resource, energy, commitment and passion and compromise – collaboration amongst funders, and amongst delivery partners is fantastic, but can be a challenge to consistently ensure we’re not working in silos.
Based on your experiences with the #iwill Fund, what are your top tips for funders who want to invest in youth social action opportunities?
  1. Listen to young people – get them in from the beginning. We want young people and adults from organisations around the table together. It’s easy to have a youth panel on the side, and then maybe listen to them. But bringing young people together with the decision makers is where it’s most impactful. This takes time and resource to do it right – so you need to make sure you’re committing to creating the right environment for young people, and those decision makers to fully engage together, making sure there’s opportunity for challenge from both sides, and that young people are in the lead.
  2. Collaboration and working together – again, this takes time and energy to do it well. You also need to be honest and open – agree the similarities and acknowledge the differences – that’s important to be able to work together.
  3. Keep revisiting your original questions – what is your core purpose? What are you trying to achieve?  As we’ve seen over the last year, what you’ve designed and what you’re delivering can change very quickly! Take something you designed in 2019 – how you’re delivering it in 2020 is going to be very different. So you need to keep going back, asking yourself if what you’re doing now is meeting your original and core purpose.


Examples of high quality youth social action in action across sectors:


Read the previous article
Back to the beginning!