The #iwill Fund is a £54 million joint investment from The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to support young people to access high quality social action. It defines social action as activities such as campaigning, fundraising, and volunteering; all of which enable young people to make a difference in their communities and to develop their own skills and knowledge.
The Fund provided opportunities for a wide range of underrepresented groups to participate and lead in different social action projects. The target groups included a focus on involving men to support projects. The Fund also worked with young people with disabilities and those from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Projects engaged with young carers as well as those who have experienced the care system. The Fund also supported asylum seekers and refugees as well as young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
These projects were all co-produced with young people from these groups. The focus was on championing peer-to-peer engagement and the importance of trust building. Wavehill was commissioned to evaluate the impact that the #iwill partnership has had on the young people and their communities, through the wide range of different projects that the Fund has supported. From our work we were able to explore effective strategies for involving these underrepresented groups to meaningfully engage with youth social action initiatives.
Approach to evaluating youth social action projects
In total 16 projects located across the UK were supported by the Fund. Whilst the core vision focused on enabling social action among young people, a central evaluation framework was not in place at the beginning of this project. Restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic made data collection yet more challenging. Instead of carrying out a traditional evaluation, Wavehill
took a person-centred approach to understanding the value and impact that this Fund had on the young people and communities involved.
We worked with each of the 16 individual projects to establish the best way to engage with them and their participants. This included carrying our surveys, interviews, and focus groups. We wanted to ensure that all young people, and the organisations involved, had the opportunity to feedback in a way that felt comfortable for them. We also compiled a wider database covering key impact measures to ascertain the distinct value that the overall Fund enabled. This approach led to better engagement from the young people involved in the project and to richer insights that helped influence the direction of the wider programme.
Our evaluation showed the importance of involving young people in the decision-making process. From an organisational perspective it helped these organisations to better understand the issues facing young people so that they in turn could provide more focused support for their project recipients. It also led to improved engagement rates amongst young people across the projects delivered. For the recipients it led to notable increases in their confidence, self-belief, and wellbeing. As a legacy of this Fund, our evaluation shows the continuation of meaningful social action amongst many young people involved in this project.
Our work has also provided important insights for the wider sector and developed guidance on best practice. This includes contributing to sector roundtables and developing outputs that outline effective ways to engage young people in youth social action. Our evaluation demonstrated that all projects provided benefits and so wider discussions did not need to focus purely on impact but on the tools and best practice developed to continue supporting the young people within the different target groups.