4 lessons we learned from putting young people in the lead

In 2018 we supported Scotland’s ‘Year of Young People’ by setting up The Year of Young People National Lottery Fund. Led by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with ourselves at The National Lottery Community Fund, sportscotland and the Spirit of 2012 Trust, this £800,000 fund offered grants for projects supporting young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

With a full evaluation of the fund now complete, we invited Caroline Clark, Director of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Scotland to talk about what happened when young people were put in the lead:

3 young people visiting a project in Coalburn, South Lanarkshire
Credit: Delvin Photo Ltd

“To mark the Year of Young People, we invited young people to co-design a special grants scheme and make decisions on who should get the funding.

Alongside the many heritage, community and sports projects that benefitted from funding, the young leaders flourished too – with 91% saying they felt valued and 89% saying they felt represented and influential.

We found that the positivity of involving young people in the decision-making, leadership, creation and design of a grants programme, and in helping make the projects happen, gave them a much more positive outlook on life in general.

Working together – the background

It wasn’t just National Lottery funding organisations that worked together to make the fund a success.

With help from Young Scot, young people aged 8-26 co-designed what the fund would look like. They shaped its aims and guidance materials, helped promote it and encourage applications, and then made decisions on where the money was spent.

We awarded grants ranging from £3,000 to £10,000 to 92 projects focused on mental health and wellbeing, across 24 of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas. Activities included outdoor skills development, physical activity sessions, theatre, art and creative workshops, volunteering, heritage and history work, and events for specific marginalised groups.

Infographic of programme highlights: 91% of young people felt valued; 89% of young people felt represented and influential; 10,956 young people involved across projects ranging from 6 to 1,761 participants

Almost 11,000 young people participated in the funded activities. For our evaluation report, we commissioned Social Marketing Gateway to gather views from more than 800 of them.

We found that being part of a Year of Young People project had a really positive impact on young people’s lives. When we spoke to them, 72% felt a significant increase in their general satisfaction in life, 90% said that their levels of physical activity had improved and the proportion who wished they had a different life dropped by half.

What young people told us

We also asked young people to share their advice on the most effective ways of involving them in projects. They told us:

  1. Involve young people from the start, in the planning and design process and let them choose the elements they want to work on.

“That was the whole point. A mental health event for young people, by young people. Tested and approved.”

Hannah, young person from Young Movers (YoMo) project

“The project was ultimately for the young people BY the young people which is incredibly empowering.”

Young person, remained anonymous

2. Adapt the project to their needs – if they’re not used to sitting around a table, have planning walks instead of traditional planning meetings.

“…we sat them around a table to discuss the design board and you could see their shoulders slumping, going ‘oh no, we’re back at school”. So in the end we thought ‘can this’ and we moved the design board outside and walked around the garden with it to get them more active.”

Project lead, Belville Community Garden Trust

3. Don’t assign higher and lower level roles, as this can form a hierarchy. Instead let the young people organically adopt different roles.

“I liked that it wasn’t just being able to learn, but I could teach people as well. It’s not just me benefitting, it’s other people.”

Jake, young leader, Belville Community Garden Trust

4. Always allow the young people to have time out if they need it.

“I got into this through school, but I picked it because it got me out of school.”

Jack, young person, Belville Community Garden Trust

“It’s helped me come to terms with myself – like, I can have bad days. And with my friends, I can identify the signs.”

Hannah, young person from Young Movers (YoMo) project

In the full report there are many more pearls of wisdom about what can happen when young people are put in the lead.

Given that sense of ownership, young people showed us just how talented, creative, enthusiastic and resilient they are.”

You can download the full Year of Young People National Lottery Fund Programme
Evaluation report here

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