Blog: Social action - the power of young people to change lives

“Knowing that I’ve helped provide funding to these amazing organisations is so rewarding.”

By Fran Barratt, aged 22

The past twelve months have been really exciting for me, as I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with Comic Relief and the #iwill fund to develop a new, exciting grants programme designed to inspire young people to get involved with social action.

I was volunteering for another organisation in Manchester when I was told that Comic Relief and the #iwill fund were inviting people along to find out more about their upcoming programme. It sounded like a great opportunity for me to learn more about the other side of Comic Relief’s work - to see how they create and make grants to other organisations.

I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t entirely sure what was meant by social action ahead of the first meeting. It turns out that if you’ve ever volunteered, fundraised or campaigned, then you’ve been involved with social action because you’re doing something that is making your community a better place.

At the session, I could see straight away that our opinions and views mattered. Comic Relief and the #iwill fund wanted us, young people, to help design the programme and be the driving force behind deciding which projects the partnership was going to fund. I signed up there and then to be part of a group of about 15 young people to help design the funding programme.

Early on in the process, we learnt that only 4 in 10 young people in the UK take part in social action, and that those from more disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to take part. From our experiences as a group we know how hard it can be for young people to find exciting opportunities to get involved in. As a result we wanted to recommend projects that would engage young people and inspire them.

I dropped out of college after my first year, and I’ve never held down a full time job. But recently I have volunteered in projects like this, and have been able to build my confidence and learn new skills that I know will help me in the future. So I knew first-hand how impactful that social action could be, young people just had to be educated on the benefits.

Over the coming months we spent time as a group learning about the different projects that had applied for funding. The panel was made up of a really diverse group of people, meaning we could draw on our different experiences, to understand how we thought a project was going to benefit young people and also the community. We also spent time interviewing the prospective grantees over Skype, which was my favourite part of the process. They were all so passionate about their projects which was brilliant to see, but also made deciding on who to award funding to that little bit harder.

We recommended 16 different projects to award funding to that were doing incredible things to support mental health, homelessness, young people who have been in care, and LGBTQ young people. It’s so rewarding knowing that I’ve helped provide funding to these amazing organisations. They’re creating nurturing environments where young people, who may have had similar experiences to me, can use their creativity to inspire positive change in their community.

Above all, I’ve met so many incredible people from across the country who are passionate about social action, who understand the amazing potential it has to change the lives of young people. I’ve loved the whole experience, and I’m looking forward to seeing the huge impact that these grants are going to have on young people and the communities that they live in.

This week, Comic Relief is delighted to be joining the #iwill fund in celebrating #iwillweek, a week-long celebration of young people who lead social change in their community.