The Co-op Foundation is inviting youth charities in disadvantaged areas of England to apply for the first round of its #iwill fund.
Last month, the Foundation announced a new £2 million partnership to help young people take action to tackle loneliness – a key issue the Co-op has been campaigning on for the past two years. The first £400,000 of this funding will be awarded in 2017, through nine regional grants and one larger national project.
The #iwill fund is made possible thanks to a £40 million joint funding from the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund, and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. £1 million from the #iwill fund will be matched pound-for-pound by the Co-op Foundation, who will use the combined pot to grow their national network of partners tackling youth loneliness.
Funds will be targeted at disadvantaged areas where there are currently fewer opportunities for youth social action – activities which make a positive difference to communities, while developing young people’s skills.
Jim Cooke, Co-op Foundation Manager, explains: “The challenges of growing up today, from the impact of social media to the ‘gig’ economy, mean that loneliness is a significant issue for young people.
“By creating more opportunities to take part in meaningful social action, we hope to strengthen young people’s sense of belonging and help develop a generation of confident, connected young citizens.”
Organisations awarded grants through the new fund will join an existing network of Co-op Foundation partners, who are addressing different aspects of youth loneliness and working together to share learnings about the issue.
One of these partners is Youth Focus: North East, who have worked with a group of young people to develop a grassroots peer-to-peer approach to tackling loneliness, called ‘Fast Friends’. Using photography as a way of exploring experiences of loneliness, the Fast Friends group are encouraging other young people to open up about this issue and take positive actions to support each other.
Fast Friends member Adam Cowley (21) said: "I think the loneliness project is important because a lot of young people suffer from isolation and we can all help to do something about it."
The #iwill fund supports the aims of the UK-wide #iwill campaign, co-ordinated by the charity Step Up To Serve, to increase the number of young people taking part in social action.
Charlotte Hill, CEO of Step Up To Serve, said: “Social action builds vital skills whilst also enabling young people to contribute to their communities. Young people should ALL have access to these opportunities to make a difference, regardless of their background.
“This exciting new partnership is all about enabling young people to understand the challenges of loneliness and consider how they can help others to cope with them. I look forward to hearing about the great new youth-led projects this funding will support.”
The deadline for expressions of interest in applying to the fund is 7 July. To find out more, including full details of eligible areas and how to apply, visit coop.co.uk/foundation