Spirit of Youth – our #iwill pledge

Endowed by the Big Lottery Fund to offer a social legacy of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games, which famously promised to “Inspire a generation”, Spirit of 2012’s charitable objects include the education and development of young people and youth leadership. So we readily pledged to support the aims of the #iwill campaign back in 2014.

Pledges are easy to make but hard to honour. So how are we doing?

We pledged to invest £8m in youth and social action. To date, we have committed £6.8m of that and increased our total pledge to £9.9m by 2019 - as well as having secured another £4.5m in partner match funding. Spirit investment has engaged 398,540 children and [1]young people and enabled them to participate and volunteer in arts, film making and music, sport development, social entrepreneurship, reading as a means of young offender rehabilitation and the Spirit of 2012 Youth Advisory Panel (YAP).

Our earliest youth-focused projects are now closing, Team London Young Ambassadors and the Youth Sport Trust’s Inclusive Futures among them.  What did they achieve?

Spirit’s three year partnership with Team London reached 401,141 young people [1] (107,985 of them as engaged volunteers) in 1,990 schools (including Pupil Referral Units and Special Educational Needs centres).  88% of those young people say they have enhanced leadership skills as a result, and 70% of their teachers say the project has inspired previously disengaged students to become more involved. 

Inclusive Futures engaged 9,879 people aged 8-65 in inclusive sports leadership and volunteering across nine UK cities.  It has successfully challenged perceptions of disability, with 93% of participants viewing disabled people more positively, and 32% more believing disabled people can lead as full a life as non-disabled people, than at the outset.  IF has also raised awareness of the prejudice disabled people face: after their involvement, 82% felt there’s a lot” of prejudice against disabled people in Britain compared to 74% at the outset.

Also winding up is our first Youth Advisory Panel cohort. Led by Spirit Board Member Carl Konadu, this diverse group of 12 sparky and talented young people from across the UK has gelled over two years into a dynamic and effective self-development hub, allocating their own £100,000 pot to youth social action projects. They ensure there’s a youth voice in Spirit’s decision making, and gain training, coaching and mentoring support to develop their skills and enhance their employability. Six of the ten YAP members with jobs have achieved a promotion or a new career direction and Sheffield University student Shukri has felt her confidence grow: “At the beginning it was hard for me to speak up, but the Spirit Youth Advisory Panel has opened me up to new people, projects and ideas.”

Now, we’re excited to be recruiting the second YAP cohort.

Funding news includes our recently announced support for the 1 Million Mentors pilot, which has the potential to offer essential and cost effective support across the wider youth development sector.  Young people in 12 east and west midlands towns will take part in Emerge drama and verbal arts workshops and festivals through our collaboration with The Mighty Creatives. Next year we plan to invest £1 million to boost the wellbeing of young women and girls, marking 100 years since women first won the right to vote, while recognising the obstacles to full equality that girls and women still face.

But Spirit does not just pledge cash. We promise too to listen to our partners and to share their learning about what works best to enhance outcomes for young people across our funded activities. For example, the Youth Sport Trust’s valuable insights from Inclusive Futures helped Team London tailor the delivery of Young Ambassadors for students with learning difficulties. 

Shareable ‘golden nuggets’ emerging from our evaluation include: wellbeing improves when participants feel their activities are making a difference in their communities;  while inspirational events or light touch involvement is beneficial for people, frequent, sustained and regular engagement over six months or more can be life-changing; ‘youth led’ projects work best when partners  adequately prepare young people to plan the pathway to the outcomes they’d like to see, and introduce them to management and leadership tools at the outset.

Follow us on Twitter, sign up to our Newsletter and visit our website to see how we are doing. We’ll be back next year.


[1] Under 30