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Investing in young people to achieve positive change – it’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it

Ruth Pryce, Senior Grants Manager

Paul Hamlyn Foundation has invested in work with and for young people for over thirty years. We’ve recently made our 100th grant to organisations through the Youth Fund. This fund, together with the Growth Fund introduced in 2016, help us to support our strategic priority to invest in organisations that support young people to achieve positive change. Through these funding programmes, we are particularly keen to support young people’s

  • Engagement: encouraging young people to take part, to connect and to build relationships with those around them
  • Development: building young people’s strengths and capabilities to manage personal circumstances, increase skills and mobilise resources
  • Action: young people’s experience and active participation in community and society, increasing youth voice, mobilising influence and engagement in democracy
  • Leadership: identifying and investing in potential for young people to lead change, take responsibility and be empowered members of society.

All of our funding through this priority focuses on how work is carried out, who is leading the work and the ambition for growing impact with and for young people rather than what work will take place, or what the outcomes will be for young people. That’s not to say we’re not interested in these things but rather we’re focused on the process, the relationships and the quality of both. We understand how vital these elements are to achieving ambitions and how this focus on values, culture, people and on continuous improvement makes such a difference.

We are three years into our journey with lots of learning still to do but have some insight to share about the way we are funding – our focus on asset based approaches to working with young people, on growing impact with and for young people, on supporting organisations with core funding and on learning.

Funding prioritises organisations which work in an asset based way – by this we mean embracing capability and potential and shifting the focus from what is lacking to what is working. These approaches focus on nurturing possibilities. They range from working with young people’s strengths, to mobilising resources within a community, to maximising opportunities for system wide change. We look to fund organisations who demonstrate this approach – they may be fairly early in their experience of working in this way or already well established in their practice but funding will lead to the development of these approaches and sharing practice and insight. We work alongside independent advisors, evaluators and researchers in this endeavour to develop our understanding of what asset based working looks like in practice and to share this learning with organisations we support.

We realise that our investment in this space is limited and we are therefore focused on supporting organisations who are looking to grow their impact with and for young people beyond their immediate reach. We aim to support organisations to improve, consolidate and spread good practice and in doing so to achieve a wider impact for young people, who aim to change systems, to challenge negative attitudes, to influence policy and practice. We are looking to fund transformational change for young people. Many organisations we fund are focused on finding new ways to tackle challenges faced by young people, on improving the quality and depth of their existing work, on expanding to reach more young people through new technology and in new locations, on sharing good practice and on consolidating what they do and making it financially sustainable, and on driving improvements.

Funding through the Youth Fund and Growth Fund does not support programme or project delivery but provides core funding and aims to provide a flexible but focused investment. In this way we contribute to supporting longer term sustainability, strengthening what works well, harnessing opportunity, and driving change and improvement  where there is potential to do things differently or more collaboratively.

We are also focused on learning through this funding, encouraging organisations we fund to share their experiences with us so we can understand the challenges and opportunities they face. We bring organisations supported through our funding together to meet one another, to share practice and insights and to build capacity. We want to support learning and continuous improvement and understand the importance of relationships, networks and creating connections to do so.

The ‘how’ in our funding programmes has become a feature – the process, the relationships and the quality of both are key in achieving ambitions for young people and positive change.

We have been working alongside evaluators for the past few years, who are helping us to understand how best to support organisations aiming to prepare to and to grow their impact for young people. This will not only continue to inform our approach to funding but we hope we will be able to share further learning with the organisations we support, others working with young people and with other funders.

You can find out more on our website and particularly by looking at examples of work we support through the Youth Fund and Growth Fund here.

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