When the country entered lockdown in March, the immediate closure of schools threw the completion of our curriculum-based programme for 2019/20 into jeopardy. Our commitment to #generationchange, our school communities, and the third sector called for an innovative solution.
The Wood Foundation devised, developed, and delivered Your Community Fund. This was a time-limited adaptation to YPI which would provide young people, who could not complete their scheduled programme of activity due to Covid-19, the continued opportunity to advocate on behalf of the issues they care most strongly about and directly support their local communities.
The idea for Your Community Fund originated before we, as a society and organisation, knew what lockdown would be like; what the impact on communities would be; and how home learning would be delivered.
Your Community Fund awarded 50 grants of £4000 to organisations the length and breadth of Scotland. Digital submissions from teams of young people who deployed creativity, teamwork, commitment, and innovation were a credit to their schools, a credit to the third sector organisations they were representing, and a credit to themselves. This experience further demonstrated what we know so well through YPI that when given the opportunity, the responsibility, and the platform to make a difference, young people rise to the challenge.
There have been key learnings from this process that we believe are important to reflect upon. This learning has also informed the adaptations we have made to our YPI programme in 2020/21 to reflect the ongoing challenge presented by Covid-19.
Your Community Fund provided an opportunity for young people – at a time when they were feeling both isolated and marginalised because of lockdown – the opportunity to consider the issues impacting their community. Specifically, those issues that were most acutely impacted by Covid-19. Mental health and food poverty charities were the two issues represented most often by young people. Amidst what is certain to be a generation defining time, giving young people the platform to better understand and act upon these issues and injustices was vital.
YPI connects young people and schools with their communities. YPI also offers a solid, contextualised learning project to develop a host of skills. In these extenuating circumstances, we were committed to ensuring young people were still given the opportunity to explore and develop areas such as teamwork, creativity, confidence, and presentation. Again, this was untried and untested, but our evaluation activity demonstrated that there was significant skills improvement, reflecting the areas that are developed through YPI.
A Dingwall Academy pupil, who was part of the team which secured funds for Mikeysline, said:
“Learning from home is already difficult enough, so to be given a task which meant working in a group online was daunting but we faced it head on through Google Hangouts and our group was pleased with how it turned out. We couldn’t have done it without knowing our teachers were on the other end of the Google Classroom to answer the questions that we had.
“It felt amazing to play a little part in helping the charity do what it does to support people when they feel that no-one else cares.”
More than three-quarters of teachers believe Your Community Fund offered explorative creativity opportunities and the diversity of submissions received reflected this. When it was launched, teachers were grappling with many new factors in delivering teaching and, by embracing this opportunity, we recognise their dedication to innovation during a complex period.
Mr Smith, Head Teacher at North West Community Campus which secured three awards, said:
“This represents a tremendous achievement on a national level. The money the teams have secured through their hard work and creativity is an incredible gift to the local community. Our staff, Miss Gibson and Mr Cook who supported the process and the young people who did such a great job have, through their skill, helped improve the lives of others in our community. They have shown a great deal of responsibility and achieved great success.”
The Wood Foundation prides itself on the collaborative working partnerships we have with our schools and we are committed to utlising YPI as professional learning vehicle. In our evaluation, two-thirds of teachers told us that Your Community Fund supported their own digital skillset, preparing them for online and blended learning. They also said Your Community Fund allowed them to build stronger relationships with students who were home learning.
Schools are set to return in August and we have more than 250 schools committed to YPI in the 2020/21 academic year. This is a wonderful endorsement of the esteem the programme holds in our partner schools. Your Community Fund has provided us with essential learnings which will be central to our delivery this academic year and for the ongoing evolution of the programme.
We are incredibly proud of the young people who advocated with conviction and creativity on behalf of their communities. Their participation during this crisis is immeasurable. How we harness that momentum, giving #generationchange the platforms to advocate in these generation-defining times, is vitally important as we move forward.
For more information on YPI, contact firstname.lastname@example.org