Youth engagement advisory group

We're busy providing young people with exciting opportunities across England and Wales.

Lead volunteer with the Canal & River Trust Lead volunteer with the Canal & River Trust

Since becoming a charity in 2012, the Trust has seen a significant increase in our youth engagement enjoying growth in the quality, quantity and diversity of opportunities. We have also seen a significant increase in the number of young people getting involved and notably from an increasingly diverse range of backgrounds.

Our youth engagement framework, launched in 2017, sets out: social action; skills development & employability; and active participation as the areas where we can have the greatest reach and impact on young people’s lives.

Under these three themes, we have delivered a range of regional and national projects and activities including: the Desmond Family Canoe Trail, the Leicester Young Ecologists Programme, the hugely successful Let’s Fish Campaign and our ‘A Million Hands’ partnership with the Scouts Association. We have also welcomed our first national youth panel, have piloted a new approach to Work Experience, and are making changes to our volunteering programme including the introduction of micro-volunteering, digital volunteering and mass participation events to appeal to younger audiences.

We appreciate the valuable role young people have to play in the waterways both now and in the future and have a number of strategic ambitions related to this area of our work:

  • 1 million children and young people engaging with the Trust and our waterways per year by 2025
  • ½ million children and young people developing skills through their involvement with us per year by 2025
  • 500,000 youth social action hours per year by 2025

The youth engagement advisory group understands more fully the wider context of engaging young people, so that we can plan and deliver effective, innovative programmes. 

The members of the group represent organisations from across the youth and wider charity sector and bring valuable experience and expertise from a range of specialist areas including: youth social action, student engagement and higher education, sustainability, youth policy, youth voice and leadership, sports, mental health and social entrepreneurialism.

The group provides insight, advice and guidance and also helps with issues of significance relating to engaging young people, especially those that may be innovative or controversial.

Meet the team

Louis Howell (Chair)

Louis is a dynamic and rounded professional with experience that spans the voluntary youth sector, education sector and the world of small business. Today, he runs a marketing transformation company, co-runs an educational social enterprise and is a trustee and volunteer at 2 small London-based charities. His work with the Canal & River Trust began when he worked on the Action Squads Programme, headed up by NCVYS, which engaged and supported young people in social action across the canal network. This partnership, combined with the fantastic relationship maintained with the team since then, has seen Louis come back regularly to train the Trust’s staff and volunteers on the most effective ways of engaging and working with young people.

Ellie Alvarez

Ellie is currently working as the Operations and Project Coordinator for the #iwill campaign. She joined the campaign following her graduation from her Masters degree in Migration Studies from the University of Sussex. Previous to that, Ellie received a BA in French and Spanish at Cardiff University.  Ellie's social action has focused on working with refugees and migrants. She is currently a volunteer for the South London Refugee Association as an advice volunteer. She also has other experience in campaigning for better education for refugees, teaching and support work. Whilst at Cardiff University, Ellie ran a series of supper clubs in which refugees and asylum seekers in Cardiff put on an evening of their own design, and this combined her passion for helping to improve the lives of refugees with her love for food.

Frances Craven

Biography available shortly

Chloe Donovan

Young facilitator in East of England and development officer for Young People's Skills.

  • Active in youth participation since the age of 12
  • Member of Connexions youth council
  • Was member of the UK Youth Parliament
  • Led planning group for Young Partners Award
  • Currently a member of the Canal & River Trust Council

John Downes

John's career has been dedicated to supporting young people and enabling them to shape their own futures.  At StreetGames John is Head of Youth and Sport and Area Director for the North East.  He is responsible for creating their young volunteer and young advisors programmes which have gone on to work with over 20,000 young people in becoming local leaders.  Currently John is a rugby league coach, governor of his local first school and recently joined the management group of the National Youth Safeguarding Forum.  Previously John was a trustee of NCVYS and MACC, the community sector infrastructure organisation for Manchester.

Michelle Hemmingfield

Biography available shortly

Vanessa Joseph

Vanessa works for Mind, the Mental Health charity as a Young Person Influence and Participation Manager.  She has been with Mind since January 2019 and previously with The Children’s Society for four years, as a Participation Manager specialising in serious youth violence and child sexual exploitation. Vanessa's current role is to provide young people between the ages of 11-24 with a plethora of opportunities to shape Mind’s work nationally. Her hope is that providing these opportunities to young people will develop the skills and experiences they need to feel more listened to, feel more confident and increase their accessibility into education, training and employment. Vanessa also hopes and is confident that having the views of young people will provide the ammunition to influence decision makers to make change around mental health support that will positively benefit those who seek the support.   

Lisa Putnam

Lisa is Assistant Director for Development at the National Youth Agency, the national body for youth work.  Lisa has responsibility for driving the growth and evolution of the organisation through developing innovative approaches, partnerships and research opportunities to ensure young people get access to timely, relevant and impactful opportunities, rooted in co-creation and youth voice.

Kristen Stephenson

As Head of Volunteering, Kristen leads on managing the 38 projects across their Volunteering Fund and supporting the delivery of their strategy, ‘Volunteering in an Active Nation’. The fund is focused on getting young people involved in making a difference through social action, sport and physical activity and creating opportunities to get people from economically disadvantaged areas involved in volunteering. She’s passionate about creating opportunities for more people to experience the benefits of volunteering and getting active. She was previously Volunteering Development Manager at the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) which worked with over 12,000 different charities who were members of NCVO. Her role was to lead their work on volunteering which ranged from policy work to influence decision making in government, providing writing practical resources on volunteer management to working a diverse range of organisations to develop their approach to volunteering. This included working with charities big and small, the police and the home office, museums, galleries and the NHS.

Kayleigh Wainwright

Kayleigh Wainwright is Head of Membership & Policy at UK Youth, a leading national charity, committed to providing access to appropriate, high quality services in every community so that young people are empowered to build bright futures, regardless of their background or circumstances. Kayleigh has over 12 years experience in the youth sector, working for a number of local and regional organisations developing new projects with young people and leading on shaping policy. She is passionate about co-creation and meaningful engagement with young people and communities and creating lasting social change through using innovative methods and ideas.

Stephen Higham

Head of Service Partner & Outcomes Development

Lucie Unsworth

National Youth & Civil Society Manager

Last date edited: 6 January 2020