As long-time supporters of the campaign and advocates for green action, we have been eagerly awaiting this year’s #iwillweek at the Trust.
We have lots of exciting activities and events planned across the country from young leader sessions in Burnley and Wigan to a Creative Careers session at our museum in Ellesmere Port, a site visit for one of our school’s pocket adoptions on the Regents Canal, canoe based litter picks and a pond building project in Gloucestershire.
Youth social action is one of the three pillars of our youth engagement framework and has been a huge growth area for us in recent years, particularly in terms of creating more opportunities for young people to take a lead and get involved in decision making.
We launched our first ever national youth panel in May and are currently developing a 12 month fellowship to encourage more under 25s on to our regional and national advisory boards.
At the Trust, recognising and celebrating young peoples’ efforts and achievements is really important to us. We do this in lots of ways from saying thank you, giving feedback and passing on positive comments to offering reward activities, teambuilding days, watersports sessions and BBQs.
We also have a whole host of formal and informal awards and accreditation including; inhouse certificates, Duke of Edinburgh Awards, John Muir Awards, ASDAN Awards, Youth Achievement Awards and more technical qualifications such as CAST Awards for angling and BCAB qualifications for paddlesports.
We are working with Gloucester College’s Steps to Employment scheme, helping students build skills for life and work and recognising their achievements through training, awards schemes and celebration events.
As well as their Princes Trust Award, the students are all working towards their John Muir Award and will take part in a 4 day residential next year before enjoying a final celebration event to mark the end of this phase of the project.
Over the past year we have been working with Urban Wilderness, an arts organisation specialising in connecting disadvantaged young people to every-day nature.
They use co-creative methods, developing plans alongside young people and the wider community. Funded by the Co-op Foundation, our work at Tinsley Marina was designed to address loneliness in 14 – 25 year olds. We understand that connection to places as well as to other people can be key in overcoming loneliness, at any age and canals can provide ideal spaces for people to come together.
Urban Wilderness engaged the young people in three activities: a bright mural which took inspiration from boat art and nature; creating a cleared and sign-posted pathway through an area of shrub and building greenwood benches to create a meeting point that facilitates connection and conversation.
Not only did the project make a positive impact to the physical canal environment, picking litter, clearing vegetation and creating wildlife friendly log-piles, it also had a positive impact on the young people involved.
The Desmond Family Canoe Trail Project is a great example of how we can impact young people and communities through partnerships.
Building partnerships at a strategic level with organisations such as British Canoeing has given the project invaluable support and expert guidance allowing us to create a trail accessible to all whilst also being a challenge for more experienced paddlers. British Canoeing have helped the project to set up three canoe clubs across the trail, including a ‘This Girl Can’ club in Wigan, ensuring a lasting legacy and making sure communities continue to have access to activities.
Creating local partnerships with youth providers, charities and educational establishments has allowed us to engage with over 10,000 people from the local community over 5 years widening opportunities to participate in activities on and off the water, increasing young people’s life and work-related skills and creating social action projects.
Our Pocket Adoption scheme is a great example of a practical way young people can get involved, taking ownership of a stretch of their local canal and working with Trust colleagues and other volunteers to improve the site for the benefit of themselves, their peers and their wider community.
The Pocket Adoption Scheme empowers young people. The aim is for them to develop personal and employability skills and act as advocates for the Trust and waterways. Pocket adoptions deliver activities such as tree-planting, habitat creation, vegetation clearance, water-borne litter picks, family fun days, canoe taster sessions, guided walks and lock painting.
The most recent addition to the scheme is Hope College who after working with the Trust for the past 12 months, have this week signed the paperwork to adopt a stretch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Project Leader, Vicki Birch has worked with 20 students every week on a wide range of projects including; vegetation removal, litter-picks, upcycling items reclaimed from the canal, removing invasive plant species from the canal via canoe and a sponsored walk to raise funds for the Trust.
Vicki says: "This group has been absolutely fantastic to work with and always give everything 100%. They are full of ideas and enthusiasm and have already made a real difference to the canal. It has been great to see them grow in confidence and start to take more of a lead on activities. They have lots of ideas for how they can make their stretch even better for other young people and the wider community."
Today we held a meeting of our Youth Engagement Advisory Group in London. Chaired by a young person since its creation in 2013, the group is made up of professionals from across the youth sector and young people and is one of the ways we are prioritising youth social action making sure our offer is as engaging, appealing and impactful as it can be and adding real value to the great work being done locally and regionally.
We have recently welcomed a host of new members including: MIND, Sport England, Street Games and Sandwell Children’s Trust and are delighted to have the continued support of UK Youth, Step up to Serve, NUS and National Youth Agency. Today’s key topic was developing our core offer for young people and we also had lively discussions around youth voice, diversity and representation. Lots of great ideas and inspiration – we are always learning and always willing to try new things.
We created six case studies to showcase the diverse ways that young people are making life better by water with youth social action.
Lara, 17, completed a community project with the Desmond Family Canoe Trail as part of a programme with The Prince’s Trust.
Lara worked with a group of young people to plan and lead a much-needed clean-up project at an unloved section of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Working together her group removed 20 bags of rubbish from the canal and fitted a floating boom to prevent litter from building up in future.
As part of the project Lara started volunteering with One Vision Studios, a project that offers media training for people with learning disabilities, and she has since begun an apprenticeship with them.
Jake, 18, is a young hub leader with the Desmond Family Canoe Trail project in the north west. Hub leaders are young people who are committed to regular social action supporting the trail project.
Since becoming a hub leader, I took part in a canoe litter pick and met Nancy the Poet Laureate. I plan to work with Vicki and on a lock with other volunteers doing repairs whilst the locks are closed to boaters. I will also go to a meeting every month to meet other Hub Leaders, we will plan our own social action project and complete it in the school holidays.
Claudia a postgraduate student at Birkbeck University College of London, volunteered with us to complete a Dissertation for Good in partnership with The National Union of Students.
Claudia completed an analysis of digital marketing and brand awareness based on our Lets Fish! campaign. The project was a success, Claudia achieved a first grade for her dissertation, and we have been able to use the research she completed.
Mariam, 11, took part in the Leicester Young Ecology Adventurers programme in summer 2018.
The project was conceived to give young people (11-14 years) opportunities to explore the natural heritage of their local canals, whilst gaining skills and experience in outdoor pursuits and conservation. Mariam said: "I feel lucky to have been given the opportunity to discover wildlife on the canal and in the river… I truly wish that this opportunity comes again for all of us young people."
We are committed to expanding opportunities for meaningful youth social action across the Trust and as part of #iwillweek we renewed our #iwill pledge to reinforce this:
Last date edited: 22 November 2019