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The charity making life better by water

Youth strategy, research and reports

We’re clear on the benefits of involving the next generation in our current and future work. We recognise the risks of failing to engage them.

Two adults pushing a wheelbarrow along a towpath

When we thought about how best to engage and support young people, we looked at it from three key angles.

  1. What's affecting young people?

A child's background and location impacts on their wellbeing, from early years to school and beyond. Statistically, disadvantaged young people achieve poorer career outcomes and are less likely to have access to advice and experiences of work.

Thanks to the breadth of our work, and the scale of our waterway network, we're ideally placed to help young people overcome these challenges.

Our canals and rivers run through some of the most diverse and most deprived communities across England and Wales. We have a unique opportunity to offer wellbeing experiences on the doorsteps of those who need them most.

  1. What do young people want?

We worked with a market research company to survey around 2,000 young people aged 16 to 24. This gave us valuable insight into their concerns and interests. It helped us to understand more about what the younger generation is looking for from a volunteering opportunity.

Key findings saw that 70% who volunteer felt a strong connection to their local area, and a sense of belonging. We also learned that 79% agreed that being in nature made them feel happy. However, just under half felt that there weren't enough opportunities to get involved in decision-making in areas that affected them.

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People who live near these features deserve to enjoy them and as a society we have a responsibility to preserve them for the future.

You can take a deep dive into the results of this survey in the information section below, and learn how this shapes our local and national offers for young people across formal education and within community settings.

  1. How can young people help us with our work priorities?

We thought about the work we want to do and recognised that getting young people involved will help us to reach more diverse communities, open up new opportunities with partner organisations for a more sustainable future, raise awareness of our brand, promote the wellbeing benefits of our waterways in new ways, and much, much more.

Working with young people will also help us make sure that our canals and rivers remain an important part of our communities now and for many generations to come.

Our objectives

The following long-term strategic objectives have been agreed by our trustees. By 2025:

  • 500,000 children and young people, reflective of the range of communities we serve, will each year broaden their learning and improve their skills through our waterways, museums and attractions
  • 1 million children and young people each year will engage with us through volunteering, arts, education and learning, sports, cultural activities, and social action
  • 150,000 hours of youth social action each year. In recent years we've seen a dramatic increase in both the number of young people getting involved with us and the range and diversity of youth activities and opportunities we offer

More information

Find out more about what we've achieved recently working alongside young people.

A summary of the results of our youth volunteering survey 2019

Full results of our youth volunteering survey 2019

Year of Green Action impact report 2019

Desmond Family Canoe Trail impact report 2019

Last Edited: 06 June 2024

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