2020 was a particularly challenging year for everyone, but looking back over the year, I’m so proud of how much the programme has managed to achieve.
The year started well with a successful event in Northern Ireland where 40 young people from Ulster Wildlife and the Belfast Hills Partnership met with key decision makers to shape Northern Ireland’s first ever environment strategy. We welcomed on board Youth Cymru, Ulster Wildlife and YouthLink Scotland who are helping us to embed the Three Asks in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
As lockdown began in March, many staff were furloughed, everyone began working from home and for several weeks everyone adjusted to a new ‘normal’. Thanks to the flexibility and support from the National Lottery Community Fund, projects responded rapidly, moving many activities online and developing new and innovative ways to engage young people. Many projects reported increased engagement as online activity allowed them to reach audiences beyond their geographic scope. Beekeeping courses moved online, a gardening competition using Minecraft as a platform was launched, youth summits were hosted online and innovative use of Facebook Live and themed engagement activity allowed projects to continue delivery in a way completely unforeseen twelve months ago.
The Share Learn Improve programme ethos was vital, as projects tackled the challenges raised by Covid-19. We organised regular ‘Keep in Touch’ webinars for staff to share good practice and lessons learnt for online delivery and working under Covid-19 conditions. The new resource page of our website showcases the good practice guides that we have produced, including ‘top tips for working under Covid-19 conditions’ and there are plenty guides being developed for 2021!
We sent a letter to the Education Select Committee to request an inquiry into the vital role of outdoor learning in boosting children’s attainment, resilience and wellbeing. We shared the letter widely with media to raise awareness and mobilise the general public which resulted in interviews with The Independent and Sky News. To support young people to get a job in the environmental sector, we published a report to evidence of how environmental projects can offer solutions to tackle both youth unemployment and the nature crisis.
There have also been some fantastic examples of organisations involving young people in decision making: two Our Bright Future participants joined the National Lottery Community Funds’ new Youth Advisory Board. One previous CSE participant was appointed as one of the first WWF Youth Ambassadors. Friends of the Earth and Lancashire Wildlife Trust both included young people in their CEO interview processes.
We also ran successful online events with the Environment Agency, UK Youth 4 Nature, RSPB and Groundwork. The Youth Forum also created a series of lockdown webinars – this not only gave them a chance to share their passion but also to practice public speaking and presentation skills. Recordings of all of these events are available on our YouTube channel.
2020 was a year of unmitigated challenges, change and surprises and 2021 is likely to bring continued uncertainty. However, I’m confident that Our Bright Future will continue to rise to the challenge.
Cath Hare, Head of Grants