Act for Change Learning Project Week Notes 1
When it comes to community, are we talking about impact or influence?
The Centre for Youth Impact is the learning partner for the Act for Change Fund which supports youth-led social change. This is the first of a series of Week Notes that I’ll be sharing about learning and insight coming out of the Act for Change Fund Learning Project.
Act for Change Fund is a joint initiative between Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Both foundations are acting as match funders and are awarding grants on behalf of the #iwill Fund. The #iwill Fund, a joint investment between The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
There are sets of questions that we keep coming back to when it comes to thinking about the impact of youth-led social change:
- What is the impact on communities?
- How do we measure community impact?
- Can – or even should – we measure community impact?
Before I go further, I do feel like I must state the obvious: social change takes time. It is seldom down to a single campaign, or conversation, or moment in time. No one I’ve heard from through this learning project is working under any other pretence and supporting young people through the “long haul” is forefront on their minds and embedded into their work to help mitigate against the risk of burnout.
Much of the conversation about the impact of youth-led social change is focussed on the impact on young people – how they perceive their place and role within their communities, their mental health and wellbeing, and their sense of agency to affect change about issues that really matter to them. Something that I’m very keen to explore next through the learning project is how Act for Change Fund organisations understand the relationship between these experiences and changes for young people and social change.
Act for Change Fund organisations also recognise that ‘community’ is not a single entity – that young people are part of many interconnecting and overlapping communities, small and large.
Where organisations have explored questions about community and that impact of youth-led social change in their evaluation, it seems to me that the focus tends to be on ‘influence’ not impact. Organisations emphasise who is listening to young people. They facilitate and monitor opportunities to for young people to share their views with their communities and decision makers within them, not necessarily what those audiences do having heard from the young people. In fact, many organisations have been open and upfront with me about the practical and theoretical challenges of trying to track and measure other people’s changes in attitudes and behaviours in relation to youth-led social change activities.
It’s made me wonder where else we use the term ‘impact’ when what we’re really interested in is reach and influence. I’m also wondering how the conversation about the role of youth-led social change might shift if we were to reframe questions about community benefit and impact to being questions about the reach and influence of young people and youth-led social change within their communities.
Mary McKaskill is the Centre's Research and Methods Lead
Act for Change Fund is a £3.6 million partnership between Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, for organisations supporting young people working for change. The Fund provides resources for young people to challenge social injustice, find ways of overcoming inequality and give voice to issues they are experiencing.
Act for Change Fund is a joint initiative between Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Both foundations are acting as match funders and are awarding grants on behalf of the #iwill Fund. The #iwill Fund is made possible thanks to £54 million joint investment from The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to support young people to access high quality social action opportunities.