By Katherine Gilmour
Like me, you may have heard some variation of the following phrases over the past couple of years: “Don’t worry – the youth are alright” or “It’s ok, the kids have got this.” Whether we’re talking about climate change, gender inequality, racism, or any other form of oppression, abuse, and injustice, youth are consistently seen by adults as a solution to some of the biggest, most intractable problems the world faces.
Living in Scotland, the frequency of these comments has sharply increased over the last couple of weeks as we’ve seen the amazing energy, activism, and justified anger that young people from around the world have brought to COP26.
And, let’s face it, that’s completely understandable! Youth are at the forefront of every social movement, and globally, they are leading, shaping, and spearheading transformational change. Whether they are internationally recognized activists like Vanessa Nakate driving forward climate justice and Malala Yousafzai advocating for women’s education, or youth-led groups making changes in their communities, like many of Global Fund for Children’s local partners, youth are already part of the solution.
"Youth are at the forefront of every social movement, and globally, they are leading, shaping, and spearheading transformational change...youth are already part of the solution."
However, despite the flippant comments about youth solving the world’s problems, in global civil society youth-led decision-making is still far too often a “nice to have” rather than a fundamental part of the way the sector works. Youth-led organizations and groups around the world are systematically under-resourced and undervalued, and youth are often pushed to the margins of both formal and informal decision-making spaces. The Spark Fund, a funding partnership between Global Fund for Children (GFC) and the Avast Foundation, is seeking to change that.
Over the next 18 months, we will invest over US$1.2 million in youth-led and youth-focused groups around the world. Vitally, we have built youth leadership into every level of the Spark Fund, including fund design, regional funding decisions, and wider strategic work. Four regional youth panels, young people from GFC’s Youth Leadership Council and Avast Foundation’s Youth Leadership Board, and youth representatives on the Spark Fund’s global steering group are making key decisions for the fund.
We are ambitious about the impact and reach of the Spark Fund. In addition to financial backing, the Spark Fund offers capacity development support to our grantee partners, enabling them to experiment, collaborate regionally and globally, and learn together using digital technologies.
The first youth-led regional panel, comprised of young people from Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus, has been working since October to shape the Spark Fund for their region. The panelists recently launched an initial call for applications. In this round, the Spark Fund is seeking applications from youth-led or youth-focused groups or organizations based in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine with an income of less than EUR 150,000 per year. You can learn more and apply for the fund here. In early 2022, we will launch three additional regional panels in South Asia, Central and South America, and Southern and Eastern Africa.
Older generations should not place the burden of changing the world on the shoulders of youth alone. GFC and the Avast Foundation are committed to standing with young people, resourcing them, and playing our part in building a more equal, more just, and more inclusive post-pandemic world, together.
Additional partners Shared Nation and Catch22 are providing research support and technology development during the initial phases of the Spark Fund. For more information about the Spark Fund, please visit spark.globalfundforchildren.org or get in touch by sending an email to email@example.com.
Katherine Gilmour is a Senior Programs Manager at Global Fund for Children, where she leads the Spark Fund.