The power of youth social action

The Trust joins hundreds of other #iwill campaign partners, organisations and young people across the UK to celebrate #iwill week

Northumberland national park authority detail

Prioritising youth social action: the Trust has been doing this for over 20 years. In 2016 we pledged a five year commitment to #iwill - the national campaign that recognises the importance of young people’s engagement in social action. In #iwill week (18-24 November) we are celebrating our commitment to support 100,000 young people to take responsibility for wild places through the John Muir Award: to date, we have helped over 125,000 young people engage in practical conservation for nature. 

Offering opportunities: the framework of the John Muir Award is a fantastic entry point for youth social action. It offers opportunities for young people to get more involved in taking responsibility and making decisions - both essential to nurturing young people values and beliefs. Young people aren't just the leaders of tomorrow. They have the skills, energy and ideas to change society for the better today.

Working together has been fundamental to the success of the Trust’s youth social action pledge. Over 1,800 organisations schools and groups make this happen, by facilitating the John Muir Award each year.

Over 80% of the organisations we work with identified that they worked in partnership with other organisations to deliver their John Muir Award activity, with the majority of Providers identifying the John Muir Award as a positive conduit for partnership working.

Evaluating impact has helped the Trust to ensure that our youth social action engagement has been successful, high quality and sustainable. Our recent Conserve Audit of young people in Scotland (part of Year of Young People) found that young people made a huge difference for nature through the Conserve Challenge of the John Muir Award – headlines include:

  • 29,848 days of Conserve activity (208,936 hours)
  • carried out by 19,346 young people completing their John Muir Award
  • valued at £783,500, based on National Lottery Heritage Fund figures
  • over 10.5 hours of Conserve activity per young person
  • 30% of activity carried out by young people experiencing disadvantage.

 “Planting trees is just great fun. I'm interested in the environment and I've learned a lot. You get a real sense of responsibility, I want to come back to see how my trees are getting on.” – John Muir Award participant.

Our recent Provider Survey in England and Wales found that 90% of respondents think that the John Muir Award helps participants to value wild places, be more connected to nature and take responsibility for wild places. Furthermore, 94% of organisations felt that engaging in the Award helps users to participate in activities that enthuse, motivate and stimulate curiosity for learning and development. Find out more about our impact work here.

Recognising achievement through the John Muir Award provides a unique opportunity for each individual getting involved; an opportunity to reflect, to learn, to achieve, or to take responsibility. 

“When people take action to enhance natural environments in their communities, benefits are wide-ranging. Individuals flourish - gaining from improved health and wellbeing, new skills, social connections, increased confidence and self-worth, and the realisation of the impact they can have - of their ability to be a force for positive change. Communities also gain - not just from improvements to their neighbourhoods and thriving wildlife, but from more engagement and a mix of voices contributing on local issues. And on a national level, we contribute towards building a happier, healthier and more sustainable society.” Lucy Sparks, John Muir Award Inclusion Manager.

The Trust has commissioned a short film series directed, shot and edited by a young film maker that explores young people's connections with the outdoors, inspired by Year of Young People 2018 in Scotland, and Year of Green Action 2019 #iwill4nature UK.  Watch the films here.

“Youth Social Action is part of the Trust's DNA, and vital to our ongoing commitment to inspiring and connecting people (of all ages) with wildness. We want to inspire people by encouraging them to connect with, enjoy and care for wild places and wild nature and to get involved in managing and repairing natural systems. To continue our commitment to Youth Social Action, the John Muir Trust has renewed its commitment to the #iwill campaign by extending its pledge to support 150,000 by the end of 2020.”  Phil Stubbington, John Muir Award England & Wales Manager.

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Image at the top: ©Northumberland National Parks Authority