Are you listening?

Allison Mathews, Head of  Knowledge and Learning at The National Lottery Community Fund

On Saturday, I had the privilege of spending time in Edinburgh with an inspiring group of young people at the launch of The Listening Fund Scotland. The fund – which is a collaboration between ourselves, the Corra Foundation, The Gannochy Trust, William Grant Foundation, Comic Relief, and the Blagrave Trust – aims to support organisations working in Scotland to actively listen, and to make changes based on the thoughts and opinions of the children and young people that they work with. To achieve this, it has awarded two-year grants to twelve youth groups in Scotland to improve their ability to actively listen to the young people they serve, and to embed this practice into the very heart of their organisations. At Saturday’s launch event, we heard from these groups about their listening aspirations over the next two years.
We asked young people what listening means to them, and they told us that listening means feeling equal, being respected and feeling cared for. The funded organisations said similar things, but also said that listening means being open to, responding and changing plans, focusing on what your being told, and really understanding what is being said.
In its development, The Listening Fund has engaged young people in all stages of design – this is because, from the very start, young people told us that they want to feel listened to and be involved in decisions. By giving them a voice, they felt that activities and services are more likely to make a positive impact.

Listening to young people meant that they were involved in the design of the funding criteria and the applications. Young people also told us that the Fund should encourage creative ways for organisations to complete the applications (such as video, songs, poetry, and stories) and we took all this advice on board. We also engaged with children and young people in the assessment of Listening Fund applications, which helped inform our funding recommendations.
Bringing the voices of young people together during the development of this fund was a really valuable experience for everyone, and vastly improved the quality of the grants we made. We hope the Listening Fund’s commitment to meaningfully involve children and young people throughout the two years will make this work more impactful. As funders, we have also learned a lot from this experience – which will ultimately help us to be better grant makers in future.