Big changes start locally

What Comes Next?

Artistic photo collage inspired by 'What comes next?', a film by Gabriel Brown.

Early April saw the launch of What Comes Next a campaign documentary the Virgin Money Foundation funded through the #iwill Take Action Fund. In the documentary, young film maker Gabriel Brown asks us to think again about the vital role that Life Skills lessons or PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic education) can play in the lives of young people and the adverse impact had when not enough protected time is given to the subject.

The Virgin Money Foundation got to know Gabriel and his passion for this topic back in 2019. We had been running the #iwill Take Action fund for a year or so. Through the fund we were supporting organisations who in turn were supporting young people to be involved with or lead social action in their community. We were funding initiatives through which young people were designing and delivering social action projects, transforming green spaces, developing initiatives to tackle issues such as period poverty or the impacts of domestic violence. Brilliant initiatives, tackling real issues. We recognised though that there was a limit to the reach of our funds. We were reaching the young people who were well supported by organisations and funding the staff that would work with those young people rather than placing resource directly in the hands of young people, wherever they be, who wanted to create change. We wondered what would happen if we funded young people directly.

The answer to that question can be seen in the launch of this film. Gabriel came to the Foundation with a clear campaign idea – to change the priority given to PSHE by schools up and down the country - and a method for generating campaign support, the making of a documentary. He had thought through the resource he would need, he had gained the support of an experienced film maker as a mentor, he had a track record of creating film. Brokering a partnership with The Key we were able to fund Gabriel to spend his time creating What Comes Next and to build a youth-led campaign around the issue. We will be following a similar model in our Young Change Makers programme which is currently open for applications.

We have learnt through the #iwill Take Action Fund that young people have powerful insights into the issues that need addressing in communities and in society. The young people featured in What Comes Next are building a campaign to see the profile of PSHE within the curriculum changed. Through creating this change they anticipate that young people will leave school feeling better equipped with the life skills and knowledge they need for the future in areas ranging from opening bank accounts to independent living skills, drugs awareness, through to protecting their mental health. As a grant maker we have funded organisations who pick up the pieces when early support and guidance is not available to young people. Going back to the support provided at school, calling for the development of life skills and resilience to be prioritised, has real sense.

The role of a foundation like ours is to make sure that the ideas that have the greatest impact are resourced and supported. Through the #iwill Take Action Fund we look for social action ideas – be it focused on volunteering, fundraising or campaigning – that are high quality, reflective and embedded in young people’s experiences of life. This piece of work is a fantastic example of all of that. We are delighted to have been able to support Gabriel and the young people he worked with to create What Comes Next and we wish them all the very best with the campaign that will continue around this important topic. Watch the documentary and join the campaign.

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