A year on, learning from the Youth Organising Movement Builders

A table full of sticky notes

Last year, we partnered with NEON to undertake field mapping and deliver a bespoke residential for key actors across the youth organising space in the UK.

Grounded in racial, gender, disability, and economic justice, youth organising is the process of engaging young people in building power for systemic change while supporting their individual and collective development. Proximity to the issues is key, so lived experience is essential. It is youth-led, but elders can play a role through sharing their knowledge, expertise, and networks.

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Field mappingA pie chart with 3 sections. Section 1, Personal Empowerment. Section 2, Building Alternatives, Section 3, Challenging Dominant Institutions.

You can read NEON’s field mapping report here, which defines different clusters of actors within the current field of youth organising and maps the field to Ayni Institute’s Movement Ecology model. Building on this field mapping, Civic Power Fund has produced a reflections document, bringing together this and other research from the past five years.

The residential

The residential brought together 30 leaders within the youth organising space and served a triple purpose:

  • Supporting young organisers and leaders to develop a deeper analysis of how they can collectively create change.
  • Embedding the skills and knowledge that young leaders need to deliver lasting social change and supporting them to flourish in the other movements they may move into or are part of.
  • Building connections and solidarity between youth organisers and leaders across different issue areas, movements, and regions.

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Key takeaways

  • Community Infrastructure and Shared Space

One of the biggest things that came up from the weekend was the difficulty that results for activists over the lack of physical spaces in communities to conduct their work. Access to community space is foundational for building relationships and creating the kinds of foundations movements need to take root. There is scope here for some radical exploration, particularly by those who are committed to resourcing organising groups, and learnings to be gained from where groups have accessed or developed over community assets.

  • Intersectionality

Throughout the residential, the importance of sharing experiences across a diverse group and learning from the intersectionality of issues was noticed. For example, a number of participants shared that this was the first time they had been in a room with trans and non-binary people, and that this had greatly improved their abilities to have conversations ‘back in their communities’ about the need to stand in solidarity with other groups to build wider coalitions.

  • Organisational Development

Many organisations, particularly grassroots community groups, struggle to get the kind of sustained core funding that would allow them to develop their organisations. This means they are not able to access the kind of peer support, coaching and mentoring that facilitates collective movement leadership development, which limits the potential impact of movement convenings and infrastructure funding.

  • The New Economy and the State

A uniting experience for the participants was of state violence, whether it was from within a specific community and policing context, at the hands of a hostile immigration system, or as a result of the criminalisation of direct action and protest. This kind of shared experience and analysis demonstrates the importance of practising collective care and for there to be access to healing spaces, to support recovery from these negative experiences.

You can read more about the residential here.

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What’s next

There is so much Blagrave have learnt from this piece of work, and we will continue to embed this learning into our own practice, from anti-oppressive facilitation and how we hold space, to how we think about influencing through investment in youth organising and activism, and the role of infrastructure in supporting this. Following on from this work, Blagrave have partnered with Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to launch the Funder Collaborative for Youth Organising. Alongside launching the Funder Collaborative for Youth Organising, the founding funders have supported the creation of the UK’s first Alliance for Youth Organising in partnership with the Civic Power Fund. The Alliance will act as an intergenerational collective of practitioners, working together to strengthen youth organising infrastructure, starting up with an initial two-year investment of £600,000.


The Youth Organising Movement Builders was funded in response to a deep listening exercise Blagrave undertook in partnership with the Act for Change Fund to better understand how we can invest strategically to support the continued growth of the field of youth-led change in the UK. This work is intended to build on and complement the pre-existing research in this space such as work produced by Chrisann Jarrett and Adams and Coe, as well as build on the learning from the Act for Change Fund & Challenge and Change Fund. We send massive thanks to all those who have supported our thinking and have given their time and expertise to support this work.

28th June 2024