Backing youth-led change

By Katherine Gilmour | November 22, 2021 | Africa & The Middle East, Asia, Europe & Eurasia, The Americas | Youth Empowerment

GFC and the Avast Foundation recently launched the Spark Fund to invest in youth-led social change worldwide. In this blog post, Senior Programs Manager Katherine Gilmour explains why the fund is prioritizing youth-led decision-making.

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.

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 GFC and the Avast Foundation, is seeking to change that.

Over the next 18 months, we will invest over $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.

Girls raising their hands

Members of an Alor Pothe Nobojatray Foundation girls' club in Bangladesh raise their hands. © GFC

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 150,000 euros 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 or get in touch by sending an email to [email protected].

Header photo: Participants engage in an Ashanti Perú workshop. © Estrella Vivanco-Stevenson / Ashanti Perú

Share this story

Impact in Your Inbox

Stay in the know about what’s happening at Global Fund for Children, including news and stories, special events, and more!

Recommended Stories Read All

Young people participating in an Ashanti Perú workshop.
It’s time for global development and philanthropy to empower young people to lead change in the post-pandemic world. Here’s what we can do to shift power to youth.
Africa & The Middle East, Asia, Europe & Eurasia, The Americas
A young person participating in a Warren Youth Project program.
As part of a broader effort to amplify youth voices, GFC is involving young people in two important grantmaking processes.
Africa & The Middle East, Europe & Eurasia
NGOs, INGOs, foundations, and social activists must understand children’s and youth’s needs, opinions, contexts, and organizing to improve their lives and communities.
The Americas
Reflecting on a recent trip to Mexico, Corey Oser examines the role of young people in the world of international development funding.
The Americas

Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.

Work.Life, 4 Crown Place
London EC2A 4BT

[email protected]