The Spark Fund: Youth-led grantmaking in action

By Xanthe Tunley-Stainton | December 1, 2021 | Africa & The Middle East, Asia, Europe & Eurasia, The Americas | Youth Empowerment

Xanthe Tunley-Stainton, GFC’s Team Support Assistant in the UK, shares her reflections on the first regional panel for the Spark Fund, an initiative to support youth-led social change worldwide.

For nearly two years, the pandemic has caused fear, grief, and anger the world over. But it has also inspired a rising movement of young people determined to change the world for the better.

The Spark Fund was created to support these youth leaders. Launched with the Avast Foundation, and with additional support from Shared Nation and Catch22, the fund will give impactful grants to youth-led and youth-focused organizations worldwide whose work drives social change.

The Spark Fund is already underway in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus, where an incredible youth panel made up of ten young people aged 18 to 30 is designing and leading the grantmaking process in the region.

A young person using a computer

A young person working on a computer at the office of Oasis Mathare, a GFC partner in Nairobi, Kenya. Applications for youth panelists from Africa will open in 2022. © Oasis Mathare

As a Team Support Assistant helping to implement the Spark Fund, I’ve participated in the panelists’ meetings as they make key decisions about what types of organizations and groups should be eligible for grants, what issues they want to prioritize, and more. The panel recently put out a call for applications from youth-led and youth-focused groups and will soon be deciding which ones will receive funding.

It has been fascinating to learn more about the perspectives of these young people, their own experiences with giving and receiving grants, and the new ideas they want to bring to the Spark Fund.

One of the best panel sessions so far, in my opinion, was the discussion of the panelists’ hopes and dreams for their region – and for the wider world. The young people on the panel have wide-ranging ideas and a strong understanding of the intersectional nature of social issues. Each panelist has core issues they care about deeply, based on their own experiences and passions, but the panelists have also listened to and supported the dreams of their colleagues, finding connections and digging into the core inequalities that underline all these issues.

Tijuana convening

Young people participating in a convening in Tijuana, Mexico. Applications for youth panelists from the Americas will open in 2022. © Jeff Valenzuela

In one recent session, the panelists started with tricky practical questions. It is always a challenge to balance the wildest dreams of the young people driven to change the world with the reality of money transfers, legal responsibilities, and application processes. These questions led to an in-depth discussion about trust-based philanthropy.

It has been inspiring to see these young people working so hard on a new fund and overcoming the challenges of designing and implementing a new grantmaking process. On a personal note, as a young person myself, it can be easy to feel like I don’t have a voice or representation on a global level, so getting to meet other young people who care so passionately about their communities makes me proud and fills me with courage.

In 2022, applications will open for youth panelists from Africa, Asia, and the Americas who want to lead grantmaking for the Spark Fund in their regions. There is so much more to come for this ambitious, exciting new fund, and we already have a fantastic group of young people leading the first phase!

Header photo: Young people participating in a convening in Tijuana, Mexico. © Jeff Valenzuela

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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.

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