Spirit of 2012 is the London 2012 legacy fund. Spirit awards grants for inclusive arts, sports and volunteering activities in communities that bring people together to improve their wellbeing.
The National Lottery Community Fund founded Spirit in 2013 with a £47million endowment to recreate the spirit of pride, positivity and community that inspired people across the UK during the London 2012 Games. Spirit’s grantees range from national to small, hyper-local organisations. For more information visit www.spiritof2012.org.uk.
Young voices are woven into the fabric of the organisation’s decision-making through the Spirit of 2012 Youth Advisory Panel (YAP), which is made up of young people from across the UK. Every other year, the YAP is given responsibility for allocating money through their Challenge Fund to projects they feel will empower young people. They manage the entire process – from setting out the initial application criteria to making the final decisions on allocating funds.
Michael Blake and Festus Akinsulire are both currently members of the YAP. We asked them to reflect on the reasons why they wanted to be a part of Spirit’s decision-making, as well as how they are gaining personally and professionally from the experience.
Why did you want to be a Youth Advisory Panel Member at Spirit of 2012?
Michael: Joining the Youth Advisory Panel was a great opportunity to use my life experience to have an effect on the lives of other young people with similar upbringings to myself.
I often talk about how ‘lived experience’ should be an important part of the design of any programme that has the potential to change people’s lives and I wanted to use mine to help shape a fund that could have an impact on the lives of young people for many years to come.
Festus: It sounds cliché, but I wanted to make a difference alongside like-minded people. I love storytelling through social enterprise and how it has the ability to have a life-changing impact on peoples’ lives.
I wanted to write my own story with the YAP, representing a community that is aspiring to thrive. Spirit fitted more than well into that: I love sport, engaged in art from a very young age, and to use that to help other young people like me is a daily inspiration. Now I’m out of university, I’m ready to expose myself to the great opportunities this can bring, and to grow my network and learn. I believe being part of the panel is a chance to do all those things and more.
What is your favourite thing you get to do in this role?
Michael: Personally it’s getting involved with all of the amazing projects across the UK that are challenging the lives of people for the better. From mentoring schemes in London helping the previously homeless to social enterprises in Wales which are giving a second chance to young offenders, it’s incredibly motivating to meet people who have seen a problem with society and have decided ‘I am going to dedicate my life to trying to solve these social issues’.
Festus: Meeting people. Meeting other panel members has brought nothing but great moments, but also meeting people at projects, having conversations and debates on issues, and coming up with ideas and solutions. I’ve been able to do things I’ve never done before, and talk to people I never thought I would. There’s so much passion in seeing and delivering change and being on the panel allows me to explore that even more.
What are you currently working on in your role as a panellist? What do you hope to gain from being on the panel from a personal and professional development point of view?
Michael: Currently I'm working with the other panellists on the final stages of designing the £100,000 Challenge fund. We have researched the issues that are currently most affecting people in the UK, both young and old, and are trying to design a fund that will help organisations battle these. The aim isn’t to just do this by giving money but finding a way to build a fund that brings fresh, innovative and new ideas that can benefit those who often are on the periphery of society.
The professional development for me has been brilliant so far in learning the legal legislation behind developing a fund of that size and carrying out the required research to ensure impact can be had once it is launched. These are skills which I can carry on throughout my career to hopefully one day develop and run a fund of similar if not larger size.
Festus: We’re working on a Challenge Fund which is dedicated to finding a project that helps tackle problems that young people face in society. We’ve started planning now, and I’m leading the Comms team of the panel. My role will be key in the output of the work that our research and development teams are doing.
Being able to use skills and experience I already have and use that at a leadership level is something I’m very excited about. With this fund, we’re all key decision-makers in this and it’s a special thing to be given that role, especially as a lot of things that have a direct impact on developing our generation are not in our hands.