Young people step up and create what is rightfully theirs: a healthy planet, a thriving economy and a brighter future

Tuesday 15th March 2016

(c) Eleanor Church(c) Eleanor Church

Three months on from the Paris climate change agreement, the Big Lottery Fund is investing £33 million in more than 30 organisations to inspire and develop the next generation of environmental leaders. Avon Wildlife Trust and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust are receiving £1 million to work with young people living on housing estates to improve their green spaces and gardens through the Natural Estates project.

Our Bright Future aims to tackle three big challenges facing society today - a lack of social cohesion, a lack of opportunities for young people and vulnerability to climate change. Thirty one youth-led projects across the UK are each receiving around £1m of funding to give young people the skills and knowledge to improve their local environments – from reducing marine pollution to minimising food waste. In doing so, young people will develop the confidence and resilience to become environmental leaders and influence decisions at local and national levels. This young, ambitious and capable movement is ensuring this generation’s voice is heard in the current debates around environmental improvements and a resource-efficient economy.

Across the areas of Avon and Gloucestershire, the Natural Estates project, funded by Our Bright Future, will make a difference for young people and for wildlife. Working in partnership with six housing associations including United Communities, Alliance Homes and Bristol City Council, thousands of young people will have the opportunity to develop skills that protect the environment and could lead to future employment.

The Natural Estates project will train 18-24 year olds to design and lead projects to transform their local green space. After identifying unused and unloved green areas on their housing estates, they will lead groups of 14-18 year olds in the practical tasks needed to create wildlife gardens. Over the 5 years of the Natural Estates project more than 7,000 young people will learn skills, transform green spaces, and have the opportunity to become future leaders and nature champions.

But Our Bright Future goes a lot further than the impressive impacts seen by these individual projects. The programme is gathering strong evidence about how we can support the development of the environment and young people using a resource efficient and sustainable ‘green’ economy. More than a hundred organisations are contributing to the wider Our Bright Future movement by sharing evidence, learning and knowledge which will soon start to inform the choices made at local, regional, and national levels in the UK.
Our Bright Future is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and run by a consortium of eight organisations which is led by The Wildlife Trusts. The partnership has more than 40 years of combined experience in managing social and environmental grant programmes totalling nearly £300 million, and has a proven track record of working with and empowering young people in communities of all social circumstances.

Janice Gardiner, Programme Manager at Avon Wildlife Trust said: “Natural Estates will connect young people to nature and also connect generations. The young project leaders will work on gardens owned by older people on the Estates, making the local environment more wildlife friendly and building friendships between residents too.”

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts said:
“Our Bright Future is an innovative movement for change. It is brilliant that the Big Lottery Fund has recognised that societal and environmental challenges are two sides of the same coin. The programme supports young people to develop the skills needed to thrive in the workplace and it does so through the environment. We want to see a generation of courageous and wise leaders empowered to change our world for the better.”

Peter Ainsworth, Chair of the Big Lottery Fund said:
“The environment is where we live. Our Bright Future is designed to unleash the ambition of young people across the UK to make a personal and collective contribution to making our environment brighter, happier and more resilient to threats like climate change and the waste of natural resources.

“This initiative over the next seven years aims to join up the social, economic and environmental benefits that will come from enabling young people to shape their own future and others that follow them.”
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