We at Comic Relief are truly excited to have been able to invest in the Listening Fund. Through our partnership with the Big Lottery Fund, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the Blagrave Trust, we have been able to support 22 organisations in England to be better at listening to the young people they exist to serve. The piloting and research which preceded the setting up of the fund found that across the sector organisations find it challenging to make listening and responding to feedback from young people part of everyday practice. The constraints that organisations work in have meant that listening has, in some instances, been restricted to isolated consultation moments – often as part of the proposal development process.
As funders we must take our share for blame for this situation. It’s our responsibility to now think critically about how we design future funding in ways that respond to this challenge and can support organisations to really embed active listening. The range of work supported through the Listening Fund is clear demonstration that, with the right kinds of funding, organisations can find innovative models to achieve this goal; from using new technologies to gather feedback, to young people mentoring senior team members and research into the impact of youth-voice in programming.
There is also scope for the Listening Fund to provide valuable learning. The fund’s evaluation, being led by the Centre for Youth Impact, is an opportunity to look across a breadth organisations and approaches to understand more about the mechanics and impact of effective listening. We also believe the partnership funding model used to coordinate and support the fund will in itself be an important source of learning and be a grounding for further collaboration. The funders supporting this work are all committed to ensuring that the knowledge that comes out of the Listening Fund is shared with those organisations best placed to embed listening practice in meaningful ways.