UK YPI director impressed by One World Charity Challenge

| April 5, 2011 | 0 Comments
Alex Reynolds and Hugh Davidson

Among the guests at this year’s One World Charity Challenge (OWCC) finals was Alex Reynolds, director of the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) at the Institute for Philanthropy in London.

Mr Reynolds attended the event at the invitation of Hugh Davidson, chairman of the H&S Davidson Trust, sponsor of the challenge that has been running for four years and aims to encourage Year 12 students gain a broader understanding of development and global citizenship issues.

Mr Davidson said: ‘The One World Charity Challenge and the YPI are based on the successful Canadian programme established by Julie Toskan-Casale, Victor Casale and Frank Toskan, founders of MAC Cosmetics.  However, the former differs in a number of respects. The charities selected by Isle of Man student teams have to operate overseas, whereas those in the UK and Canadian programmes focus on local community issues, such as homelessness or domestic violence. This posed a particular challenge for Manx students, since they cannot interview beneficiaries face to face. When we started the challenge four years ago, we wondered if this could be made to work, but the internet is making things easier.’

Mr Davidson went on to say that while in the Isle of Man grants are distributed across many charities, in the Canadian and UK schemes there is only one winner per school, awarded a £3000 grant. Age groups are also different; in the Isle of Man the programme is for 16 year-olds, while the YPI reaches 13 to 17-year-olds.

Mr Reynolds was invited to the OWCC finals to observe these differences and exchange views with the OWCC team of Cheryl Cousins, Jenni Quillin and Katie Keenan, who were also keen to hear his views on how OWCC could be improved. They found his input valuable and both sides plan to maintain the link.

‘I was genuinely impressed by the high quality of all six presentations’, said Mr Reynolds who, as YPI director, is responsible for programmes running in more than 100 schools in London and Scotland aimed at promoting philanthropy’s role in supporting civil society to young people. Working in small teams students research and analyse local charities in their communities then select the charity they believe best addresses their chosen issue. Each team gives a presentation on their chosen cause, assessed by their peers, and the team judged the best in each school is awarded £3000 for their nominated charity.

Like OWCC the YPI helps young people discover the importance of team work and develop not only their communication, research and presentation skills but also their confidence.

Established in 2000 the YPI project is funded currently by Credit Suisse, a company focused on skills development. Mr Reynolds said he was interested to learn that OWCC had benefited from matched funding from the Isle of Man Overseas Aid Committee for three years in succession and added he believed there was scope for the UK government to become involved in the YPI.

Mr Reynolds observed: ‘I was surprised how well the Manx programme, with its international perspective, worked, given that unlike the YPI teams, the students don’t have the opportunity to visit their chosen charities and see their work. For us, that element inspires the teams and brings the YPI programme alive. However, as soon I saw the first presentation any doubts I may have had were instantly dispelled. Without exception the level of research, creativity and enthusiasm was outstanding, and I would say the standard was as high as anything I have seen, and I’ve attended scores of presentations by students in the UK.

‘What particularly impressed me was how outward-looking the challenge is, whereas young people on the YPI programme don’t have that exposure to different countries. I also liked the way the teams highlighted how their charities were applying the Millennium Developments Goals to their work.

‘Where the two programmes differ most is that the YPI project is compulsory and forms part of the school curriculum. We stipulate it has to be the whole year that signs up because we invest a great deal of time and money, delivering training to teachers, devising information packs, and teaching communication and presentation skills. And unlike the One World Charity Challenge with its one annual finals ceremony, the YPI project can have some 60 finals taking place in different schools across London. The project’s young, though, and we’re still finding our feet. For the future I would like to see the YPI become a national competition with one really big event at the end.’

Mr Reynolds said feedback from the project indicated that students who participated were more likely to keep in touch with their chosen charities. ‘The project helps build a bond and very often students carry on raising funds for their charities. They also become more aware of and interested in the third sector as a whole.

‘We believe promoting giving is worthwhile. Philanthropy captures the sprit of the times and is very much to the fore at present, given the economic downturn. Both the One World Charity Challenge and the YPI project are about instilling values in young people, showing them respect, empowering them and igniting a sense of social responsibility.’

A Freedom to Flourish initiative, this year’s One World Charity Challenge saw six student teams share a grant fund of £11,400 to benefit their chosen charities and a further £9,600 distributed between 24 charities chosen by non-finalist teams.

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