"UpRising helps us all realise the potential of UK society"

"UpRising helps us all realise the potential of UK society"


I first came across UpRising in 2008 when Rushanara Ali, who was then at the Young Foundation, talked to me about her idea to engage  youngsters from all walks of life to participate in civic life. At the time I was running the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and it was clear that Rushanara’s vision was ‘of the moment’ and much needed.  Subsequently, I spent a very enjoyable Saturday morning in the company of the first cohort at their ‘graduation’ event.  The room, and the event, was of course entirely owned by the youngsters.  How could it be anything else?

Cut to ten years later, at the recent Uprising celebration dinner where I spent a stimulating and inspiring evening with Uprising alumni, some from that very first cohort, some from much more recent programmes. And now UpRising has a range of programmes from Fastlaners to Find Your Power to One Million Mentors and has extended its presence to Manchester, Birmingham, Luton, Cardiff and beyond as well as of course its heartland in East London.


But at the heart of UpRising is the Leadership programme. UpRising gives young people the opportunity to be leaders. Their programmes give them the skills, knowledge and confidence to make a difference in their community and to forge their own destiny.


Space, time, a bit of support, and a peer group of fellow travellers can make all the difference. For many people, that initial spark of confidence comes from volunteering. Hybu, working in Wales (Hybu means ‘to promote’ or ‘encourage’) is giving young people the opportunity to be leaders in their communities. They are giving 14 – 23 year olds the skills and confidence to design and deliver projects in their area that will help local people. They are putting young people in the driving seat.

To get this to work, young people must be put in the lead of volunteering projects and the services that are supporting them. In Blackpool, our own HeadStart ‘Resilience Revolution’ is putting committees of young people into every school in town. These ‘Resilience Committees’ are helping to improve the mental health support their schools are providing. The committee members are consulted on new campaigns and strategies, and provide their feedback on the recruitment of new HeadStart staff.

This kind of approach gives young people the confidence and skills to help themselves, and also to help their peers. UpRising’s Leadership Programme, is a great example of this. It is addressing systematic inequality, by giving young people who come from communities with poor education rates and generational unemployment, the opportunity to be influencers and decision makers.

Another, developed as part of the Big Lottery funded Our Bright Future, focuses on young people’s environmental leadership. One Alumni last night was setting up an environmental publication, another was running a community farm. Both radiated creativity and confidence having spoken about their own complex journeys through the programme.

But what is so impressive about UpRising young leaders is the sheer range of directions they take. Last night, we also met a teacher and a young man who began life in the UK as a child refugee and is now establishing his first £100m investment fund.


Where you come from, what your background is, who your parents are, has a huge impact on your access to opportunity. By giving young people the ability to realise their leadership potential, Uprising helps us all realise the potential of UK society.



This blog was written by Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive of the Big Lottery Fund
Prior to joining the Big Lottery Fund Dawn was Chief Executive at Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and previously Deputy Director of the British Museum, Project Director of Tate Modern, a Principal Consultant at KPMG and Theatre Manager of the Half Moon Theatre. Dawn has an MBA from the London Business School and an honorary doctorate from London Metropolitan University.  Dawn is a Trustee of the London Marathon Charitable Trust and a member of the governments Inclusive Economy Board, and the Advisory Council of the Institute of Policy Research at the University of Bath. She was a Trustee of Historic Royal Palaces from 2007 - 2016, the Woodland Trust from 2001 - 2008 and was a Director of Big Society Capital during its start-up phase. In her spare time Dawn is a Gooner, occasionally practises yoga and goes to the theatre.