Blue Influencers

Young people take action to improve Southampton and Eastleigh environment

Ambitious plans to improve the environment in and around the Tanners Brook, Southampton and Monks Brook, Eastleigh will be spearheaded by young people, thanks to a new scheme which has  brought funding into the area. 

Wessex Rivers Trust was among 22 charities to successfully bid for funding from the Blue Influencers  Scheme, and is being awarded £20,000 a year for three years.  The grant will help pay for the employment of a Blue Mentor whose role is to recruit young people to  become ‘Blue Influencers’. These young people, aged 10 to 14, with the support of their Blue Mentor,  will create and run social action schemes to improve the environment of their schools,  neighbourhoods and communities. 

The Blue Influencers Scheme is a groundbreaking project from UK outdoor education charity The Ernest Cook Trust, with the ambition to support young people from underserved communities and those living in deprived coastal, estuary and riverside locations, by empowering them to tackle  environmental and climate issues.  

The £2.25 million Scheme is being match-funded by The Ernest Cook Trust and the #iwill Fund, and will run for three years. Its ambition is to engage more than 4,000 young people as ‘Blue Influencers’,  as well as over 15,000 community members across England.  

The #iwill Fund is made possible thanks to £66 million joint investment from The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to support young people to access high quality social action opportunities. The Ernest Cook Trust is acting as a match funder and awarding grants on behalf of the #iwill Fund. 

The Scheme is entirely youth-led, and even the selection of Wessex Rivers Trust, along with 21 other registered charities, was made by The Ernest Cook Trust’s Youth Advisory Board, made up entirely of young people aged 14-21. Additional funds up to £5,000 will also be available for specific projects, and it will again be the Youth Advisory Board members who approve these awards. 

Ed Ikin, Chief Executive of The Ernest Cook Trust, said the Blue Influencers Scheme would lead the way in empowering young people to take action. 
“Young people are often the most passionate about the environment and are very aware of the issues we face with climate change. The Blue Influencers Scheme will give them the funding, platform and tools they need to make positive changes to benefit their entire community,” he said. “We were pleased to select Wessex Rivers Trust to join the Blue Influencers Scheme and are excited  
to see just what the young people come up with.”

Amy Ellis from Wessex Rivers Trust said: “We are really looking forward to recruiting a Blue Mentor to join our Education and Engagement team. Working with young people in Southampton and Eastleigh on a youth lead project will be a positive experience for not only the Trust but the blue spaces within these urban areas. We will soon be in touch with a wide range of organisations to  
recruit some Blue Influencers such as, local schools, youth groups, local interest groups , young people with SEND, young carers and ethnic minority groups.”  

The Blue Influencers Scheme is a successor to the three-year Green Influencers Scheme, which ran in a similar way and was also match-funded by The Ernest Cook Trust and the #iwill Fund. However, the Blue Influencers Scheme’s focus is on coastal, riverside and estuary locations and also emphasises giving young people opportunities to learn skills which will aid their employment prospects. 

Click for more information about The Ernest Cook Trust’s Blue Influencers Scheme

Photo: Pupils from St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Morecambe, help with the launch of the Blue Influencers Scheme, which coincided with the annual Great British Beach Clean.