The project has reached more than 115,000 young people.

The ground-breaking £2.5million Generation Green project which launched during the pandemic, has exceeded expectations, reaching more than 115,000 young people and children in just 16 months.

The project delivery partners are now calling for further funding to be made available to ensure every child has meaningful access to AONBs, National Parks and other green and blue spaces to enable them to develop the skills needed to look after the environment.

Anita Kerwin-Nye, Access Unlimited Founder and Generation Green Sponsor, said: “As the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) looks to honour its pledge to ensure that every young person in England will have access to regular out-of-school activities, adventures away from home and opportunities to volunteer by 2025, and Defra looks to give every child a night under the stars, the Generation Green partnership provides a vehicle to achieve this ambition in an efficient way.”

Funded by the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund, from Defra and Heritage Lottery Fund, Generation Green was led by Access Unlimited, a collaboration of 15 not-for-profit outdoor education providers – YHA (England & Wales) Girlguiding, Scouts, Field Studies Council, The Outward Bound Trust and the 10 English National Parks.

For many young people a Generation Green experience was the first time they had had the opportunity to connect with nature. The experiences, which were delivered throughout England by the coalition members, enabled a total reach of 115,824 individual young people.

Notable achievements of the Generation Green project include:

  • 39,476 young people experienced a facilitated day or residential trip, or self-led experience
  • A third (33%) of young people who undertook a residential trip were from an ethnic minority background.
  • 767 professional or skilled volunteer outdoor leaders were trained
  • 33 individuals were employed through jobs or apprenticeships with Access Unlimited partners
  • Digital learning resources, created by the National Parks, increased the reach of the project by an additional 75,000.

Generation Green was inspired by the government’s Landscapes Review in 2019 undertaken by Julian Glover, which highlighted the inequality of access to the outdoors and green spaces. The pandemic further compounded the lack of access with an estimated 1,137,820 children in England living through lockdown without a garden.

Launched January 2021 against the backdrop of the pandemic, Generation Green prioritised young people living in areas of deprivation, black and minority ethnic groups, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The project has created jobs, apprenticeships, volunteer opportunities, delivered training and day and residential experiences in nature for thousands of young people across the Access Unlimited partners.

James Blake, Chief Executive, YHA (England & Wales) said: “Further government funding would enable Glover’s ambition to be achieved and create ongoing connections with nature benefitting future generations.”

During the project’s delivery The University of Derby’s Nature Connection Research Group was commissioned to carry out an academic study of the effect of the day and residential trips on young people’s level of connection with nature, environmental responsibility, pro-nature conservation behaviours and wellbeing. Amongst its findings, the report found that 91% of the young people reached through Generation Green felt more connected to nature and 86% felt more confident being outdoors.

Without further funding, partners warn that we risk losing some of the nation’s most vital assets that facilitate access for all.

Nick Barrett, Chief Executive, The Outward Bound Trust, explained; “Connection to nature is not only crucial to a sense of well-being but also the foundation for people wanting to care for the natural environment. You can tell young people facts about what is happening with regard to climate change but unless they have felt an authentic connection with nature they are less likely to take positive action.”

Matt Hyde, Chief Executive, Scouts added: “Through Generation Green, young people have learnt how to care for their local environment and inspire others too. We’ve given young people the skills they need for the big dreams, the skills they don’t learn at school. With more support, we can help even more young people develop the skills to look after our environment: gaining even more skills for life.”

Mark Castle, CEO, Field Studies Council urged: “Now is not the time to draw Generation Green to a close, but rather to build on its success and momentum. We should be redoubling our efforts to engage more young people across the country in vital environmental issues not the ending of this highly successful government initiatives.”

In addition to the reach of the project and increased nature connectedness amongst young people, Generation Green also bolstered the resilience of the individual members of the Access Unlimited coalition, providing much-needed support during the pandemic.

Angela Salt OBE, CEO, Girlguiding said: “Thanks to the support from the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund, we’ve had time to test ideas through this project and to find out what works to help young people access the outdoors, Now, we urgently need further investment to be able to upscale what we know has worked and to explore and test new ideas with even more young people.”

Trevor Beattie, Chief Executive of South Downs National Park and who leads on the education portfolio for UK National Parks added: “Generation Green has developed a successful model for engaging younger and more diverse audiences in National Parks but there is so much more to do. Generation Green now needs to be scaled up to become the cornerstone of a green economic recovery.”

Anita added: “Together we have made great strides in 16 months, but this should be the start and not the end. Through the delivery of Generation Green, we have developed a tried and tested, and successful model to connect children and young people with nature. At a time of limited resource this is a model of where charity collaboration rather than competition increases impact. The reach, outputs and outcomes speak for themselves.”

Copies of the Generation Green Celebration and Impact Report, which outlines the case for further funding, have been supplied to government ministers and Defra. Download the report and view a short film showing the people involved in this ground-breaking project at https://www.yha.org.uk/generationgreen.