YouthNet blogs are written by YouthNet staff and volunteers. We write about anything and everything related to our services and interests. We’re a varied bunch, so our blogs are too. Enjoy.

Digital charity YouthNet announces the appointment of a new Chair

Luke Taylor, Global Chief Executive of the world’s leading marketing and technology agency DigitasLBi will become the new Chair of YouthNet, following the decision to step down by current Chair and Founder, Martyn Lewis.Lewis has been Chair of YouthNet, which provides digital support for 16 to 25 year-olds, since creating the charity in 1994.

A well-known television journalist, Lewis has been involved in the charity sector for more than 30 years, holding several trustee and Chair posts.Speaking about his decision to step down, Lewis said:

“As Chair, I have a clear duty of care to the charity I founded to ensure it is fully equipped to take advantage of the rapid changes in the digital revolution to deliver the support young people need. A key part of that is choosing the time to hand over the baton to a successor with a formidable track record in digital innovation. Luke fits the bill perfectly. I couldn’t be more delighted that he is taking the helm, and am confident that he will work extremely well with our inspired Chief Executive, Emma Thomas, to further develop YouthNet’s digital support for the benefit for young people in the UK today.

“It is 20 years since I founded YouthNet. It is embedded in my DNA, and I would like to thank the many wonderful people and organisations who have given the charity so much help and support along the way. I am honoured that Luke and the Board have asked me to remain involved and become YouthNet’s ‘Founder At Large’, so that I can still be available to help in whatever way I can.”

Incoming Chair, Taylor, has been Global Chief Executive of marketing and technology agency DigitasLBi since 2013. Prior to this he was Global Chief Executive of public-listed LBi, where he implemented a series of successful strategic transformations to ensure that the agency thrived in the rapidly evolving digital ecosystem.

Talking about his new role with YouthNet, Taylor said: “YouthNet’s innovative approach to developing digital support for young people is truly inspiring. It’s hard to think of another charity so in tune with young people’s needs and so entrepreneurial in spirit.

“I feel privileged to be taking over the position of Chair from such an esteemed founder and look forward to helping YouthNet achieve its ambition of reaching even more young people with its unique brand of support and advice.”

YouthNet supports 1 million young people each year through a range of digital support, primarily through its flagship service,, which helps them to develop the social and emotional skills, resilience and determination to cope with life’s challenges.

Chief Executive, Emma Thomas said: “Martyn has worked tirelessly to champion the needs of young people, the powerful role of digital, and YouthNet’s continued delivery of services which make a difference.  It has been a real pleasure to work with him.  Whilst he is stepping down, I am pleased that he will stay connected and grateful for his continued support.

“We are delighted to welcome Luke to the Board and know he will be a great addition to the organisation as we develop further innovative new digital services to impact on young people’s lives and look to support 1.6m young people a year by 2016.”

Notes to editorsAll media enquiries: Zoe Bailie, YouthNet, 020 7250 5713Email: zoe.bailie@youthnet.orgNote that Martyn will be continuing as Chair of NCVO, the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and Families of the Fallen.

About YouthNet

YouthNet is the charity behind online guide to life, TheSite, which supports around 1 million 16 to 25 year olds in the UK each year.

The UK’s first exclusively online charity, YouthNet creates digital solutions to ease young people’s isolation and to make their lives better.YouthNet has developed a range of complementary digital services to support young people:

  • TheSite – the guide to life for 16 to 25 year-olds, with 2,000 articles/videos/blogs about job seeking, housing, sexual health,mental wellbeing, drugs and more
  • StepFinder – Local help, easily found. An app that pin-points the nearest local support service and shows young people how to get there and what to expect.
  • Madly In Love- A digital service where young people can share how they feel about sex, love and mental health.
  • – YouthNet contributes to this social learning environment, which provides social media for education.

About DigitasLBi

DigitasLBi is a global marketing and technology agency that transforms businesses for the digital age. We help companies of all shapes and sizes decide what’s next… and then we take them there. In 25 countries around the world, across 40 offices, there are more than 6,700 digital experts working to enrich people’s lives via our unique blend of strategy, creativity, media and technology.

Our skills span insight, brand building, content creation and distribution, as well as the ability to help clients organise themselves for the consequences of the change. We act as strategic partner to some of the world’s most exciting brands across travel, financial services, FMCG, publishing, telecoms and retail.

There are many things that make DigitasLBi unique but if we had to choose one it would be our ability to connect data with storytelling to help make brands special, shareable and more ultimately valuable wherever, whenever and however people choose to engage with them.


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YouthNet Live – London Technology Week

Yesterday, amidst the buzz of London Technology Week, YouthNet gathered with over thirty corporate organisations for the fifth of our Cycle of Innovation events at the wonderful Think Big Hub in Shoreditch.

It was a chance to immerse guests in how YouthNet uses technology to support thousands with their employability through our digital lifeline

It included hands-on demonstrations of our services alongside the Job Squad – a group of young volunteers who’ve been integral to shaping our work into employability.

Indeed, by working with our Job Squad to look at young people’s employability needs and the gaps digital could look to fill, YouthNet has identified four key areas that together offer comprehensive support into employability which were shared with guests.

These are that young people require:

  • Emotional support to keep young people motivated and resilient
  • Better able to benefit from practical support
  • To realise the skills and experience they have to offer
  • To plot a path into suitable employment by understanding their options and what employers are looking for

It was a fantastic opportunity to show guests that by creating the right support at the start of a young person’s journey and throughout, we can help deliver to these needs and in turn, support young people toward becoming more resilient, more motivated and to understand their strengths so they can make the most of the practical support on offer to get them into work.

Staff and young people from YoutNet’s Job squad were able to demonstrate the power of YouthNet’s emotional support, which is so crucial for young people to be able to access in parallel to practical support, being delivered via our content, the peer to peer community boards and our Live chat services on

Indeed, Juliet one of our young keynote speakers today, said that without support around resilience and self-knowledge, practical support can be hard to use to its full potential.

“When you keep getting rejected from jobs it can dampen your confidence. It’s hard to pick yourself up.”

Guests were also treated to an insight into Goal Guru, a new digital product developed by YouthNet, our young volunteers and O2 Think Big – that uses push notifications to keep a young person motivated and has just gone into production –  exactly the kind of employability support that digital could look to fill.

Some of us might have forgotten just what a key transition into adulthood this is – a transition that sees a young person move from the structured, supported environment of school to increased independence and getting by on their own.

Not surprisingly, this challenge can be daunting and the rejection it sometimes entails demoralising. Young people can feel unprepared and unsupported so we need to work together to develop solutions that will help them on this complex journey.

For me, it was inspiring to be in a room with so many others who share a passion for supporting young people to achieve their potential and the belief that digital can provide new, truly innovative solutions to improving young people’s employability.

It takes strong partnerships to deliver the right support for young people and we look forward to continuing the many conversations that were started .

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank our Job squad – all of whom are at different stages in their employment journey and who have played a vital role in sharing their personal experiences and creativity to seek to help more young people by working alongside YouthNet.

Also to the brilliant AJ King from Kiss FM who took the time out  to share his experience with us, Ben Plain from O2, the staff at O2’s Think Big Hub and of course each and every one of our guests for coming along.


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Volunteers’ Week: Sharing our stories- Jack

To celebrate Volunteers Week (1 to 7 June) we asked some of amazing YouthNet volunteers to share their thoughts on why they volunteer.

Here’s Jack’s blog…Jack Welch

Having known YouthNet through a number of the youth projects in volunteering across a number of local and national organisations, I finally discovered a way to be involved in March this year as they recruited for their new ‘Job Squad’ through the social media networks I often use to discover opportunities and events going on beyond my local area. But what exactly was ‘Job Squad’, I asked myself? As it turned out, finding this new project through social media turned out to be very appropriate for the occasion, as YouthNet are going through a period of research (known as the ‘Cycle of Innovation’) where they are essentially looking into the digital tools that supported young people into finding employment. I was fortunate enough to be selected as a young person who would help the charity support their findings into some of the challenges our generation faces at the moment and inputting into their ideas for a creation of a new digital source which may just help more young people become ‘job ready’ and prepared for the wider world.

I’m very excited to see the results from our research with the charity, as each session has offered an inventive and stimulating formula in looking at the various needs young people have in finding a job in different areas of the country. As a university student that has now finished my degree, it will be great to see if any new effective tools for job searching will help people such as myself pursue an ideal place for employment.

The project’s been a great way to practice my team-work and communication skills, as well as using my own initiative when it came to creating my own ideas for some of the exercises involved. I very much hope to stay involved with future YouthNet activities and support their work for getting a wide array of young people in the country in putting their digital skills for good use.

Our thanks to Jack for his blog and continued support. YouthNet works with 263 volunteers who support us in all areas of our services. If you’re interested in volunteering with us, take a look at our current opportunities
or get in touch via

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Volunteers’ Week: Sharing our stories

To celebrate Volunteers Week (1 to 7 June) we asked some of amazing YouthNet volunteers to share their thoughts on why they volunteer.

Here’s Lauren’s blog…

My name’s Lauren, I’ve attended a weekender with YouthNet working on a mobile app for handling stress and I also help out on the boards on TheSite, something I began back in January however despite beginning 4 months back it hasn’t taken hours and hours of my life away. The boards are where topics are discussed and advice given, its similar to meeting a friend for coffee as you’re engaging with real people who perhaps want support or just a good movie recommendation. Where its all online there’s no pressure to contribute where you don’t feel comfortable or don’t have the time.

I went for it because being a college student I feel now is the time to begin giving back, I’m at the stage I can look after myself but am not yet living alone and facing a mountain of responsibilities; I have the time and should give some up for others.

Skill-wise I’d say I’ve gained the ability to distance myself (not get too attached to those I’ve just met) while putting myself in their shoes at the same time therefore allowing me to compassionately provide advice where I can. I’ve not done any voluntary work before YouthNet and found it was a very nurturing place to start as I never felt alone or unable to do anything.

Our thanks to Lauren for her blog and continued support. YouthNet works with 263 volunteers who support us in all areas of our services. If you’re interested in volunteering with us, take a look at our current opportunities or get in touch via

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Volunteers’ Week: Sharing our stories

To celebrate Volunteers Week (1 to 7 June) we asked some of amazing YouthNet volunteers to share their thoughts on why they volunteer.

Here, Gareth Milner tells us about his time as a volunteer…

I currently undertake moderation of the online ‘forum/message board’ at, an extremely valuable online resource for those aged 16-25, run by the charity YouthNet. I first started as a user of YouthNet’s services and subsequently developed into a volunteer.

My involvement with YouthNet began over 10 years ago. I’ve known and seen many staff come and go, yet there has always been dedication amongst them all – past and present – to provide sheer excellence in terms of supporting young people in a modern and fast moving society.

In the past I have used holiday time from work – I’m a soon to be former soldier – to help out at YouthNet’s office in central London, in addition to volunteering in a virtual online capacity. During my volunteering I’ve assisted with various working groups and projects to improve and develop services provided by YouthNet.

During a quiet period of downtime in 2012, I was even able to moderate the community message boards from a laptop in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province in Afghanistan.

YouthNet and its services helped me when I needed support, the peer based support element is invaluable. TheSite isn’t just about solving problems or issues people feel they have, there are also several fact sheets and information pages.

I continue helping as a volunteer to improve and advance the work that YouthNet undertake with TheSite, primarily because I recognise the value that YouthNet and TheSite provides young people.

In an increasingly interconnected world, online peer support and advice is paramount to enable young people to find the help they need and want. The commitment of YouthNet’s core staff combined with the enthusiasm of its army of volunteers provides something akin to magic.

Whilst I can only speak with authority about my own experiences, volunteering with YouthNet – to me – is about giving something back to help that magic continue. For volunteers within this fine organisation, it’s hard to feel anything other than a sense of selfless commitment towards a charity investing so heavily in the future of a generation.

Our thanks to Gareth for his blog and continued support. YouthNet works with 263 volunteers who support us in all areas of our services. If you’re interested in volunteering with us, take a look at our current opportunities or get in touch via


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Volunteers’ Week: Sharing our stories- Cheryl

To celebrate Volunteers Week (1 to 7 June) we asked some of amazing YouthNet volunteers to share their thoughts on why they volunteer.

Here’s Cheryl’s blog…

Hey, my name is Cheryl and my role within YouthNet is a relationship advisor (in training). I give people between the ages of 16-25 advice on their relationships which they are having issues with. They can ask questions freely on Ask a Question and I will reply back to them within three working days. I can also write on the discussion boards and start topics of conversation between users. I started this role in March of this year. I study Psychology at the moment and thought this would be a great opportunity to get involved with helping people in their day to day lives. I felt it would be really great experience to reflect on further down the line. I have learnt to be very impartial with certain types of situation and try to see both sides when you only have half of the story in front of you. It has really enhanced my listening skills and writing skills also.

At the beginning of this year I had started volunteering with Kids Company – a charity which helps vulnerable children. I have been working in a school for a few months now voluntarily helping the children with school work in class and also running the girls football club at lunch time, I have also started a befriending role with Mind, a mental health organisation.

Our thanks to Cheryl for her blog and continued support. YouthNet works with 263 volunteers who support us in all areas of our services. If you’re interested in volunteering with us, take a look at our current opportunities or get in touch via

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Volunteers’ Week: Thank You!

YouthNet’s volunteers offer their time, energy and brains to so many different and challenging roles within YouthNet – without our volunteers we couldn’t reach and support as many young people as we do.

We ask a lot of our volunteers and they never fail to deliver. One week, they could be running an online live chat session giving advice and support to other young people – the next, asked to pitch their ideas to senior members of YouthNet and O2 – the next, responding to a bespoke relationship question.

With our opportunities ranging from app co-creation to relationship advice and support, our volunteers are versatile and unique. Some complete all their volunteering and training online from home, such as our roving photographers, which means we can recruit and involve young people from across the UK.

YouthNet offer a variety of different volunteering  roles. These are sometimes medium term projects, with a commitment of up to six months, like our Employability Project Group volunteers and our Relationship Advisors (we have a couple of blogs from our Relationship Advisors coming up later this week).  Some are longer term ongoing commitments, such as our Live Chat and Board Moderator roles. Alongside our roles we offer online training and accreditation options, supporting our volunteers to develop and gain skills.

We currently involve over 200 volunteers from across the UK. Our volunteers, like the people we support, are mostly aged 16-25 and without them we wouldn’t be able to offer the peer support that is so vital. Without our volunteers we wouldn’t understand young people like we do, or create the products and content that we do. Without our volunteers our services wouldn’t matter to as many young people as they currently do.

Volunteers Week is about celebrating and recognising the contribution of our volunteers. At YouthNet we aim to do that every day, but want to take this opportunity to say thank you and give them the public recognition and thanks that they deserve.

If you’re interested in volunteering with us, take a look at our current opportunities or get in touch via

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Co-creation session three – a fresh perspective

Hi, I’m Ellie and I’m YouthNet’s Digital Product Development Assistant.

A couple of weeks back, on one of my first YouthNet assignments, I headed up to Norwich to help out with the final mental health app creation session. As i’m new to YouthNet, I had never seen the process of co-creation before and wanted to get a grip with how they were run, so that I could see first hand how we communicate with young people. This blog explains what the session involved and what we got out of it. I’m still getting used to the early starts involved in a day job– this one involved a 6:45am wakeup call to get the train. Top co-creation tip: I got through the day with a McDonald’s Breakfast and a ‘venti’ coffee!

What is co-creation?

YouthNet’s co-creation sessions are a new way of developing technologies hand-in-hand with young people; technology that will help young people in their day to day lives. As we know, today’s generation are obsessed with technology, spending months saving up for the latest i-product. YouthNet have therefore reached out to young people who may need help and advice, for their insights into what tech they want and need to support them in their lives.

The Co-creation process

Co-creation sessions are when we bring together professionals and young people, combine their ideas and expertise to create a product that is not only technically viable and sound but also sure to appeal to the target audience as they have been involved in its creation. For this app we’re working with Norwich based digital agency NeonTribe.

Knocking on the door of the NeonTribe offices we were greeted by a group of friendly looking men who invited us upstairs, where we met another 4 young people who were in the session.

It took seconds for us to get into the swing of what was going on. We were creating an app to relieve stress. There had been a couple of previous sessions where various ideas had been discussed, these had now been whittled down into one idea.

This was an app that used fun techniques to direct you to the right place to get help you need. We were split into two groups and told to say how we would change this app. It was a paper prototype, which one person (the ‘computer’) moved, in order to show what would happen if you pressed the screen where you did.  The main aim was to look and see if a user would understand where they were supposed to click.

My group and I literally tore the prototype to pieces, keeping the concept the same but the design and process entirely different. With a lot of experimenting and discussing, we came to a conclusion on how we would like it to be. The activity great fun and I got really stuck in, explaining how I would design it and reasoning why, you got a real buzz when people loved your ideas and they were put in to play.

The final product

Finally the two groups came together to combine plans. After a lot of discussion we had come up with our final design. An amalgamation of the two, which we both agreed was the best way we could make finding help fun but to the point and stress free.

I can’t wait to see our app when it comes out, it’s going to be so strange seeing something we designed a paper prototype of come to life, especially when it goes live and people start downloading it! It was great to see a co-creation session too, as this is the first one I have sat in on. I had a really great day and am so glad I was part of the creation process, I can’t wait to see it again in a few months!

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Help for young people facing homelessness

This blog introduces TheSite’s new housing section – the first phase of YouthNet’s response to the housing crisis engulfing young people in the UK today.

Understanding the problem

The story started over a year ago. Funded by Nominet, we brought together housing and homelessness experts and young people to research the root causes of homelessness (see an earlier blog outlining the process).

We assumed young people became homeless for financial reasons – but we were wrong. Our research shows the main factor is almost always family breakdown of some type. As our video Spike’s story illustrates, a huge range of family issues can lead a young person to leave home. And often, like Spike, they don’t even see their situation in its true light until it’s too late. Sofa surfing with friends can seem like a fun option, until the sofas run out.

Intervening early on the root causes of homelessness

It followed that what is needed is a focus on all the strands that can lead a family to break up – so we’ve produced content about divorcebereavementmental illnessparental alcoholismneglect and child abuse. We look at solutions young people can access themselves without external support – whether it’s calling a helpline, going to their GP or asking for family therapy or mediation. Thanks to the National Youth Reference Group and YMCA for helping us find case studies for this section.

Another discovery is that one in three young homeless people are Lesbian, Gay, Bi or Trans (LGBT). As Bob Green from Stonewall Housing points out in our videos about the problems young LGBT people face , even in 2014, coming out is still a scary process and one that can sadly result in being kicked out of home. Young people like Zeph, who eventually found support from the Albert Kennedy Trust, are among the most vulnerable and hidden in our society.

Offering crisis help

As well as looking at the root causes of homelessness and asking what a Spike or a Zeph might need to avoid leaving home in the first place, we’ve focused on providing information about how to leave home in a managed and safe way if that’s the only option.

We’d like to thank Centrepoint for helping clarify what it means to be ‘legally homeless’ and what to pack if you’re leaving home. Our thanks also go to Shelter for providing expert responses to 25 housing Q&As.

Dodgy landlords, annoying housemates, trouble paying the bills

We’ve tied the launch of our work on family breakdown and homelessness with the migration of our housing content onto TheSite from our old platform. The problems that dog young people in the rental sector are endless and can mean anything from a pesky dripping tap that gets in the way of exam revision to facing eviction because of rent rises. We’ve tried to cover the whole spectrum in our housing problems section.

Of note here is that we co-opted several young vloggers to tell us about their housing tribulations. This strand of work features debuts from Youthnetters Josh and Luis and a special appearance from long-standing YouTuber Beckie0, who kindly lent her time to this project. Using vloggers is proving a very successful way to engage young people and following this trial we hope to work with many more new and established YouTube personalities.

The end of the beginning

This piece of work represents the completion of the first phase of a three year project aimed at intervening early on youth homelessness.  Our vision is of a digital ecosystem of support that mirrors young people’s lives. Our research has helped formulate a three year plan encompassing interlinking and complementary digital products that address specific need states around relationship breakdown, sofa surfing and slipping close to homelessness.

We know that there is not a single product solution to homelessness, and we will continue to collaborate with sector partners and young people to establish our approach as it develops.


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Calling aspiring PR’s and social media moguls

Are you looking for experience that will help you develop your career in online and social media communications?

YouthNet is an exclusively online charity that supports 16 to 25 year-olds in all aspects of their lives and we’re looking for people like you to join us in spreading the word about the things that are important to young people and about what we do. This role is perfect if you’re 16-25 yourself, looking for the opportunity to get some solid work experience in online communications and build your social footprint.

What does it involve?

As a ‘YouthNet Voice’, you will play an active role in helping build YouthNet’s profile using a variety of different digital PR and social media tools as we launch a series of new products and services.

In turn, we will help you:

  • Get your blogs and comment pieces published in consumer, sector and national media outlets
  • Connect you to our partners and corporate contacts
  • Provide you with a platform to speak out about the issues that effect you
  • Give you opportunities to create content for our services and advise on developments of YouthNet’s products
  • Increase your social media influence
  • Build your knowledge around youth issues and digital
  • Produce a written reference for you on completion of 6 months volunteering with us
  • Give you interview tips and techniques for job interviews in media and comms

You will help YouthNet:

  • Deliver its PR activities around new products and services across online and social media
  • Provide insights into young people’s perspectives on topical issues
  • Share YouthNet news, your views and perspectives with other young people
  • Help YouthNet reach more young people by building peer to peer networks

Time commitment

Minimum 4 hours per month, remotely. You will also be invited to attend one training session in London. Each month we will set you two tasks related to our PR and media activities.

YouthNet also works closely with BBC R1’s Sunday Surgery so we’ll also look to provide opportunities for you to get involved in projects we work on with them, as well as put you forward as audience members for their live broadcasts.

About YouthNet

YouthNet is an exclusively online charity for 16 to 25 year-olds. We support young people with information, advice and guidance through our online guide to life, TheSite. TheSite provides essential, straight-talking, anonymous advice to young people about the issues affecting their lives through a series of articles, blogs, podcasts and videos covering anything and everything that they need. We also help connect young people via a thriving online community of over 40,000 registered users, who provide vital support to one another in a trusted, anonymous space.

Volunteer manager – Katy Miller

Interview Process

  • Application email
  • Coffee!
  • Induction at YouthNet

All reasonable travel and accommodation expenses will be reimbursed in full with an agreed food budget when taking part in communications activities.

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