The votes at 16 youth action group met in Liverpool for its last residential as the current cohort. The weekend event was an opportunity to review the different activities that have taken place since our last residential in February 2023.
During the previous residential we made a commitment to explore ways in which we could promote the argument for votes at 16. To remain true to our commitment we spent some time reflecting on what we had done as a group and individually in our cities and communities. Some of the things that came up were:
- Launching our manifesto
- Participating on two Twitter Spaces for Votes @ 16 with The Body Shop
- Lobbying MPS
- Meeting MPs
- Hosting an All Party Parliamentary Group for Votes at 16
- Leading local discussion regarding the matter
- Participating in media (local and national), including radio and online news
Although much was done between February and June, many of us faced challenges that delayed or prevented us from achieving our main goal. Our first session as a group allowed us to put forward some of the issues that we faced. Most were centred around the idea that our audience, which was usually adults, tended to enter the topic of discussion with a closed mindset, therefore making it quite challenging for our voices to be heard. Targeting people that had traditional values such as “it feels wrong to give young people the right to vote” provided a significant obstacle, and it was agreed the best response was to ensure that the arguments we had were up-to-date and concise.
Whilst lobbying and meeting politicians, another obstacle the group faced was centred around the topic of power. Some politicians from Northern Ireland, for example, argue that votes at 16 is a devolved issue and that they had no influence over it, the responsibility to the UK government. The group agreed that persistence and consistency was vital to show politicians that this was a matter at the heart of young people across the nations.
Having discussed the challenges that we faced along the way, we thought about what we learned and what we would do differently to ensure maximum impact. This is what we concluded with:
- The case for votes at 16 is very strong
- Engaging with young people was something we could better focus on as a group
- Media training was something we wanted to explore as a group
- Speaking to people in power was a key goal
- As a group, we needed to be have more confidence to raise the topic
Lastly our reflection time encouraged us to discuss ways in which we could put into practice what we had learned, and we surmised it all with the following:
- Involving the Northwest national policy forum of the Labour Party to see if we could shape Labour’s policy agenda
- Meeting with young people in the Labour Party to discuss how we can engage the younger generation in politics
- Conducting politics workshops in high schools for 11-16 years old
- Conducting debate spaces in our schools and colleges
In the second session of our residential we had a guest speaker: the activist and writer Ilyas Nagdee. Ilyas led a workshop called “Crafting, deploying and winning with your message”. The purpose of this workshop was to equip us with the tools needed to ensure that we knew how to create our message, how to target our audience but most importantly, how we can deliver our message with the most impact.
Ilyas shared that there are four important aspects of a message which are:
- Shared value – within your message, you and your audience must share a common value to ensure that your audience is engaged with your message.
- Problem – when sharing a message, be specific on what the issue is and who is to be blamed for it. The messenger must be explicit on the group that is suffering the most due to the problem.
- Impact – the messenger must be clear on what the effect of the problem is on the people they are trying to reach with their message. In order to be effective in this, they should create a message that their audience can visualise. The use of fractions tends to remain with an audience when used correctly.
- Solution – provide a suggestion of what can be done to solve the problem. Provide a solution for now (immediate solution) and a long-term solution for the future.
Our day of campaign planning ended with us looking forward to the next phase of our campaign and the work we are going to conduct individually in our network team, city and region.
Finally, we listened to a presentation on the petition the British Youth Council is currently running in partnership with The Body Shop: “For Our Futures Sake”. The petition aims for 100,000 signatures in support of Votes at 16, so that it can be considered for debate in Parliament. We explored who our target audiences might be in gaining petition signatures, looking at achievable points of access to engage them. Importantly, we learned that not everyone will agree with our campaign message – but that we shouldn’t view rejections as failure. The last leg of the day took in mind the presentation, as we worked independently to think about how we could activate the petition in our own circles.
Votes at 16 will continue to advocate for young people and ensure that their voices are heard by decision makers. Through the input and involvement of young people, the campaign has taken a stronger position and become an argument of discussion among politicians, highlighting the importance of political participation. We would urge you to be confident to raise the debate and challenge people’s view on the topic!