Over the next two months, I will be posting blogs to provide further context to the five points which form my manifesto for board member of the European Youth Forum. This is blog one, detailing my first manifesto point: lead the new normal.
Lead the new normal
What does it mean to “lead the new normal?” To me, it means reflecting on our experiences from the past six months, learning from our experiences, and implementing those lessons so that we can emerge from the health crisis as a more effective team of youth organisations. In doing that, we strengthen our ability to advocate and campaign for others to respond to this crisis in a way which safeguards young people’s needs and rights.
The process of reflection and lesson learning should have member organisations at its heart. At least one board member should have the responsibility of leading a process which engages member organisations in identifying how the European Youth Forum can improve its ways of working, based on the lessons we are learning from the crisis. I propose that the process replicate the format of the governance review. Below are three ways I believe we need to change in order to lead the new normal:
- We can become more adaptable and resilient by reducing our dependence on physical meetings. This does not necessarily mean reducing physical meetings, though that may be necessary in the short term, but it does mean making sure that if a member organisation or representative is unable to attend a meeting, they should be able to perform basic functions, like voting, remotely or by proxy. It also means increasing our interactions between statutory meetings, as detailed in point three. As a board member I would advocate for reducing our dependence on physical meetings and increasing our interactions between statutory meetings.
- We can become more productive by utilising the best parts of technology to cut down the agendas for the Council of Members and General Assemblies. Activities which are not improved by a physical meeting, should take place virtually ahead of in physical meetings. This would either reduce the length of the Council of Members and General Assemblies, or it would increase the amount of time that can be spent networking, campaign planning or in workshops- the most valuable parts of physical meetings. As a board member I would advocate for activities like voting on amendments to take place virtually ahead of physical meetings, which would then enable physical meetings to have far more personal interactions.
- We can become more connected and interdependent as an organisation by meeting more frequently and less formally, but virtually. New delegates should have the opportunity to join a virtual new delegates group where they can meet other new delegates, create a network of contacts and meet frequently throughout their first year. The board should run more virtual consultations and dialogues to give member organisations opportunity to input into discussions. I provide more detail on how the board can become more connected, transparent, and accountable in my third manifesto point to be released in the coming weeks. As a board member I would advocate for a step change in the amount of interactions between meetings so the European Youth Forum is not characterised by two statutory meetings per year, but by continual interaction between youth organisations and the European Youth Forum throughout the year.
Over the past six months, we have been forced into a radically new way of working. There are many negatives to this change, but there are also some positives. In order to lead the new normal, we must first show that we, as the world’s largest network of youth organisations, can rebuild for the better.
This crisis has taught us what it is possible to do, we must use this time to push forward to a new and better way of working. I am committed to advocating for a more adaptable and resilient, more productive, and more connected and interdependent European Youth Forum.
It is difficult to understate how much the world has changed over the past six months. Millions have lost loved ones; millions have been locked in their homes; those on the frontline have continued working in immensely challenging circumstances; greenhouse gas emissions have plummeted; in the UK 20 years of growth has disappeared in six months, and globally extreme poverty is rising for the first time in 40 years.
As Europe begins to move past the peak of this crisis, we must begin to look at how we want our world to change, based on what we have learnt from Coronavirus, so that the new normal is one of inclusivity and respect, where all rights, environmental and human, are protected. The crisis has brought immeasurable suffering- there is no taking away from that. But all this disruption has provided us with a once in a generation opportunity to make the sort of changes which might have taken decades in normal circumstances.
I am standing to be a Board member of the European Youth Forum because I believe we need to develop as an organisation so that we can show by our own example what it means to build back better. I believe we need to build on the work that the current Board has done to make the European Youth Forum more collaborative and transparent. And I believe we can do more to increase engagement with the forum’s work, and to support member organisations to increase engagement with the work that they do.
The British Youth Council is one of the most established and effective National Youth Councils in Europe. As a member of British Youth Council, I want to bring a knowledge and experience of working in an organisation which has lead the effort in the UK to make sure that young people have a seat at the table and which engages and empowers millions of young people every year. Young people are being disproportionately affected by the measures taken to control the spread of Coronavirus and we need youth organisations to be a fighting force for the rights and needs of young people.
Our two pioneering youth forums, The NHS Youth Forum and The Bank of England Youth Forum, have taken youth voice into the heart of the National Health Service and the Bank of England. It has been incredible to watch these youth forums develop, particularly as health and economics have been the central focus of government over the last six months. We have a hugely active Youth Parliament that engage and empower youth at a grassroots level. These are some of our most impactful programmes and I would bring knowledge of these and other programmes to the Board so we can maximise youth engagement across Europe.
The United Kingdom has the additional challenge of leaving the European Union at a time of deep economic, social, and environmental instability. It is important, especially at this time, for the voice of young people in the UK to maintain a connection to Europe and for young people in Europe to continue having access to what the UK can offer. Therefore, it would be useful for the Board of the European Youth Forum to have a UK representative who would use the forum to keep the opportunities and value that the UK’s partnership with the European Union brings to Europe.
Our generation will be remembered for what we do when faced with some of the greatest challenges the world has faced: climate change, cyberwarfare and civil wars, extreme poverty, automation and artificial intelligence, populism, social and economic instability, and pandemics – to name but a few. It is these challenges and our responses to them that will characterise the foreseeable future. To succeed, we need to unify our efforts by collaborating with others, and sharing our knowledge and experiences. We must empower young leaders, hold elected representatives to account, and campaign for the changes we want them to make. But politics is imperfect and our leaders can be fallible. This is where we need to build the sort of world world we would be proud to pass on to the next generation – today, we all need to be leaders.
I am standing to be a Board member of The European Youth Forum because I believe I can bring skills, knowledge, and ideas to better connect and empower youth organisations across Europe in pursuit of a better world. Over the next two months I will be releasing my manifesto alongside some blogs which will explain in more detail what I think the European Youth Forum can do to become a more resilient and successful organisation.
If you represent a Member Organisation to the European Youth Forum, I will be getting touch with you over the next few months. If you are a member of one of the European Youth Forum’s member organisations, I would love to hear your thoughts on how the European Youth Forum can lead the new normal. Please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charities and youth organisations like the British Youth Council have been significantly impacted by Covid-19 as many physical fundraising events have come to a standstill. So I came up with a way of fundraising for the ones that matter to me and have shaped me into the person I am today.
I hosted The Big 12 Hour Livestream on Saturday 20th June 2020 with the hopes of being in front of a computer for twelve hours, live streaming on YouTube. The concept involved interviewing a number of guests whilst fundraising for the British Youth Council, Hampshire Youth Parliament, Andover Trees United, Unity and my own youth organisation DMK Worldwide. These beneficiaries mean so much to me. They have given me many opportunities to voice my own opinions and get involved within the community of Youth Voice and I only wish that I had found them sooner.
To say the least, the livestream was a challenge. I have done many livestreams before, but never for twelve hours straight, so I really wanted to make sure everything went smoothly, and for the most part it went very well. I interviewed a huge variety of guests, from the British Youth Council’s very own Chair, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, to Members of Parliament such as Kit Malthouse, MP for North West Hampshire and Minister of State for Crime and Policing. The full livestream with all interviews can be found on Youtube. There were of course a few technical difficulties here and there but it was definitely an awesome learning experience. There could perhaps be another livestream coming in the future, for an even longer time.
It is so important during these challenging times to continue to support small charities like the British Youth Council, through fundraising initiatives and donations, and I would encourage anyone who is passionate about Youth Voice to do the same.
My name is Joe Stockley, and I’m a trustee for the British Youth Council. I also run Communications for an equality charity in Wales called Diverse Cymru, and worked with and around the British Youth Council for six years. Those past six years have been quite a wild ride – graduating, unemployment, flirting with homelessness, and lots more – but the constant has been the incredible support, development, and time the British Youth Council has offered me.
In October, I’ll no longer be a trustee for the best youth voice charity I’ve ever been involved with. Of course, this is not the end of the road, the road is just beginning. I cannot wait to use my experience and expertise to fight the corner for young people, for equality, and to continue clearing the way for others and happily watch as they change the world. So what has the British Youth Council done for me? Why is it so close to my heart? Read on for insights of a retiring British Youth Council trustee.
The Trustee Board
For two and a half years I sat on the board of a one million pound charity who support young people across the UK and give youth voice the attention it deserves, with 11 other young people, all under 25, with exceptional skills and abilities. We have auditors, activists, fundraisers, and so much more around the table, all focal voices for young people across the country. We hold the charity to account, and support the organisation to be the best it can be. It is a lot of work, but there’s nothing like it.
It’s one of those roles – if you want it to be transformative, and you put the time in, it will change your life. There have been tough conversations, I have learned to manage conflict. There have been big wins, I have learned to capitalise on success. There has been so so many things I didn’t understand, I have learned to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
In what other environment can young people be as central to their own cause? Charities that work with young people having young trustees is still a relatively new concept for some reason: “nothing about us without us.” In what other environment can young people get such an overarching understanding of running an organisation, and such a flavour of the problems facing our society, and start to propose solutions? Diversity of opinion leads to good decision-making, we know that, yet for some reason think trustee boards of charities are exempt from that golden rule. There is also the issue of sustainability – we want to create a living, breathing, dynamic third sector, all of the young trustees of the British Youth Council will know and understand what makes a good charity tick, and will (hopefully) be more inclined to work in the sector.
The board of the British Youth Council has been a pleasure to work with for three years, in good times and in bad. I have made friends who I will always stay in contact with, and sometimes ring for advice (and vice versa, I hope!).
We, as young people, are the future. That’s a fairly indisputable statement – rooted in fact and time. Let me blow your mind – young people can be the ‘now’. If you believe in young people, and move out of the way of young people, young people can be the now, can change the world, can change their community, can change their life. They need support – don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t? The British Youth Council has been working to gather hundreds of thousands of opinions, young people across the UK have been telling us for years what their priorities are, and we’ve been facilitating youth select committees who have convened on top issues. The space is made for young people, and they fill it with their voices, and with expertise in themselves. That’s one of the reasons I have been so happy as a trustee with the British Youth Council. I feel that I have been part of a genuinely leading organisation, who have made the UK a better place for young people. Let’s not forget how bleak it currently is for youth in the UK – they have been royally screwed with grades, BTec students only just getting their results now, two recessions in a lifetime. Employment is more difficult than ever, with youth working in sectors most likely to make redundancies. House prices soar, wages stagnate. Youth services are slashed. Nearly one in three young people in Wales live in poverty, according to End Child Poverty Network research. Combine all of that and you have the lowest youth overall wellbeing index since Prince’s Trust records began. Young people need hope, they need attention, they need a voice that is listened to. That is a central pillar of our work, and one our staff fulfill day in, and day out.
We give young people hope in hopeless situations.
One of those young people was me – and for that I will be always grateful.
That is why I wanted to be a trustee for the British Youth Council, that’s why I donate every month to their work. That’s why I’ll always stay in touch with the organisation – they are hope givers.
In two months, I’ll no longer be a trustee for the best youth voice charity I’ve ever been involved with – but that’s just the start.
This time last year, when I clicked the ‘Submit’ button on my Bank of England Youth Forum application, a wave of anxiety hit me. I thought, “I am the last person anyone would associate with enjoying maths or economics, and I definitely have no clue how to set up an ISA… why on Earth did I just apply to this?” A few moments later, after the initial anxiety had subsided, I realised this was exactly why I needed to apply; if I didn’t have a clue about the world of finance and economics, then other young people definitely share my pain.
My financial education in school consisted of a money management booklet being dropped on my desk, which I shoved to the bottom of my schoolbag. However, I wanted to get better at understanding how the economy worked, and to do this I knew I had to actively immerse myself in it. If someone had told me last year, that I would represent over 900 young people’s views on how a global pandemic financially affected them, or quizzed the Bank of England’s Chief Economist on the Bank’s transparency regulations, I would have laughed in their face.
After it became clear the Coronavirus outbreak would have a disastrous affect on our economy, a small group from the youth panel, formed an Immediate Response Team. We felt it was vital that we urgently gauged the national opinion of young people, so we created a survey, which asked: ‘How is COVID-19 affecting you, financially, as a young person?’ It was clear from the survey results, that there is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety from young people during this crisis, and many noted feeling that their future is up in the air. We wanted to share these concerns with the Bank and were given an opportunity to present our survey findings to the Bank of England’s Chief Economist Andy Haldane.
Presenting to Andy Haldane, with the Bank of England’s Immediate Response Team, was definitely the highlight of my time on the youth panel. For those of you, like me, who did not know, my brother informed me kindly over the dinner table the night before the presentation, that in 2014 Andy Haldane was named by Time Magazine as one of the world’s top 100 most influential people (no pressure, then). From lowering interest rates, to working with the Government to ensure we strive for environmental sustainability in our economic recovery plan, we held him to account on a range of issues. Voicing the issues that young people care about to influential institutions, like the Bank of England, allows you to have real impact in youth voice.
For me, joining the Bank of England Youth Forum, has been about asking young people what they think, listening to their concerns, and ensuring their voices are heard. I am sure you will agree with me when I say that now more than any other period in recent history, young people need to have a seat at the table. The BBC reported in a recent article, that ‘Under 25’s and women financially worst-hit [by COVID-19]’. Therefore, it is vital that young people are asking key questions, like: What does this mean for us? How can better educate our young people on economics? Are the Bank of England representing young people to the best of their ability? Only in answering questions like these can we ensure young people are properly represented.
Recently, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport and the British Youth Council launched Involved. Involved is a social media tool on Instagram that allows young people to become a part of the decision-making process. I have been lucky enough to witness the Involved’s journey from an idea to a fully functional tool for young people across the country. Over this time, I have been able to become more confident in Involved’s necessity. For as long as our democratic system has existed, the prevailing view has always been that young people should be seen and not heard.
However, our society relies on young people to be responsible for their education, their careers, and their personal development, without the right to financial support or a direct way of providing feedback on the government decisions that impact them. The past ten years have seen a comprehensive transformation in this regard. There is the UK Youth Parliament where all devolved administrations have a Youth Voice representative body. The recent allocation of funding shows that structured youth investment succeeds in the long term. What we continue to see now is the dialogue surrounding young people increasing. And why shouldn’t it?
During my apprenticeship, I paid tax like any other employee. I believed that failing my GCSEs would prevent any hope of further education. And so, I was responsible for my entire future at the age of 16. And now we see young people taking responsibility for more than just their futures. Young people are moving. They are marching and using their few rights and platforms to spread a message.
From climate change to racial injustice, young people, who I am proud to say I share a generation with, care about much more than just their future. They care about the future of humanity. Yes, we have more to learn, and of course, we will make mistakes along the way. Look at the actions of previous generations and you will see; we are just another stepping-stone in the development of humanity.
Now for Involved, another stepping-stone allowing young people to have a direct link to the decision makers. If there is a disconnection between young people and decision makers, then the process of decision making is broken. For the same reason a marketing consultant is consulted on marketing, young people should be consulted on policies aimed at them. I am grateful we now have this belief established in some government departments. And those departments want to know more to do more, and that is why the young people we see marching, protesting and demanding the government to listen, can now be listened to.
It is just the beginning of Involved as a platform for young people to be heard, and there are certainly more steps to be taken for the Government to listen to young people. However, if we take this as the olive branch it is, we can keep moving. We can build a more open society that is not afraid to have the frank discussions it needs to progress. I will not forget the journey that was developing Involved, but I know that the best is yet to come.
There are so many uncertainties at the moment. How long until all young people are back in school? When will friends and families be reunited? What will our new normal be? One thing we do know, thanks to Girlguiding’s research surveying almost 7,000 girls and young women, is how the global pandemic is affecting the lives of girls across the UK.
Girls and young women are particularly concerned with how Coronavirus is affecting their well-being. The health of others is a significant cause for concern – 4 in 5 girls worry about someone else getting sick, much greater than the quarter who find themselves worrying about their own health. I think this speaks volumes for how compassionate young people are.
Thinking back to the start of the pandemic, I did not change my habits due to fear of catching the virus, but rather to protect others. The thought that my lifestyle (being very social, using public transport, travelling between cities) could result in making my grandparents ill, was distressing. Of course, it is natural to worry about loved ones, but when a dangerous, highly contagious disease gets thrown into the mix, low level concern is heightened and, sadly impacts on mental health.
Worries about school closures and what this means for education and grades are also at the forefront of girls’ minds. We know already from previous years’ Girls’ Attitudes Surveys that academic performance is a major worry for girls and young women. In 2019, nearly 60 % were worried that not doing well in exams would ruin future life opportunities, whilst only 1 in 5 received help and support to manage this stress. Now, over three quarters of girls say that uncertainty about school and education is negatively affecting their well-being, 70 % worry that they are falling behind at school, and a third feel anxious at the prospect of a teacher predicting their grades.
All at a time when young people have even lesser access to support networks of friends and teachers. I myself am in a ‘non-key’ year of my education, and still I have worried to no end about my results and what this may mean for my future. I can only imagine what it must feel like to be a school leaver, and to feel like so many years of hard work are down the drain.
So, after reading this, and the full research report, you may be thinking: What can I do? If you’re a young person, continue to voice your concerns, talk about your feelings, and demand to be listened to. Your worries are absolutely valid – do not let anyone try to tell you otherwise. If you’re an adult, please engage with any young people in your life – ask what you and other adults can do better, and advocate for young people’s inclusion in matters that affect them.
I feel so strongly that at this time it’s more important than ever for adults (whether parents, teachers, or decision makers) to engage directly with young people. Coronavirus has introduced an array of unprecedented difficulties into our lives, and for adults to assume they know how young people feel about this without actually asking us about our concerns, is insulting and damaging.
When we voice our concerns, we absolutely deserve to be listened to by those in power. That’s why Girlguiding called for the prime minister to deliver a young people’s press conference, and why we’re infuriated that under 18s cannot submit questions to the Government and advisors. It is also why I am thankful, as ever, to Girlguiding for making sure young people’s voices are heard, even in the midst of a global health crisis.
If I’m being honest, I had no idea what I was truly signing up for when I ran to be Chair of the British Youth Council just over two years ago. I was very clear that I wanted to do my bit in steering this important Charity forwards, and having already served a year as an ordinary trustee I was keen to take on more responsibility and be more involved. I’m a pretty organised and ambitious person, and I like doing my bit to build up the voices of others around me too. I was very prepared to be the voice that encourages all within the British Youth Council to reach that little bit higher, push ourselves that small bit further, and achieve something people thought we couldn’t. I won’t use this blog as an opportunity to try and predict what will come into the path of the next Chair (I got no more heads up than anyone else about the global pandemic!) but I’ll try and lay out some of the key principles and values that I humbly believe will ensure my successor succeeds.
This is perhaps one of the most varied roles I’ve ever been in – some weeks are very minimal whereas others defined by several key moments and decisions happening constantly one after the other. There’s a significant level of responsibility – you’re the public face of a national charity and one of the youngest elected National figures with that level of mandate – but there’s huge room for learning too. Your fellow trustees will almost certainly be the people who teach you the most about what it means to be a leader, and I truly believe leading by example is key – speaking out on behalf of the British Youth Council and young people when their voices aren’t included or their opinions not valued is a far too regular occurrence, but it’s a privilege to be able to speak out and important to do so.
You could be sat with a senior Government minister lobbying for more funding for a critical youth service on one day, then visiting one of the smallest youth groups in the country for a committee meeting the next. If you’re someone who would see both these events as important as each other – you could be a great chair. Some days will be spent working with our phenomenal staff team on the nitty-gritty details of how to make a vital new youth-led project or youth forum work, and that same week you might have to present to a room of other charity chairs about what makes our board different (and often, better). Being a team player and an ambassador are both vital, and as Chair, you get to learn how to be better at both throughout your tenure. You need to want to invest time into the trustee board – making sure meetings are effective decision-making spaces, ensuring everyone gets equal opportunity to be heard and thinking long term strategically about what the board needs to be doing.
The trustees are your main players – collectively you’re responsible for the British Youth Council’s strategy, finances, long term plan, and risk management – you need to be someone who can handle conversations with many opinions and steer people towards compromise and resolution. The staff team are brilliant and vital; you need to be happy to do your bit and makes events and programs a success, acknowledge when decisions are tough, and be prepared to be the person who makes the tough decisions.
Being Chair is brilliant, challenging, rewarding and educational all in one go. It’s intense, yes, but humbling too. You get two years to not only see the best of the best of what young people can achieve collectively and need to be the main person to make sure everything is working behind the scenes so that the British Youth Council can enable them too.
I’m fully prepared to admit that I did not expect to be planning my handover during a Global Pandemic and that the world we operate in now is a very different, and often quite a scary world, compared to one or two years ago. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the unwavering ability of our young activists, staff, member organisations and trustees to ensure that BYC is a vehicle for striving towards a world where every young person is empowered to have their say on the issues that affect them. As Chair – you could have the ultimate responsibility for helping the organisation achieve this.
As a non-binary person, and as a trustee of the British Youth Council, I welcome the support and safety that our organisation gives to young, trans people like me. As trustees, part of our responsibility to our charity is the commitment to defend our aims and interests, with a strong part of that being ensuring the implementation of our equal opportunities policy in all of our work.
The recent news suggesting that the Government has dropped its two-year commitment to reforming the Gender Recognition Act has been worrying. In a piece published on the front page of The Times on Sunday, the Government announced that, despite 70,000 (70%) of respondents writing in favor of reform in the consultation, the Government will not be adhering to their wishes.
The Gender Recognition Act reforms propose a number of ideas which will allow people like myself, and other trans people, the ability to live our lives safely. The reforms propose amending the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which at the time was a groundbreaking law, but now leaves us trailing behind many other countries in Europe and across the world. Reforming the Act will mean we will not have to pay costly amounts to access our healthcare – which is exclusionary to most young and working-class members of our community, and we would not have to wait years, sometimes decades, for the services we require. It would give, amongst other rights, easier routes to get trans identities legally recognised, and a recognition of non-binary identities in law. It would mean no evidence requirement of lived experience, as the current law depends on a diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria, which is a complex requirement with degrading and unnecessary barriers.
Proposed reforms also include the right to self-determination, including for 16 and 17 year olds, through a much simpler and more streamlined administrative process. At the British Youth Council, we have fought for the rights of 16 and 17 year olds to vote for nearly two decades because we understand that at 16, we have the ability to understand the decisions that affect us. By empowering young people in the trans community, we strengthen our commitment to our members, and the trans community across the country.
Before I started my first role in the British Youth Council five years ago – in the rural South West – I had never met someone like me. I am proud that our charity gives opportunities to meet people like ourselves in a welcoming environment, and the chance to learn from others. The British Youth Council has helped me to be out and proud. As someone tasked with guiding the future of our organisation, I would like our trans members, staff, and our allies to know that I am here for you, I see you, and our charity will continue to defend our rights across the country. We stand in solidarity with trans rights charities, and activists who are fighting for our recognition and safety in our country today, and in the future.