When I received the email notifying me that I had been nominated for an MBE I was absolutely shocked speechless. My partner thought something awful had happened! As someone who has worked and volunteered in the youth sector for well over three decades (including my time volunteering as a young person with my peers) I am delighted that youth work is being recognised.
However, I did have to stop and think about accepting an honour that comes laden with colonial language that is not fit for the 21st Century and a modern Britain. The UK absolutely needs a way to recognise the commitment of citizens without the overtures of empire. I stand with many others in calling for a recognition in the name of British Excellence and not British Empire.
In accepting this Honour, it is important that I acknowledge that I have achieved nothing without the support and teamwork of others. My character was very much formed by experience in Brownies and Guides. Guiding and Scouting gives young people from all backgrounds a taste of leadership, service and teamwork. I am who I am because of my experiences in guiding as a child and teenager, and over many years gave back to the movement as a volunteer locally, regionally and nationally. Whilst I am not currently volunteering I know that there will always be a place for me in the movement when I am ready to return.
I am also incredibly proud of the work I did as part of the staff team at Girlguiding. From expanding the range of social action undertaken in partnership with many other charities to modernising the Promise to enable girls and women of all faiths and none to find their home within the movement, as a team we achieved brilliant things with and for girls and women across the UK.
For the past four years, I have had the privilege to lead the team at the British Youth Council. We are a small charity with big ambitions with and for young people. I am inspired every day by the passion, commitment and tenacity of the young people we support, their resilience to keep advocating on behalf of their peers for change that will positively impact on the lives of so many other young people. One of my proudest moments this past year was sitting in on a video call between a group of young people and the Governor of the Bank of England, hearing them present their peer-research on the financial impact of Covid-19 on young people and challenging the Bank to take this on board as they form economic policy.
Our staff team are hugely dedicated to the cause, going above and beyond to secure opportunities for young people to talk truth to power, and to ensure that young people have the support and development they need to confidently take up the space they are entitled to. I have been so proud of the team this past year. The speed and innovation of adaptation has been tremendous. It has been inspiring to see the shift from a quick pivot to digital delivery, redesigning physical events and conferences, so that our youth advocacy and development could continue. And they have continued to develop our offer, developing new partnerships and relationships to continue delivering brilliant youth engagement in a range of settings from health, to finance to education. This is the work of the team – not me. But I am proud to have been part of the support structure that enabled them to do this.
I also want to take a quick moment to recognise Rhammel Afflick BEM, who has also received an Honour. Rhammel leads our communications work and is himself someone who has been through our programmes, as a Member of Youth Parliament and then the steering group for the UK Youth Parliament. He has continued to serve his community, including volunteering as the Director of Communications for Pride in London. Working alongside a colleague who has experienced the work of the British Youth Council first hand is a brilliant reminder that our work empowers young people to be active citizens both now and long into their future.
And if you have made it this far through my blog, then perhaps you might consider helping us to continue to do this important work and be a part of our future success. As the national youth council of the UK we receive no core government funding. As with every other small charity, the British Youth Council is constantly writing proposals and pitching for funds. We are proud to have a strong and growing supporter base who make regular and one-off donations to help our work to continue. By making a donation to the British Youth Council you can help us to strengthen our support for young people, and ensure that young people can continue to advocate on behalf of their peers in places of power.
Coming to the end of my role as UK Young Ambassador for EU Youth Dialogue, I have begun to reflect on journey. EU Youth Dialogue allows young people to interact with policy makers at an European level. The 7th Cycle of EU Youth Dialogue had three main themes. These were based on three EU youth goals – 1) Quality Employment for All, 2) Quality Youth Work for All and 3) Opportunities for Rural Youth. As UK Young Ambassadors we designed a nation-wide consultation that engaged 530 young people.
As a unit, my team of UK Young Ambassadors were given a voice to represent UK youth on an international stage. This meant we learnt to become strong communicators. We used our national consultation to be informed of the views of young people in the UK. This enabled us to communicate their views when delivering presentations and when networking. Delivering a national consultation on opposing themes did present us with challenges. We found that young people struggled to complete such a long survey. This put more pressure to ensure that focus groups and other dialogue events were encapsulating the evidence we needed for the report. Fortunately, when it came to data evaluation, we started to see themes pop out.
One of the main results from our consultation was the challenges surrounding the Future of Work. Young people across the UK were concerned about accessing quality jobs, as they believed it was difficult to prepare for a labour market that is constantly reshaping.
One of the core concerns is the availability to high quality access to the Internet, which is eerily poignant in the rise of remote working due to Coronavirus. Young people believed that certain groups were inherently disadvantaged if they did not have access to good quality Internet. They identified issues with recruitment being exclusively online – as this means those without stable Internet access are unable to apply. This year has saw a huge digital transfer of both the job market and jobs themselves. Young people now need Internet access, not as a commodity, but an essential for employment.
Additionally, young people highlighted the barriers they faced living in rural areas. They expressed issues from a lack of amenities. These included poor public transport, poor access to health, education and leisure facilities and high-quality broadband. Young people worried that they had to move in order to access education or secure quality employment. However, they wished to remain in their current areas and support local businesses.
Another outcome from the consultation was the need for Quality Youth Work. In the UK, youth work is often seen as a voluntary role. Our findings recognised the need for youth work to be seen as a profession. The standard of youth work could be raised with investment in youth worker qualifications that recognise the profession. The aim is that official youth worker qualifications will create a more sustainable strategy for youth work across the UK.
Overall, this paints a picture of a myriad of challenges that UK young people face. However, the outcome of the consultation was not gloomy. While young people highlighted their difficulties, they also presented solutions. They even felt communities themselves could be an effective tool for change that would provide short term solutions that addressed and adapted to local needs.
As an out-going UK Young Ambassador, I have been lucky to secure a role with Future Leaders Network as the Co-Chair of the Y7 2021 Taskforce. I will be leading a team of young people to deliver the G7 Youth Summit in the UK next year. I hope to use my networks and connections to further promote solutions to the challenges raised in our consultation.
For other young people out there, I would say become a champion for your concerns. Feel empowered to become a catalyst for change in your area. Reach out to leaders in your community and tell them about the challenges in your area. Write to your MPs, MSPs, MLAs, MSs – inform them about your needs as a young person. Provide leaders with evidence (such as this report) or any that you have gathered. You can even organise your own EU Youth Goal workshops in schools, colleges or youth clubs. Young people should lead the way as change-makers, not only in their local community, but internationally too.
On behalf of all of the Trustees at the British Youth Council, I want to say a huge THANK YOU to all of our donors for generously supporting our Big Give Christmas Challenge this year. Your donations have been doubled and with Gift Aid we have raised £4,518!
This incredible total means the British Youth Council can improve their online delivery with young people, making sure they continue to be heard during the Coronavirus pandemic and beyond. Thank you!
Since March 2020, the British Youth Council has been striving to continue to ensure young people’s voices are heard on issues that affect them and your support means we can improve the way we are doing this. Now more than ever, young people need to be heard.
On behalf of the British Youth Council Staff and Trustees, I want to say a heartfelt thank you for supporting the leaders of tomorrow.
Last month, the European Youth Forum held its first ever virtual General Assembly. Two hundred young people representing one hundred different organisations from across Europe met to debate policy papers, admit new members, and elect a new European Youth Forum board. I had the honour of being nominated by the British Youth Council to stand in the elections and after a long, intense period of sharing my vision, I am delighted to say that I was elected!
The international team at the British Youth Council must take much credit for this success; their support and encouragement has been incredible. I will serve a two-year term to will work with the newly elected board and lead the European Youth Forum. The board is responsible for the organisation, we represent the Forum externally to organisations like the European Union and the United Nations and decide the Forum’s strategic direction in consultation with our member organisations. I stood in these elections because I believe there are significant internal changes the European Youth Forum needs to make. We need to utilise our immense capacity as the world’s largest network of youth organisations, and our ability to create the change we want to see in the world.
I also believe young people should be at all levels of decision making. The board of the European Youth Forum has typically been made up of people in their mid to late twenties, meaning Europeans of my generation have not had a representative. When my term begins on January 1st 2021, I will be the youngest board member and one of the youngest in the Forum’s history at 19 years of age. I finally believe that as the Brexit transition period ends, young people in the UK must maintain representation in Europe. I hope that having a voice on the board of one of Europe’s most influential youth organisations will help to achieve that.
As I write this, the UK is 35 days away from the end of the Brexit transition period. Nothing will fully substitute our EU membership, but my new role will enable me to represent the views and needs of young people in the UK within European circles. The European Youth Forum is extremely concerned about the consequences of Brexit for both young people in the UK and the EU, particularly in relation to Erasmus+. Since 2014, £900m of funding has been distributed from the EU to UK Erasmus+ projects, with over 930,000 young people involved in these projects. In 2017, 16,561 UK students travelled to the EU through Erasmus funding, while 31,727 EU nationals came to the UK. If Brexit negotiations conclude at midnight on December 31st without an agreement on the UK’s continued participation in Erasmus (which seems likely) then we will lose the quite incredible benefits it has provided us. At the European Youth Forum’s General Assembly last month, we voted in favour of a motion to back the extension of Erasmus+ to non-EU members. We will continue campaigning for this so that young people in the UK might again benefit from the enormous educational, social and cultural benefits that Erasmus+ has given previous generations.
The next few years are going to challenge everyone. The triple threat of our current economic crisis, the implications of Brexit, and the looming climate crisis means that life is going to be quite different not just for the next few months, but for decades to come. This is why it is crucially important for the European Youth forum to connect, to empower and to provide a platform for other organisations and for young leaders so they can advocate, campaign and lead others in pursuit of a world. A world that is more equitable, respectful, and caring. I want to show by example that having young people in positions of leadership can be of immense value; my hope is that more and more young people will be encouraged and inspired to become leaders in their own communities and that more and more organisations will support and invest in young leaders as the British Youth Council and the European Youth Forum have supported and invested in me.
In September I left the British Youth Council after a year-long internship in the Fundraising Team. During my time, I worked across all the funding streams such as trusts and foundations, individual giving, and community and challenge events. I was so lucky in my role to have been able to gain such a wide range of experiences, not only in fundraising but also in youth voice and empowerment.
You can see the impact of the British Youth Council first hand when you meet the incredible young people it works with. I will never forget going to the UK Youth Parliament’s House of Commons Sitting and being blown away by the intellect, passion, and courage of the young people who spoke. I spent the whole time thinking that I would never have been able to talk so articulately and with such power in front of such a large group as a teenager! The Youth Voice programme is such a unique and special part of the British Youth Council.
Fundraising is central to the British Youth Council’s work, and one of my favourite duties in the intern role was getting to know our supporters individually, learning about the reasons they loved the British Youth Council and what made them give. It was also great to provide support for those who took part in challenge events for us, especially to watching them smash challenges whilst raising money for a great cause. We say it time and time again as fundraisers but it really is true – the support received from our donors and funders truly helps to make a difference. My own internship (funded by the Jack Petchey Foundation) demonstrated how fundraising can help to expand the capacity of charity and, in turn, increase its impact.
Another highlight came early on in my internship when I organised a drinks reception for supporters and alumni. It was brilliant to see so many people coming together to catch up, have a drink, and raise funds for the British Youth Council. We also had the opportunity to hear from Mita Desai, a former Chair of the trustee board. Mita has gone on to achieve great success and continues to fight for youth voice through the Young Trustees Movement. Stories such as Mita’s show the incredible impact of the British Youth Council and how it can have such an influence in shaping the lives of its beneficiaries.
Whilst I am sad to be moving on, I am so grateful for the experiences I had during my internship and for the insight it gave me into youth work – I must have enjoyed it because I’m now taking on a role in fundraising at another youth charity! If there was one thing I could ask of those reading this, it would be to please keep supporting the small charities that you love like the British Youth Council. Without your support they would not be able to empower young people to speak up, be heard and make real change.
Reflecting back over my last two years as chair of British Youth Council, and the prior year as a trustee is significantly harder, weirder and less straightforward than I would have imagined. The past three years have definitely been varied – both in terms of what young people have prioritised via British Youth Council and of the challenges our generation has faced. Did I expect to be finishing during a pandemic, and to have all our activities and meetings happening digitally since February? Absolutely not. But despite finishing in very odd circumstances, I consider myself to be unbelievably lucky to have chaired the charity over these two years.
I have been privileged enough to work with talented, young trustees and a wonderfully dedicated staff team. I have taken the priorities of young people directly to Number 10, and represented younger generations at home and abroad, and so much more. This was a brilliant and challenging role, leading a progressive and important charity, and I will always be hugely thankful to the members for electing me in September 2018.
In a way, my two years as British Youth Council chair have been a story of two halves.
On the one hand, the British Youth Council has increased the number of young people meaningfully engaged with, and in particular have reached more disadvantaged young people, and given a platform to overlooked groups such as young carers. We have successfully launched several new initiatives that I firmly believe will benefit young generations and society as a whole, like our Bank of England Youth Forum. We have continued to tackle big issues that matter to younger generations much earlier than other organisations, such as via our Youth Select Committee enquiries into pressing issues like body image in young people and tackling knife crime. We’ve also been at forefront of influencing the decisions being taken at the heart of government through DCMS’s Youth Steering Group.
The trustee board has moved forward in our collective knowledge and understanding of good governance, and I also believe our reputation as a youth-led charity has influenced other charities to see the benefits of having young trustees. There’s plenty to do to ensure we are continuously improving for our members, but I can confidently say we are more upfront, and transparent with our members than many other organisations about where we can improve.
On the other hand, it has felt more and more challenging to persuade people with influence to truly commit to meaningful, long-term engagement and discussion with younger generations. All too often, young people or representatives are invited into the decision-making room, and asked if we think a youth-focused plan or strategy is ‘good enough’. More often than not, if that young person says ‘no’, even if we then clearly explain why nothing will change. Why then, are organisations and leaders asking for youth feedback, if not to take it onboard? What is the point of inviting young people into the rooms of power, if not to treat them as equals? Why are ‘adults’ allowed to say no, but young people are expected to ‘take anything we can get’?
Do I believe that young people are more valued, treated with more respect, and provided with significantly more opportunity to influence government policy that directly impacts them than I believe we were back in September 2018? Unfortunately, no, and I wouldn’t be honest if I said otherwise. It would be easy to conclude that “we’re in a pandemic, of course, meaningful youth engagement is less of a priority” but this is the wrong conclusion. I have always believed that if young people (who are inevitably going to have to shoulder the impact of Covid-19 the longest) are not properly considered and consulted about our collective approach to tackling the pandemic, then these generations would become more disillusioned and left behind in the future.
Young people are struggling through the same storm of the pandemic that older generations are, but to say we are all going through this storm in the same boat is wrong. Education has been severely disrupted. We face the worst employment prospects of any generation. Our generation has devastatingly poor mental health. All of these are already difficult enough issues to face, but we must always highlight the fact that young people from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority communities are disproportionately negatively affected compared to their peers. The fact that we have seen no clearly defined national strategy to address this inequality should be a cause of national shame, and it is unsurprising to me that it is predominantly young people standing up and speaking out about this.
It has never been more important to value the voices and opinions of young people, and yet it can often feel like it has never been so difficult to get into the room where decisions about us are made. The British Youth Council continues to grow in importance, relevance and progressiveness, and I’m confident Sarah Staples, the new Chair and the team will continue to push forward on behalf of young people, ensuring that young voices are meaningfully heard. I sincerely hope those who are decision-makers and those who can affect change will reflect, and rapidly improve how they work with young people as partners. I am very excited to see what the trustees and charity as a whole achieve over the next few years, and will always continue to champion #YouthVoice.
I want to thank our wonderful staff for supporting both the board as a whole and myself personally over the last few years. It has never failed to impress and amaze me quite how much impactful work we deliver as a small charity, and a significant proportion of that is due behind the scenes efforts of our entire team. Similarly, I absolutely cannot praise the trustees enough for the standard they hold themselves, and deliver, too.
I count myself fortunate to have led a board as young, diverse, and talented as British Youth Council have. Charities that serve young people are stronger, more resilient and more relevant when they have young people on their governing bodies. After sitting on various charity trustee boards, I can confidently say that the British Youth Council trustees understand their roles better and their responsibility more seriously than boards that fit our charity sector norm of older, whiter, and more male. Our young members are incredibly lucky to be supported by such wonderful and passionate people.
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.