On a cold Saturday morning in March 2019, the group met for the first time. Our challenge: to create a digital solution that would allow young people to engage in government policy, without having to wade through pages and pages of information, or navigate the gov.uk website.
We started off by learning about the policy-making process. I’d love to be able to explain this in a succinct way, but I think all that I can say is this – it’s pretty complicated. It was a little bit like trying to understand the London Tube Map for the first time, without any knowledge of London or the tube.
After spending a little while scratching our heads, we moved on to think about something more familiar to us: young people. We thought carefully about how we could create a platform that gave all young people the tools to engage with government policy in a quick but meaningful way, regardless of their background or personal experience. Inclusivity quickly became one of our guiding principles: we wanted this platform to capture voices that are often not heard.
Following a morning of learning and listening, it was time to get creative. We broke off into three groups, with each group creating an idea for a digital engagement platform. Before we knew it, the weekend was over, and we had three initial ideas that we could take out into the world and test.
During the few months that followed our first residential, a great deal happened. We each went out and held focus groups to gather young people’s opinions on the platforms that we had created, and used their insights to shape our ideas. More group members were recruited, and before we knew it it was time for residential number two.
We came together again in June 2019, to share our insights and to hear the views of new members of the group. Fast forward to the end of this residential, and we had settled on our proposal. We wanted to develop a platform that would utilise social media as a tool to engage young people, taking government policy-making into the very spaces where young people thrive.
From this ambition, Involved was born. We have spent the last year working together to develop the idea from a concept, scribbled quickly onto a few pieces of paper in a hotel conference room, into a reality. I’ll be honest, it’s taken a little longer than we had hoped – but we hope you’ll agree that it is worth the wait.
So, now you know how Involved came to be, you’re probably wondering what Involved actually is, and what we hope it will achieve. Involved will be an Instagram based platform, using the stories function to ask young people a series of questions, agreed upon by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Youth Policy Group members. Your responses and views will then be analysed, and fed back to the policy teams within government. What this all means is that, by answering a question on the Involved platform, you have an opportunity to influence government policy. Pretty cool, if I do say so myself.
I just want to end by addressing one final question – why should you care? You might feel disillusioned with politics at the moment, or maybe you think that your voice doesn’t matter. At one of our residentials, a member of the group came up with a slogan: ‘I may be small, but I have a big voice’. Sure, you’re only one person, but we each carry with us our own experiences. Your experiences are unique to you as an individual, and that makes them valuable. This is your chance to shape the future, to influence change in the areas and issues that really matter to you, to use your experiences to build a better world. Maybe youth voice is right up your street, or maybe you’ve never engaged in anything like this before. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Use this platform, and let’s get the voices of young people heard.
The winners of the British Youth Council’s Youth Voice Star Awards, Bright Minds Big Futures, lead the way in making sure the voices of local youth are heard! Read about how they’ve crafted their way into Stockton-On-Tees’ council and are set to make waves with their ‘Big Plan’ campaign. Kameron Spence of Bright Minds Big Futures tells us more…
The story of Bright Minds Big Futures (BMBF) started about two years ago with just a handful of young people meeting together to get more involved within local events happening in Stockton-On-Tees.
It was after an increased interest of young volunteers that we were able to start a press team– where we would be invited to report on events run by the local council.
As a team, it was our mission to attract people from the local area to events by producing content and supplying a visually unique experience of the individual events to our audiences. One of our live streams reached 22k views, and very quickly BMBF gained its local fame.
Once the press team was up and running, we developed our game-changing ‘Social Action’ team. This gave young people in Stockton-On-Tees a chance to get more involved with local charities, whilst developing themselves personally and professionally. They were able to volunteer on causes that they cared about and gain skills in writing CVs and personal statements in return.
The interest in the social action team fuelled us to host our own gig at our local venue, showcasing the talent of our area and giving young people a safe place to hang out. Our most recent gig raised over £350, which all goes back into BMBF for equipment and future projects.
Finally, we then went on to develop our exceptional ‘Big Committee‘, a cabinet of young people who come together to address and debate issues facing the youth of our Borough.
The committee itself was designed to mirror the divisions within the council, where every young person at the table uses their leadership skills to direct their own department. The committee helps promote democracy to young people. They do this by voting on topics and debates that are relevant to them, and even electing their own chair to represent them. It gives young people a direct and effective way of expressing their opinions into local politics.
I have had the pleasure of being the elected chair of the committee for almost seven months now. This involves writing agendas, picking topics for debates and representing the committee at events & conferences all around the UK.
Our biggest achievement was having our very first youth manifesto called ‘The Big Plan’, which found its way to be reviewed and approved within Stockton Councils Cabinet. This plan, written up entirely by young people, lays out the specific issues the youth face locally and nationally. It states the ways we wish to tackle the issues and the support we will need from councillors and local MPs to do so.
The plan had tremendous praise from each elected member of Stockton’s council and the director, resulting in the pairing up of every Big Committee member with an official.
All of us at BMBF love the work we do and think it is a wonderful way to get young people involved in politics and in influencing decision-making on policies that affects them directly.
The support from Stockton Council has helped us tremendously in giving young people a voice and they stand as an exemplifier to other councils around the U.K.
We are proud of all that we have achieved so far and look forward to the future.