Today is #iwill’s Power of Youth Day, recognising the contributions young people make in their communities and nationally through social action and volunteering. Putting young people first is one of our key values, so it is great to see the brilliance of our young people get the focus it deserves today. Young people are at the heart of everything we do across the OnSide Network. When we start the journey of bringing a Youth Zone to a new area, young people are right there by our side. Young people form what we call Young People’s Development Groups, volunteering their time to help shape their new Youth Zone from the name to the branding – ensuring we create something that is driven by their needs.
Youth Zone members are best placed to tell us what they need, from activities and programmes to support on offer. So once the doors are open, they continue to shape what’s available, meaning what’s on offer is continually evolving.
Of course, empowering young people goes beyond the programme of activities. Youth Zones also actively encourage and help young people to find their voice and ensure they have a chance to use it locally and nationally with opportunities to take part in social action activities.
A great example is Manchester Youth Zone’s Girls Group who came together to take action on period poverty. They began with distributing period packs in their local community, and then wrote to Lucy Powell, Member of Parliament for Manchester Central to highlight the issue. Minister Powell replied to their letter, which gave the group a huge sense of achievement. They really felt heard. There’s such power in being listened to, in feeling that your words have an impact and to then see actions being taken because of your thoughts.
There are lots of organisations all over the UK providing incredible opportunities for young people. Like the Hope Collective, who bring together organisations to create real change for young people and their communities nationally. Last year they hosted a series of ‘Hope Hack’ workshops around the country where they co-designed solutions for issues important to young people, a number of Youth Zone members took part in these workshops too. These were then presented to Prime Minister Boris Johnsons at a Downing Street reception celebrating the Damilola Taylor Trust.
We want to empower future generations of young people to believe that there’s value in what they have to say, and who know they can make a difference. To show our commitment we’re proud to have signed the Power of Youth Charter. We’re committing to provide opportunities for young people to get involved in social action projects that give them the chance to collaborate with their peers across the Network and beyond – you can see our pledge here. If you work with young people, you can do the same – sign the Power of Youth Charter and commit to taking action to empower children and young people to be active citizens.