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  • Iain Corbett

Empowering young people in their community pays off

In times like these, where it feels like everyone is under immense pressure, people's priorities shift, often unconsciously, to help them deal with day-to day strains. The financial impacts of the Cost of Living crisis, precarious job contracts, and soaring prices leave individuals grasping to stay afloat and has organisations constantly fire-fighting to do what needs to be done. Long term thinking goes out the window, replaced by short term struggles to do the best we can, with our young people often bearing the brunt of this perspective shift.

At Neighbourly Lab, we were keen to explore how upholding young people's rights, and in particular Article 12 of the UNCRC (having their views heard and taken seriously in matters that impact them), could help restore and enhance vital social connections - giving young people opportunities to not only to come together as a peer group, but to connect with people and organisations in the wider community.

Iain Corbett, Neighbourly Lab’s Programme Outreach Lead for Scotland worked with young people from Drumchapel’s G15 Youth Project to explore what positive connection looked like to them. Young people explained that they had very little opportunity to collaborate with organisations outside of their youth project, have no real means of contributing to local community development efforts and no safeguarded way to connect with adults in their local area. The participants highlighted that they wanted to contribute to D70, a celebration of Drumchapel's 70th birthday, and to have autonomy over spending and planning a community focussed event. So that's what we decided to do.

What did the young people do?

After consulting with our ever supportive funder, The National Lottery Communities Fund, we agreed to redirect some of the budget to fulfilling the young peoples wishes.

The group of 12 were allocated a budget of £1000 with two very loose criteria: the money must be used to celebrate community in some way and it must include people from outside the youth project of varying ages. And so it began…

Over the next 12 weeks, Neighbourly Lab delivered sessions on participative democracy, dialogue and deliberation and events planning. Young people started by exploring all of the options for spending the money: from supporting the local foodbank to doing a community cook out, from a fun day to making a short heritage event. The young people discussed the merits of each idea, explored the challenges within and ranked them in order of importance in line with the group's priorities. The winning idea was the ‘Drumchapel Dragons Den’ which would see the young people become grantmakers in a participatory budgeting event that local orgs or businesses could apply to to create a new project, or enhance an existing one.

Young people took full control of the project. They decided where and when it would be held, they set the criteria, created promotional materials and invited a whole host of local orgs to apply.

In total, 12 individual organisations applied for a share of the fund - from churches and schools to national orgs such as Men Matter Scotland and Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland to hyper local groups such as Women Matter Drumchapel and Drumchapel TV. The young people designed a scoring system to identify which of these most aligned with their criteria, and which orgs would be invited along to the DRAGONS DEN!

The young people decided on three organisations to come along to present in person.

On a rainy Thursday evening three groups presented their exciting and innovative ideas to the young people who asked their well designed questions and listened intently to how the orgs would satisfy the criteria given to them.

In the end, the young people decided to fund all three pitches, and three new projects were born.

  • The £350 allocated to 3D Drumchapel will see ‘HopeMail’ come to life. HopeMail will be a book of letters to the babies of Drumchapel about residents' hopes for the futures of the youngest community members in Drumchapel.

  • A further £300 will go to FortuneWorks, who will work with young people and the adults with additional needs that utilise their service to create a family friendly treasure trail across the community.

  • The remaining £350 goes to St Marks Church to bring in a freelance art worker to work with community and congregation members to create commemorative art pieces that celebrate D70: 70 years of community. The original G15 participants will of course be taking part.

What has been the impact?

Now, a month or so after the session we have three new projects under way. The young people involved have been empowered to direct spending and make change in their community and are linked in with 12 organisations across their area. But there’s more…

As part of the evaluation process, we wanted to understand how this changed young people's connection to place and others within their community:

  • All 12 confirmed that they felt that they were now an active part of their community with some saying how excited they are to be involved in the projects going forward.

  • The participants discussed how the intergenerational element of the project had addressed the power imbalance between adults and young people, and stimulated conversation and connection between people who might not otherwise talk.

  • One of the young people explained how “it shouldn’t just be adults or councils that get to decide what happens in an area, we can too, and we make a good job of it”.

And we also wanted to understand the impact of this intergenerational work for the adults and organisations involved too, which has highlighted the value of the young people’s passion and energy for making a difference in their community:

  • Jason Methvin, Project Manager at Fortune Works stated “We really enjoyed taking part. Everyone was really passionate…and we are excited to work with a youth group. It's a great idea to stimulate partnership and bring people together - so much so that I’m using the Dragons Den idea elsewhere.”

  • Sharon Colvin, CEO at 3D Drumchapel was excited about the connections that will come from HopeMail and how it can keep stories of old Drumchapel fresh in the heads and hearts of today's young people; "It's great to get the chance to work with the local young people on this beautiful project. The young people bring so much imagination, enthusiasm and creativity to the work.”

Upholding children and young people's rights is an obligation, but it's also a privilege. In simply empowering young people we have three new projects, over 100 new connections and a group of young people who now feel like they belong in the community in which they live.

Sometimes as adults we think we know best. We think we know how money should be spent or how and why groups should meet. In reality, our young people are able, willing and ready. Hold the door open and get out of the way…

Hear more about it in their own words here:

With thanks, as always, to The National Lottery Community Fund, and their Bringing People Together Grant for enabling us to do this work.

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