Smiling faces and medals for team GB dominate the headlines – as did the poignant lighting of the Olympic torch by a group of seven young athletes at the opening ceremony of the Games, with billions around the world looking on.
Yet, amidst this momentous recognition of the younger generation – a group arguably one the greatest casualties of the recent recession – we still need to look to provide them with more support for the challenges they are facing and ensure they have a voice in the support and policies affecting them.
Two days after the violence, on 12th August 2011, young people from 10 youth organisations, including our volunteer Gareth from YouthNet, gathered in 10 Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister. The aim was to draw attention to the ‘Not In Our Name’ event drawing over 450 young people from across the UK to give young people the opportunity to talk about what had happened, and importantly, to discuss ways of enabling them to share their views on what they hoped could change in the future.
One of the main outputs of the event for me, was that we need to make sure young people’s voices are heard, and I believed then and now, that rather than fear social media and Blackberry Messenger, we should look to the opportunity to use these effectively to give young people a voice on the issues impacting their lives.
The ‘Positive for Youth’ cross department initiative showed that there was recognition of a need to alter the approach to delivering services for young people and involved many young people in the working groups and shaping the paper.
There have also been concerns in every area, of the danger of a ‘lost generation’, as we see youth unemployment soar. Not surprisingly there have been huge demands placed upon youth support services.
Yet I do think of the young people I met at the ‘Not In Our Name‘ event last year, and wonder whether they have seen any positive differences in their lives and feel any more connected to those who they see as having ‘the power’?
I met Shaun Bailey, the Prime Minister’s Youth Advisor at the event and several times since. He aspires to a time when we can all vote via mobile and social networks. I share this sense of utilising technology effectively to engage young people, and the belief that we need to look to different ways to increase youth participation, adopting the platforms they are comfortable with to enable their views to be shared.
We see through our own work with young people on TheSite.org, that they’re passionate about improving their lives and get huge support from peers through our online community. They are comfortable sharing their views and ideas when they feel confident that they have equal voice and feel comfortable in a trusted space. It’s through a commitment to relevant engagement with young people, where they are and through the platforms they adopt, that will encourage more young people to participate, help get their voices heard and ensure we build a society where they are supported, which is so vital to our future.