#AreYouListening? Cuz We’re Talking
By Tahira Bakhtiari, Youth Board member, Mayor’s Fund
On Monday 10th December, Youth Board members from the Mayor’s Fund for London, Transport for London and Royal Society for Blind Children came together for the first time to premiere their short film, Are You Listening.
Eighteen months in the making, from planning to execution, the board members had the opportunity to highlight their concerns and decide what medium they wanted to share their voice on. The first of its kind, the event included a panel discussion represented by the Youth Boards on how they want youth voice to be championed, a keynote speech by the ambitious young Londoner, Reggie Nelson and spoken word. As stated by Kim Chaplain, Director Charitable Portfolio in her introductory remarks “…a Youth Board can’t work on its own – it’s a collaborative effort – therefore we are extremely proud to create a positive and encouraging platform for young people to voice their opinion collectively.”
There is no contestation that young people are trailblazers in our society; that they are the future. Despite the accolades referring to young people, not many have a platform to influence, support and disagree on issues that directly relate to them. In an ever transparent and open society over two-thirds of young Londoners want to make a positive contribution to society but only 23% feel like they can influence decisions in their local area. Therefore, Youth Boards have become a real vehicle in which young people can make an impact within their organisation’s sector. More and more young people want to hold decision-makers to account for the issues they face, and what is being done about them. Salome Gongadze, Youth Board member, TFL, only had positive remarks for being part of the board: “they make an effort to let us know what is going on…it gives you a sense of ownership and belonging“. On Monday, the panel discussion touched upon topics referring to disability and mobility access in London, mentoring support, knife crime, safety as a Londoner and the impact of Brexit.
Aside from passionate young people, the room was abreast with like-minded organisations working directly with young people and those who advocate the voice of young people. The event aimed to start a broader conversation around the #AreYouListening concept and how organisations can champion young people in their work. Young people acknowledge that change doesn’t happen overnight, Rebecca Khosravi, MFL Youth Board member, encourages organisations to “make small changes as often it is the little things that can make a significant impact“. In addition to Rebecca, Justin Cunningham from RSBC stated that “young people are struggling to find their place in today’s world” therefore organisations working with young people need to tailor needs specific to communities and the challenges they face; one size does not fit all. For the event to have a lasting impact and be more than talking-shop, the Youth Boards encouraged the audience to pledge how as an individual or as an organisation they would amplify the voice of young people. Pledges ranged from listening to young people, promoting apprenticeships, giving them a chance to mentoring and creating more opportunities.
The full-house was positively buzzing with the unanimous promise to empower and encourage young people. The keynote speech by Reggie Nelson, illustrated the impact mentoring can have on one individual’s life. Speaking of his unique road to the Finance sector, Reggie appreciated how one person gave him an opportunity, “lots more shut the door in my face, quite literally, but because one person gave me an opportunity, I am speaking in front of you today“. If there is one thing to take away from Reggie’s unconventional journey is that if you want results, you have to come out of your comfort zone and do something different. If as an individual, Reggie can knock to success, then imagine the transformative impact young people can have with support and guidance.
The key take away from the event was listening to young people. A simple act can have an astounding effect on the provisions provided for them and breaks down the barriers. Our panel was not only passionate that advocating investment in Youth Boards is crucial but also ensuring that they are diverse and representative of the communities they serve. The Youth Board’s first collaborative event was energetic and motivational; we look forward to channeling this energy in 2019 and creating new pathways in which young people can contribute.