Youth Community Resilience in the U.K

Abstract- How do you create opportunities from obstacles?

This multimedia project features six change enablers talking about their social action projects, inspired by their own personal obstacles which they have overcome, and now strive to help their community.

I have come to know the projects and the people behind them by my involvement with o2 Think Big (the CSR arm of Telefonica that used to fund young people’s community projects) and Mozfest (a weekend festival organized by Mozilla Foundation in London). I was very inspired by the work they did and wanted to showcase their projects to a wider audience to inspire more people develop the resilience that the youth of today have and how they strive to improve their community.

Using unique approaches such as crowdfunding to raise funds for Autism friendly coding workshops, a youth friendly radio station bringing more media and employment opportunities in the North of England to homophobic bullying awareness in Norwich all the way to Leeds where workshops on creative writing and food donated from Pret-a-Manger are helping create a positive change, the youth of today despite huge political upheaval and obstacles find their own opportunities and take responsibility to help make a difference, the documentary below showcases their stories to inspire more people across the world.

The Change Enablers- a documentary showcasing young people bringing about change in the community

‘We are the first generation to tackle poverty and the last generation to tackle climate change’ Ban Ki Moon, ex UN secretary general

This project was created in order to showcase the resilience of the youth community in the U.K, despite political turbulence this community have striven to overcome obstacles and help others along the way.

“What are the barriers to creating effective multi-sector collaboration/ support networks in order to meet the needs of 18–24s, and support them to be community contributors, and to build resilience?”

Question posed in the The Resilience Consortium which was established as a response to the riots of 2011 in England. It commissioned research that consulted over 700 young people aged 18–24 years who were affected by the riots and 40 professionals who work with young people in 5 different areas of England.

The Steering Group agreed the focus of the research as:

  1. What do 18–24 year olds need to help them be contributors to their communities?
  2. What services do they access and to what extent do the services and opportunities available to them meet their needs?
  3. What are the key untapped assets, talents and resources that young people and communities have that can support community resilience?

Young people are participating in a wide range of challenging and exciting projects; these include inter-generational work that breaks down barriers between age groups in neighbourhoods; arts work that helps young people make new friends and contacts from backgrounds different to their own; consider these to be key assets in building secure individual identities and communities that are resilient to future disturbances.

Referred to in this multi media project as change enablers, personally defined as those people who are bringing about change in the community, with innovative approaches and skill sharing that help tackle some pertinent and difficult issues, which the elected candidates may not do enough about but that doesn’t stop the community from going ahead and bringing about change.

28% of young people said that lack of trust in decision makers would stop them playing a role in making the community stronger.

This project came about one evening after I spent the better part of 2016 working on my own community project where I came across all the young people featured in the project. Via my outreach at o2 Think Big and Mozfest I was able to interview these people who truly inspired me . I am a previous TEDx organiser, and I believe in the power of positive story telling to inspire change.

Following these young people on their journey over 2 weeks, a case has been presented to show to other communities around the world that when the community comes together especially the youth they have the potential to create ripples and make a positive impact.

Femi- playing with his Raspberry Pi

Femi (11) diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrom, taught himself coding using the Raspberry Pi, he now runs free coding classes for other kids especially making them Autism and Tourette’s friendly in and around South London. He also managed to raise £500 on a crowdfunding campaign to support his free coding jams when he is not taking part in NASA space Apps challenge sending his code to space.

Daniel who is a proud Radio Host at Vibe which he started 2 years ago

Daniel (24) diagnosed with Diabetes when not running around hospitals can be heard hosting shows on the radio that he started up North and aims to host a live gig to raise funds for charity while also promoting live educational lectures.

Bringing more opportunities in the North of England, he managed to raise £2,000 from o2 Think Big that helps 16–25 year olds with social community projects. His station has listeners from all over the world due to an online presence and caters to content relevant especially for this young market.

The underlying theme in all of their community outreach is education, but they all bring in different styles of promoting that cause and teach us something we can all implement, with money, resources , time, gender, race and age being no barrier to limit you, but your VISION.

However not everyone believes in youth empowerment or the role they play and the resilience of this community.

Linsday Johns’ ‘‘having spent years as a volunteer mentor to young people on the streets of Peckham, South London, one of the most deprived parts of the country, I have come to the conclusion that we actually need to listen to them far less. What can a 14-year-old really teach his history teacher, a social worker or even a hoodie-hugging Prime Minister about the world? ’’

Lindsay believes, it is time we stopped worshiping at the high altar of youth. It is both misguided and dangerous.

The principal failure of our education system is its insistence that the child knows best.

Frederick Douglass, the tireless nineteenth century African-American anti-slavery campaigner and educator once said with an almost tragically prescient insight, ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’

There are always negatives and positives when it comes to empowering communities, whilst Lindsay has seen the other side of the stick with young people being empowered, we go back to the question posed at the beginning- how to create opportunities from obstacles? Below are a few more examples of the youth community who have created opportunities not only for themselves but others around them from their own obstacles.

Bronte- the hope behind a lot of homeless people in Leeds

Bronte (19) who once was on the verge of homelessness has started creative writing workshops for the homeless in Leeds, she also managed to convince Pret -a- Manger (a leading UK based cafe ) to partner with her and distribute leftover food from the day to the homeless in her local area.

David- Not afraid of homophobic bullying anymore

David (24) suffered from homophobic bullying in school and started to take matters in his own hands and educate young people about this in Norwich and promotes more gender positive acceptance of young people. James (15) on the other hand working with NSPCC and Iwill campaign has started spreading more awareness about mental health and has been named the Iwill Ambassador for the North of England.

Turning young people into Vlgostars at his new project

Nathaniel (25) who used to work for the Princes Trust now based in London originally from Southampton and diagnosed with Dyslexia has used his skills of vlogging to spread more awareness about the positive side of dyslexia and runs workshops to address this issue.

15 but cares more about the rights of refugees than the Government does

Arjin (15) daughter of a refugee born in the UK uses her privilege to fight for the rights of more refugees and can be found running various campaigns, while Keshav (24) and Louis (24) have started making more people politically aware, using their social enterprise as a platform that also runs a leadership program among other things which started out from a bedroom when Keshav was 19 and has gone on to speak at TEDx University of Strathclyde and visits schools to deliver workshops on media and politics.

Louis Leftand Keshav Right can make you feel motivated to change the world

Together this community in the face of their own personal adversity have delivered over 1000 workshops combined worth over £100k in value and have created a huge digital footprint of positivity. They have been resilient and managed to impact over 10,000 people across the length and breadth of the country and inspired others to take action and make small differences.

It gave me an immense sense of purpose and fire to do more for the community, I hope it does the same for you. Reach out to them for any questions you may have. Here are the their twitter handles @nathawley, @Arjin_Celik_, @hackerfemo ‏, @knowyourpride, @ChangeEnablers, @TheNCLeeds ‏, @revolutionhive, @VibeNorthWestGB, @mozillafestival, @O2UKThinkBig, @Zishi_Zhang, @IamShwetal.

We hosted a live TEDx style event, giving the young leaders a chance to share their stories at an evening in London, below is just one of the many thoughts echoed throughout the evening. Also since we filmed, Femi has received the Princess Diana Award recognizing exceptional young people’s contribution to society and is going to Bangladesh in the Summer, sponsored by Mozilla Foundation to deliver programming workshops at a deprived school, Keshav and Louis managed to get Boston Consulting to develop a leadership programme for their online community.

The underlying spirit that they all share lies in bringing about a positive difference to society overcoming personal obstacles and seeing those barriers as opportunities to help others.