How can we better involve young people in decision making in our communities?

Young Westminster Foundation welcomed young people, members and partners on June 3rd for the final event in an online series to launch our latest needs analysis report, Our City, Our Future.

Our City, Our Future explores the experiences of young people growing up in Westminster in 2020/21. Key issues include the impact of Covid-19 on young peoples’ lives, health and wellbeing, community and spaces, education and employability. YWF’s peer researchers co-designed the research and were paid to conduct surveys with their peers.

2020 saw youth action on a range of political and social issues, from Covid-19 to the Black Lives Matter protests. Nationally, research has shown that “young people are feeling more motivated than ever” to make a positive change for their future. With 2/3 of young people saying the political events of this year have made them want to fight for a better future.

In Westminster, 96% of young people interviewed for Our City, Our Future had taken part in a form of social action in the past six months. However, fewer than 1 in 10 felt that they can greatly influence change in relation to the social and political issues they care about. We wanted to use the webinar to explore how the YWF community can better involve young people in decision making and open up opportunities for youth voice and social action – hearing from young people themselves.

Our event coincided with Power of Youth Day 2021, run by the #iwill Campaign. This national celebration recognises the contributions of children and young people to society through volunteering, mentoring, campaigning, fundraising, research and peer education. This year, there was a particular focus on the incredible efforts of young people during the pandemic and lockdowns.

We were joined by Emma from YWF research partner Rocket Science, who shared insight from their recent youth social action innovation lab. Emma shared principles and ideas for embedding youth voice and social action in organisations, including the #iwill principles for youth social action and Oxfam’s Youth As Active Citizens framework. She said “young people have always had a voice, it just needs to be heard”.

Next came our panel discussion with local young people – all youth voice or social action pioneers. Liz and Mo joined us from the Mayfair Youth Forum, run by Grosvenor and 2-3 Degrees. Liz advocated for skill sharing and transparency when running youth voice & social action programmes. Ensuring young people can see the impact of their work. Mo called for better signposting and information around opportunities on offer.

Naqi joined the panel from Participation People, he’s been working on a Youth Voice Pioneers Podcast. Naqi explained that young people “are experts by experience” and must be given the opportunity to drive forward positive change. He called on local councils to listen to a broader cross-section of their communities.

Cllr Hamza Taouzzale, YWF Trustee and previous Young Ambassador, articulated his motivations for getting involved in his community. He wants to help break negative cycles and find avenues for long term change. He called for organisations to focus on putting the insight from youth voice programmes into real action.

All the ideas from the session were captured in real time by live illustrator Katie Chappell – a first for Young Westminster. We hope this summary illustration and film will be used as a tool by our member and partner organisations to take forward into youth voice and social action programmes in Westminster. Please keep us updated!

A huge thank you to our speakers and panellists – Liz, Mo, Naqi, Hamza and Emma – as well as all attendees. The Our City, Our Future report found that despite a challenging year, young people are optimistic for their future. Let’s harness that enthusiasm and open up opportunities for young people to have their say.


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