Oxford Dictionaries revealed its annual ‘Word of the Year’ last week and the word is ‘Youthquake’.
It’s fair to say 2017 has been a sobering year of trials and tribulations in the UK and abroad with shock and uncertainty being the only things we could bank on. It has been a year of political change, with young people tipping the balance of power, showing up, showing out, and using their voices (and their votes).
Young people have caused a youthquake - a term originally coined in the 1960s by Vogue editor Diana Vreeland to describe how British youth were changing fashion and music around the world, it is now defined as “a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people” - and I say we are better for it.
In my year as Campaigns officer at Groundwork UK, I’ve seen how, with a bit of help, encouragement, and guidance, young people can feel empowered enough to go out there and make meaningful change happen. I’ve also seen how marvellous it is to recognise this and celebrate them. From our annual Youth Summit in August to our Community Awards in November, the recent Fields in Trust Awards, and Positive Youth Foundation’s sensational Electric Proms at the Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry, I’ve seen ordinary young people do the most extraordinary things.
Although December can be a funny month, with cold weather, shorter days, less light, travel disruption, and general lethargy as far as work is concerned, it’s also the season of merriment and festivity. The end of the year is also a great time to reflect on the months that have passed and the new months just around the corner. Like everybody else, I’ve been pondering on what my New Year’s Resolutions are going to be - very often we fall into the trap of wild ambitions and setting ourselves up to fail. How many times have I told myself I’m going to head to the gym eight days out of seven days a week? Or promised myself I’ll spend less and read more? These are great ambitions of course, but starting small and compartmentalising - whatever that may look like for you - is often a solid route to making things happen. Starting small for some young people this year might have been voting for the first time, or getting on stage despite nerves and self-doubt, or travelling down to Birmingham unaccompanied to become a youth ambassador - for others these may have been giant leaps. But all were rumbles in a much larger quake. And how can we support these rumbles so that they continue and aren’t just one-offs?
This year’s #iWillWeek and #YouthWorkWeek focused on the role of communities and the place of our young people within them. Perhaps you made pledges as part of those initiatives to support and encourage young people to reach their fullest potential? Why not turn those pledges into New Year’s Resolutions and break down specific actions throughout the coming year that will help you achieve them? I know that, no matter what I may decide regarding the gym, or finances, or hobbies, one of my resolutions for the new year and beyond is to keep championing young people. I will keep doing all I can to amplify their voices and give them the space and the resources to think, act, imagine, explore, and regroup so that there can be more young people like Akeim Mundell, Temi Mwale, Kimberley Mpukusa, Emily Long, Tom Boon, and Aliyah Hasinah, going above and beyond to make their communities better places for all.
So, although it’s been a year of gloom and doom in parts, the holiday season is a time to recall what you’re grateful for. Among many blessings, I’m grateful for all the young people I’ve encountered and worked with this year who are doing their bit and giving us much to be joyful and merry about.
If this is what a youthquake looks like, long may it continue.
Post by Siana Bangura - Campaigns Officer, Groundwork UK