We know that young people are passionate and have their own views on the world around them but sometimes feel that their voices go unheard. Our 'Pass the Mic!' series gives them the opportunity to ‘step up to the microphone’ and have their voices amplified – in their own words.
We began by passing the mic to Katie and Bianca, two members of the Groundwork Youth Advisory Board after they led the way at Labour's Party Conference in Liverpool by speaking on a panel about young people, environmental action and tackling loneliness.
They then facilitated a discussion with peers from other organisations and MPs regarding our 'Big Question', which was:
‘Cuts to council budgets means communities are having to take matters into their own hands to sustain local projects and services – from parks to youth clubs. What does this mean for young people and how they can have a say in decisions that will affect their future?
As well as our Youth Advisory Board, we've had the privilege of working with a network of 100 Young Green Ambassadors over the last year. As the current cohort's tenure comes to an end, we're highlighting a selection of Ambassadors who have boldly stepped into their leadership potential and made a positive impact in their local community as a result.
'I was inspired by the energy and motivation of the hundreds of young people from across the UK who wanted to make a big difference to the environment and their local community.... The legacy of the ['Inclusive Spaces'] campaign for me is that it has empowered young people - from many, diverse backgrounds - to have a voice in their community.'
- Ross Levy, Young Green Ambassador
'[The event] gave me a huge sense of achievement, as it was the first event like this I have ever organised. Having won the Heart of Bath Environmental Hero Award, earlier this year, I wanted to use it to highlight the importance of community in protecting the environment, and Groundwork Youth and the Inclusive Spaces campaign gave me that opportunity.'
- Guy Willcock, Young Green Ambassador
As well as our network of Young Green Leaders and the Youth Advisory Board, we've worked with young people across the UK on different programmes, with the aim to empower, inspire, support and upskill them to reach their fullest potential.
Remember Subhan from our Young Green Leaders Programme?
More examples of young people steppping up to the challenge of leading in their local community include Akeim Mundell, an inspiring example of courage and determination. Akeim won Groundwork's inaugural Young Community Leader of the Year Award in 2017 and has since been supporting our work as one of our national ambassadors.
In an interview for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)'s Communities' Week, Akeim shared what and who are his greatest motivation for doing the work he does in Manchester:
'My parents motivate me the most, I would say. In addition, we young people from the Moss Side and South Manchester areas are often negatively stereotyped for past issues that arise in every other area of the country. This motivates me to prove the media wrong and show them the good that we are capable of doing.'
When asked how he would define 'leadership' and what advice he'd give to other young people regarding becoming a leader in their local community, Akeim said:
'I would define leadership as standing tall no matter what difficulties you face, working as an individual as well as a team, and screaming with confidence in order to have your voice heard. Advice I’d give to everyone is to not shy away from your vision and to accept as many opportunities as you can in order to add to your existing skill set and attributes, in order to reach success.'
In Newcastle, one of the young people we've worked with, Katie, started up a series of cycling events with a twist. Recycle Cycle Sundays invited locals to hop on their bikes on a Sunday afternoon and, as well as getting some exercise in and appreciating the landscape, help tidy up local beaches and outdoor areas too. Inspired by the 'plogging' trend, Katie wanted to do something inclusive and suitable for all members of her community, whatever their age.
In Birmingham, Hannah, a local student, in partnership with Student Action for Refugees (STAR), started up Welome Walks, an initiative to help newly arrived members of the community get to know their new city and neighbours.
Explaining her motivations for starting the project and its link to promoting the health benefits of green spaces, Hannah said:
'Being a Groundwork Youth Ambassador has made me realise the importance of inclusive green spaces for those seeking asylum. The University of Birmingham STAR society hosts a number of projects including English classes, a play scheme and film nights at the Asylum Centre. One of the projects that I have set up with STAR is ‘Welcome Walks’. My friend and I run this project every week where we take residents of the asylum centre to local green spaces in Birmingham.'
In Grimsby, Mica, one of our Young Green Ambassadors hosted a week of events to bring together local young people and different older members of her community resulting in an ongoing project which has been recognised for an award by the local council.
'The skill I feel I have developed the most would definitely be my ability to speak in public and start conversations with new people. I'm extremely proud of this as one of the main reasons I took part [in the programme] was for the experience of meeting people from around the country and to put some of my passions into practise.'
- Mica Armstrong, Young Green Ambassador
Most recently, we celebrated the latest young person to be highlighted as a Young Community Leader during our Community Awards ceremony at The House of Commons. Temi Mwale, when speaking to The Guardian, spoke about her social enterprise, 4Front Project and the reason she works tirelessly to empower young people and steer them away from the path of violent crime.
The 4Front provides long-term support services to empower 11- to 25-year-olds in prisons, schools and the local community, delivering one-to-one emotional support services for young people who have been victims of violence and have been affected by violence. This includes mentoring, counselling and support from a network of role models.
The project’s youth workers also go into schools to support children who have been excluded to minimise the risk that they would one day be 'impacted by the criminal justice system'.
Challenges to communities continue such as cuts to funding and resources and as a consequence, young people are often negatively impacted. However, the young people we have been fortunare enough to work with over the last year and more through our programmes, initiatives and those that have been introduced to us through our Community Awards, remind us that although the challenges and barriers are great, so is the resistance, resilience and dedication to overcoming them. The young people Groundwork has worked with and continues to work with show that leadership has many faces and takes many forms - it does not have a one-size fits all model. Whether you're organising intergenerational events for your community to enjoy, cleaning up your local parks and beaches, starting up employment programmes, or taking direct action to tackle the most intense problems affecting your peers, the positive efforts of young people in our local communities will have a cumulative effect ensuring that the future of local communties are brighter, healthier, safer, and more inclusive.
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