Young people share hopes and resolutions for 2021

James Cathcart
Friday, February 5, 2021

"Don't call initiatives youth-led when they aren't." This was one of the memorable messages of 2020 that could easily be a New Year resolution for us all in 2021.

This statement was made by the young leaders of the suitably named Project Hope* to a Power of Youth Festival workshop in November. 

They are typical of a new wave of independently minded young people who are challenging assumptions about what constitutes good practice in youth participation and youth leadership, when it's often “by invitation” or defined within terms of reference set by older people. 

Whether we are allies or cynics, a new wave of young leaders is settling into this decade with “something to say” and “changes to make”. Do we share their hope and resolution? Are we ready for change?

Over the last four years I've been researching #youthvoice, #participation and #youthleadership theory and practice, and tracking a cohort of self-starters who have established independent youth-led organisations on their own terms. 

I've observed first-generation “youthvoice” pioneers (now in their late 20s) sharing their experience and expertise with #newgen first timers (under 20s). They are networking and drawing inspiration from each other as they emerge to be a significant “lobby” in their own right.

Digital communication, support from allies, and a more sympathetic hearing in the media is no doubt accelerating this process, but an even more significant factor has been the liberating approach by supporters and funders to unlock their youth leadership potential. 

This has been illustrated not just by the #iWill campaign's support for youth leadership of social action, but by established funders working together. 

They are increasingly looking to empower and work in partnership with young people, not just for them. Young people themselves are asserting the minimum criteria for “meaningful” participation and empowerment. 

Many echo the calls to action in the Participation Charter 2006 or are embedded in the first youth-designed models of participation such as Our Scale (Project Hope) and Top Tips for Youth Voice (Young People In The Lead) and brought together in the Youth Voice Charter 2020

Here are some new year hopes and resolutions of a few of these campaigners, activists and leaders ranging from young judges on the Children and Young People Now Awards panel, to young chief executive, Carl Konadu BEM, who was recently recognised in the New Years Honours list. 

He co-founded a youthled start-up, 2-3 Degrees, “to educate and inspire our peers and the next generation”.

“I hope that young people continue to come up with creative ideas to educate themselves, seek employment opportunities and start their own enterprises." 

Resolution: “I will continue to be hopeful even in tough times, 2020 has proved that light always drives out darkness so we should seek to be positive contributors no matter what situation we are in.” Carl Konadu BEM (chief executive of Youthled Start-up)

“My hope for Youth Voice in 2021 is that young people are actively involved in the recovery from Covid-19, through investment in services, employment and instilling (much needed) hope for the younger generations". 

Resolution: “To actively reach out to other young people who have experienced similar challenges in life to show there is power in what we have overcome. I’d like to start by writing more articles about my mental health and SpLD journey and taking more public speaking opportunities! Watch this space!” Loren Townsend-Elliot (National Advisory Group member)

“My hope for 2021 is to have a resourced youth service that is able to deliver support in all localities in coping with the pandemic and making the young people response part of the national policy agenda” 

Resolution: “To help bring voices of young people to influence autism and learning disability services within the NHS” Jack Welch (Advisor and Autism awareness campaigner)

“My hope is that we see more completely youth-led organisations and projects emerge in the new year and that we see a large rise in young trustees throughout the third sector”. 

Resolution: “To ensure all the youth organisations I am a part of are giving young people a platform to have their issues and voices heard. To ensure I am using my current influence as a youth advisory board member to enable other young people to have the same opportunities awarded to me.” Callum Pethick (Advisory Board member)

“My hope is for more businesses and organisations to include young people in their decision making, especially if the things they are doing impact young people. 

Resolution: To engage more with young people and project their voices even more as, said by the youth council I used to be a part of, Medway Youth Council, ‘you may not have the vote but you do have a voice.” Christina Arena (former Local Youth Councillor)

"This year is going to be absolutely critical for young people. As we recover from Covid-19 and enter a new era outside of the European Union, it is imperative that young people are not only engaged, but meaningfully included within policy matters pertaining to their lives." 

Resolution: “My youth voice New Year's resolution is to provide as much support and guidance as possible to the next generation of young activists” Dan Lawes (CEO of Youthled Start-up)

There are dozens more I could have included. We hope to interview more and more in 2021 as part of Young Voices Heard new year resolutions. Why don't you join our campaign and provide a platform in your organisation too.

James Cathcart is director of Young Voices Heard @YVH_YouthVoice 

*Project Hope was established in 2020 in response to the impact of Covid restrictions. It’s aim is to “tackle loneliness and isolation of young people by providing space for young people to meet online”.

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