When you share power with young people, where can you go?
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Blagrave’s annual partners meeting this year was a real celebration of being able to come together in person once again and remind ourselves of the power of community. It was a day of collaboration and learning from both young people and practitioners. Our theme was the power of youth engagement and leadership, in, and for, services that exist to support young people.
At the heart of the practical conversations were much deeper structural issues about power- those who hold it and who are willing to give it up or share it – how we think about age, and the dynamic of ‘us’ and ‘them’ with young people in society.
Our first panel on the power of youth leadership to transform, was led by Denesha Rocastle, a member of Project Catalyst – a consultant group of young women activists in the field of sexual violence. Her provocation to us was why collaboration with the young people we serve is somehow seen as brave and to question the barriers that seem to prevent it happening effectively. Ben Kernighan from Leap Confronting Conflict told us more about the way this can be done in practice:real commitment at the top (a number of their trustees are young people themselves), co-design of services, paying young people for their involvement, and really listening to young people.
What is different about a decision made by a young person? We asked some of those involved in our Restart Youth funding programme, in which young people themselves made decisions on which services should be supported to implement more youth involvement and leadership. The answer – credibility and relevance – hinges on trusting relationships and equitable opportunities.
Discussion about age caused us all to ask why we are referring to a perceived group of young people as distinct to adults when the passion for a common cause demonstrates how much we have in common and the power we have when we connect.
Lived experience leaders shared their journeys as campaigners, and activists and organisations shared their thoughts on supporting them really well. We spoke about activist burnout and how connection with others can support this. Another challenge the panel shared was the expectation they sometimes faced that they should have ‘the answers’ – when in reality finding solutions are not their responsibility but the responsibility of those who manage services. Lived experience leaders are strongest speaking from their experience and connecting others.
It’s by bringing in diverse perspectives, valuing lived experience as expertise and working together towards solutions we can be more than the sum of our parts.
Watch our partner video
Listen to the podcast of the main talks.
Youth Engagement and Leadership Inspirations Panel Discussion
Lived Experience and Youth Leadership Panel Discussion