By Claire Harris from the Young Foundation on the need to empower young people to lead on social change now, not just in the future…
What does it take to build a movement of young change makers?
This was the question posed to me at the Unusual Suspects Festival in Glasgow.
As I started reflecting on this, two main strands came to mind:
- Young people need to believe their voice and presence matters, and
- Young people need to feel useful within the movement.
As we all know, there are different levels of involvement in a movement.
You can simply keep up to date with what is happening, you can share your views, you can tell others about the movement, you can take part in meetings and events, you can organise your own and you can become a leader.
None of these roles should be taken for granted, the key to challenging stereotypes is to get as many people as possible to hear the alternative stories about communities, and thus the people who share and like on social media are as important as those who are in front of the camera – the movement would not work as effectively without each person working towards a shared goal.
Whilst in Glasgow, I was asked to share about my experience with Tell It In Colour (TIIC), which believes in the power of stories to change mindsets & perceptions in communities.
TIIC aims to bring people together across physical, social and psychological interfaces and then captures each group’s journey of change on film as they encounter each others’ experiences and journey.
We then tell that story of change and disseminate it through the media.
The mission is to see labels lifted, alternative stories told about communities that are often stereotyped, with the end result hopefully a range of new, positive relationships formed.
Movements require a central pillar, a belief that something isn’t right and it has to change. The change makers then gather around this pillar, grounding the belief in their values and assets.
Movements are most successful when tapping into that which the community holds dear.
They require leaders seeing the ethos as bigger than their ego, who will support young change makers to identify their strengths and then to enable them to spiral off to utilise them to affect change.
It became apparent during the discussion at #UnusualGlasgow that confidence was key – and therefore we should be working to increase young people’s confidence from the outset.
It made me think: Do we support young people in aiming high enough? Do we let our own limitations colour how we support and nurture the younger generations?
It seemed that the most effective movements had a bias towards action, and a bias towards positivity – looking to what is possible, to what change looks like.
Not allowing oneself to be held back by fear, by old stories but believing in a new narrative for communities. I believe seeing past what is now, and what has been, is something young people are inherently good at.
Perhaps we should be looking at young change makers as simply change makers.
Young People are not just the leaders of the future, but they are leaders now, as one man in the seminar put it, we need to support them to grow and develop and then we – the older generation – need to get out of their way.
This blog was first published on Building Change Trust’s website