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Welcoming Big Change’s Young Advisors

20 April 2016: posted by BigChange

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As an organisation with a mission to promote positive change for young people in the UK, it’s really important to us that we hear from young people themselves about what needs to change and where more support is needed. That’s why we created a Big Change youth advisory board – to bring the voices of young people closer to the heart of what we do.

It’s an idea that we’ve been working on for a long time, and last week we had a chance to finally put it in motion. We held our first meeting at our offices with eight wonderfully inspiring young people that we recruited independently and through our project partners.

The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the members to Big Change and to get their feedback on what growth mindset means to them. We were blown away by the drive and compassion of each individual, but even more so by the positive energy that was created when we brought everyone together. Throughout the day, there were three big ideas that stood out and we wanted to share.

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The importance of embracing diversity

Our young advisors were very passionate about creating a future where society wholly embraces diversity. This means diversity in all senses of the word – but in particular, we focused on diversity of individuality, strengths and skills, and of learning styles.

They felt that currently, schools try to shape young people to fit a very particular mold and that young people are valued based on their academic achievement- so failing school is pretty much the same as failing life.

So what about the skills, talents, and interests that fall outside of the realm of academia? What about the other areas of life that require development, such as communication, relationships, and mental health? Something that came up a lot through out the day was a need for our society not only to be more accommodating of people’s differences – but also to recognize and celebrate them.  As one of our young advisors Lisa said;

I don’t want to be defined by my grades, I want to be defined by who I am as a person and what I have to offer.

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You are what you hear (and see)

Another idea that we returned to often throughout the session was the notion that young people will only believe in themselves as much as the people around them do. In other words, the messages that young people hear about themselves at school, at home, and in the media are can make or break a young persons mindset – every influence is formative.

When delving deeper into this idea, we discussed the fact that some young people are exposed to more supportive environments than others – whether at home, in school or in their wider community – which can have a direct impact on what they achieve. Elijah, a representative from Reclaim, noted…

Students who go to private schools are raised to believe they will be the leaders of the country, whereas students in state schools are never told things like that.

Knowing that young people are highly influenced by what they see and hear around them, how can we ensure that all young people believe in their ability to succeed, no matter what their background? This is what we are really passionate about at Big Change – putting the support systems in place that make young people feel confident and safe enough to go above and beyond.

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They’ve got a lot to say…

…And they’re not afraid to say it! Something that really stood out to us about this group was the fact that they were not only willing to share their ideas and opinions, but they wanted to actively do something about them. Before we could get a word in, they were making plans to change the world. One idea included reverse mentoring, which would see young people visit schools and companies to teach them how to bring the best out of young people.

As it stands, young people are often considered passive members of society. In reality they are smart, passionate problem-solvers who we will look to in the future to solve some of the biggest challenges of our time. We need to support and listen to our young people, and create platforms that encourage them to engage with one another and have their voices heard.

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Next time…

We left our board with a lot to think about and a few small projects to kick start – one being to go out and get the opinions of other young people on what needs to change and where they need more support. We can’t wait to hear what they have to report back, and we’re already looking forward to the next meeting!

Big Love,

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