As I mentioned earlier in the year, Young People Insight is moving forward and bigger things are being planned for this year. One of the ways that the platform is moving forward is through developing a media campaign/project with youth charity, Fixers.
Fixers is an organisation that works with young people aged 16-25, helping them to “fix” an issue that is important to them, whether it be mental health, crime, drugs or safety. According to Fixers, these young people are “motivated by personal experience to make positive change for themselves and those around them.”
Fixers not only help young people get their voices heard by the right people through various creative avenues, such as films, poster campaigns or events, but they also connect them to digital, print and broadcast media. This enables them to “make their voice heard as far and wide as possible.”
Two days ago, I held a focus group with Sarah, my Young People’s Coordinator from Fixers, who is helping me to put this aspect of my project together. Having a focus group was important, because it allowed me to gain deeper insight from other young people and understand what they ultimately want from Young People Insight.
After taking a little while to warm up, the young people had a lot to say about the four main issues that Young People Insight focuses on: self harm, unemployment, education and knife crime.
Self harm made them think insecurity, depression and cry for help, while the term unemployment instantly made them think of stress, depression and vicious cycle. Education brought about the words opportunity, misunderstood and qualification, unlike knife crime, which made them think of murder, contention and negativity.
What really interested me though, was some of the thoughts that they had on the subject of education. One thing we seemed to agree on was that there is too much pressure involved and that does not tend to be a good thing. Sophia, 20, said: “It’s good to have expectations, but pressure isn’t necessarily a good thing. There’s pressures all around, on teachers as well as students.”
Some of us also felt that education needs to be more than simply gaining knowledge, but also about developing life skills. Rhianna, 19, believes that school does not really give you life skills or teach you about things like finances and common sense, which she views as a problem.
We thought that more of these skills should be taught and 19-year-old Lauren suggested that the government should put in a structured programme for PSE in schools that would cover some of these things, particularly CV writing and interview skills.
I also asked about the issues concerning young people that are important to them, which provided me with some more ideas to work with and also allowed them to think about something they may choose to write about in the future.
There was actually some common links to the issues that are important to them and the issues that were previously discussed. Rhianna wants to see more job opportunities for young people, while Darnell, 25, is bothered by the lack of youth clubs. Sophia thinks that there needs to be more role models coming into schools to encourage young people, and Lauren would like for school to have more of a family environment.
When given the opportunity to really speak out, young people do have a lot to say, particularly on subjects that are important to and relating directly to them. However, what became clear is that the youth are not aware of the platforms that allow them to voice their opinions. Lauren made a great point, saying: “If people don’t want you to say something, they won’t let you know.”
Yet if they were made aware, young people would be willing to engage and use their voice, to get their thoughts out there. Darnell would engage, because he thinks that it “helps to express yourself”, and Rhianna would engage, because she thinks “it’s important that people understand what may be painted in a negative light”.
However, what would encourage them to engage is a slightly different matter. They would want there to be a guarantee that people are listening and reading what they have written, which is to be expected in a time when youth are constantly ignored. Seeing something come out of it also seems to be an essential element and of course, food was mentioned. Randy, 19, also said that people who were nice and friendly would encourage him to engage.
Young People Insight still has a long way to go on its journey, but this group of young people helped to take the platform one step further with their thoughts and words of advice. Working with Fixers will also continue to push it further and I am looking forward to watching how the media project will unfold.
I can’t wait for more young people to get involved and share their amazing stories. By coming together and making our voices heard in our way, we will make a difference and become the change we want to see.