The Basis of Young People Insight: Empowering Youth Voice

Empowering the voices of young people is vital in a time when it feels as if their say means nothing.

There are young individuals who will give up on trying to have their say altogether, going along with what they are told or staying in the box they’ve been put into, but hating it all the same.  However, I’m refusing to give up on these individuals and I am determined to empower the voices of young people, because what we say matters, and more importantly, we matter.

As a young person, I haven’t always felt like my voice mattered and that I am unable to express what I actually want to say, because of the environment and society I’ve grown up in.  Now I am able to see how ridiculous and unfair that is, particularly in a society that is always banging on at us to mature and grow up, telling us to act more like adults when we reach a certain age, but still treating us like children.

This needs to stop now.  Young people deserve to be treated with the same respect as their elders, particularly as a large portion of young people are actually adults themselves (I’m talking about you, 18-25 year olds).  Although the youth are not perfect, they are intelligent, special individuals bursting with potential and a ton of great things to say – if only more people would take the time to listen.

This is where Young People Insight comes in.  Through Young People Insight, I want to empower the voices of youth through a simple platform, allowing them to share their thoughts, opinions or stories on this blog or during one of the forums that will be running through the course of the year.  It is about getting a deeper insight into young people and sharing the stories that we don’t get to read.

Copyright © 2015 Shaniqua Benjamin. All rights reserved. This work is registered with the UK Copyright Service: Registration No: 284688886
Copyright © 2015 Shaniqua Benjamin. All rights reserved.
This work is registered with the UK Copyright Service: Registration No: 284688886

I hope this will let the youth know that someone is listening, that someone does care and that someone is willing to give them the chance to say what they have to say.

I’ve already made a start, creating a short film with Fixers so that young people have a visual tool to get them thinking, and last week I held my first youth forum for anyone aged 16-25.  I plan on holding these forums on the third Tuesday of every month at Project B in Croydon Town Centre, giving young people the opportunity to discuss various subjects that matter to them.

However, it doesn’t stop there.  Young People Insight is not only about empowering the voices of young people, but empowering them to make a change through the power of their voices.  It is possible for young people to make real changes and if we all come together to be the change we want to see, I believe we can do something amazing.  I also believe that it will contribute to changing the perception of my hometown of Croydon, which makes it all the more special to me.

A key thing for me is to not discriminate; however, I will stress the importance of working with the harder to reach groups – the young offenders, those in care, the homeless, the individuals who are unemployed and not in education or training, those who may be selling drugs.  They have just as many things to say and great stories to tell.

Over the course of the future, it is my plan to put on workshops run by other organisations and have speakers that will motivate and inspire young people to be more and do more.  I want to hold social events that will bridge the gaps in the community, develop meaningful relationships and hopefully build the respect that seems to have gotten lost.

I also want to put on collaborative events, so that organisations in the borough can come together, which was of high importance to most of the young people who were involved in the forum last week.  I think that so much more could be achieved if we worked together and mended the breakdown in communication, which tends to be a problem in Croydon.  It would also be great to see young people putting on events themselves, particularly creative events, which would create an amazing buzz in the borough.

Whenever any young person is thinking about “the place to be” or somewhere that cares about their young people, I want it to be Croydon that comes to mind.  I hope Young People Insight will have a part to play in making that a reality, but it won’t work without your involvement, your enthusiasm and most importantly, your voice.

Get involved with Young People Insight in any way you can.  Write something (or even film something) for the blog – share your story, write a short opinion post or share some poetry.  Come to the forums, where you can contribute to live discussions and meet new people over some food.  It could even be as small as sharing one of our posts on social media – as Tesco says, every little helps.

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As a young person, I know that young people have amazing things to say and there is a lot more to us than people give us credit for.  We need to stop letting others label us and ensure that we tell our truth in the way that we want.

It all starts with our voice, which can continue to pave the way, but we have to decide whether we will use our voices for good or allow our voices to be silenced.  I for one, refuse to be silenced anymore.

Keep up to date with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter or liking the Facebook page, Young People Insight.  For further information, email me at shaniquab29@yahoo.co.uk

Hosting the First Young People Insight Forum

On Tuesday 19th January, I hosted the first Young People Insight forum in Project B.  I came together with a group of young people who were willing to use their voices and speak out on what mattered to them.

As it was the initial meeting, my main focus was on discovering what issues were most important to each individual and what they wanted from Young People Insight.  This enabled me to get an idea of what plans I should be putting in place and what we should be discussing going forward.

Photo by @ChineloChizea and used with permission.
Photo by @ChineloChizea and used with permission.

When I posed the question on what issues each young person was passionate about, I was met by a variety of answers that generated some interesting discussions.  Issues raised included:

  • Youth encouragement
  • Bullying and youth violence
  • Knife crime
  • Youth mentoring
  • Social mobility
  • Promoting health and well-being among vulnerable communities
  • Tackling poverty and homelessness
  • Mental health and self harm.

However, the most common issue raised was the subject of employment and employability.  This brought up the points of realising that a degree will not always get you a job, and also how some individuals are seen as “overqualified”, which we were all confused about.  Nahed, 23, who first brought up the issue of employability, expressed that she wants to find “that balance where I can be happy and income is coming through”.

This also branched into the topic of careers, with Andrae, 24, telling us that they care about your next job but they don’t care about your career.  He said, “It’s about getting money, not about where you want to get in life,” which I don’t think we differentiate between anymore, which can be detrimental to a young person’s overall progression.

After discussing what issues were important to us, I then asked what each individual wanted from YP Insight and me as an individual, because it is essential that I do my best for the young people I’m working with.   I want us to genuinely see changes taking place and for them to reap rewards as a result of being part of YP Insight.

So what did they want to get out of YP Insight?

  • To know more about services.
  • Networking – being able to talk to young people that are doing things we want to do; being able to speak to creatives.
  • Trying to make a change
  • Reaching out and seeing what other people think.
  • To be able to put on more events in Croydon, such as film and music events.
  • To see that there’s a difference being made and that we’re making a change.
  • Motivational speaking or people standing up and telling their stories.
  • An event where organisations come together.
  • Collaboration.

What I found most interesting was the common want for collaboration, and having organisations or individuals coming together in one space, so that we can network and learn from one another.  Most of the young people expressed that they don’t always know what is going on or what is on offer to them, which is something that I hear often, but collaborating and coming together on a regular basis could change that.

By working together and supporting each other, a wider group of young people could be reached.  Alex, 23, made a great point about how if the youth organisations all promoted each other, then it would be easier for the word to get out and spread more.

I learnt a lot from this first forum, which has given me plenty to build on and a clearer direction for YP Insight going forward.  I’m even more excited about what this year will bring and what I will learn from future discussions, but more than anything, I can’t wait for the changes we’ll bring to Croydon.

YP Insight Forum 2

The next forum will be on the 16th February at Project B, for anyone who is aged 16-25.  We’ll be focusing on the subject of employment, which will allow us to elaborate on some of the points raised during this meeting.

Follow @YPInsight on Twitter to stay up to date with any updates or information.

Official Launch of the World Youth Organization

On Monday, I had the pleasure of attending the official launch of the World Youth Organization (WYO) at the Houses of Parliament, Portcullis House.  I first learnt about the WYO through Twitter (just like many of the individuals at the launch) and I was very interested to learn more about their journey and future plans.

“The World Youth Organization is a network of individuals and organisations committed to improving the lives and prospects of young people (13-25) across the world.”  Although the journey towards the WYO begun in 2013, it was founded in 2014 to help young people around the world and this year it finally became an official charity.

Co-founder and CEO of WYO, Kieran Goodwin told us that “only last week we received the all clear from the charity commission”, sharing that they had applied for charity status three times.  However, they never gave up — “This has taken many months of hard work, perseverance and determination,” he said.

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The grit and determination shown by Kieran and his team amazes and inspires me, especially as Kieran is only 17-years-old and he started the organisation with a group of his friends.  I was also impressed to learn that the charity is run by 75% under 25-year-olds.

The WYO is an organisation that can make a huge impact, as it has been formed for the young by the young, which will give them a greater understanding of the issues affecting young people, as well as making them more relatable.

There are three main focus areas for the WYO: Advocacy, Education and Youth Empowerment.  Ayath Ullah, Chair of Trustees says, “We believe if you don’t invest in young people today, you can’t create leaders of tomorrow,” which effectively sums up the WYO’s values.

The WYO was founded by young people, but one of the best things about the charity is that they collaborate with a range of young people, giving them the opportunity to use their skills and show the great things they can do.

Teenager, Alex Choi, created the WYO app, which include a variety of features.  I was again surprised, as I learned that he was CEO and founder of Arlix Technologies, which is a company run by teenagers all over the world who enjoy coding.  Alex said: “As a company, we want to offer young people opportunities.”

The WYO advert was also directed by a teenager, 19-year-old Finn Sims.  Like me, Finn heard of Kieran through Twitter, which later led to him filming the advert in seven locations, over six and a half days.  Describing himself as “a little bit new to the filmmaking scene”, Finn’s experience of filming the WYO advert was “one of the best weeks I’ve ever had as a filmmaker and 19-year-old teenager”.  He later added, “The World Youth Organization has given me an experience I’ll never forget.”

We also heard from Richard Burgon MP, who provided us with some worrying statistics relating to young people in the UK.  He started by saying, “Some people say that young people have it very easy.  I just don’t agree whatsoever,” and I have to say that I agree with him.  Nevertheless, the Labour MP also said, “The truth is you can make a big difference”, and he finished his speech on a positive note: “I look forward to being inspired… by what you do.”

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Hearing first-hand about the work and achievements of these amazing young people inspired me to keep on persevering with my endeavours.  I wish that I had possessed the courage, knowledge and determination to do something great like they’ve done when I was their age, but you can’t change the past.

The thought that stuck with me most though, was that there are so many young individuals doing great things and quietly changing the world, but we’re missing out because we don’t hear about it.  There needs to be more media reports and news stories about young people starting businesses, charities and making inspirational adverts, rather than the constant bombardment of stabbings, unemployment figures and anti-social behaviour.

I can’t wait to see what comes from the WYO and I’m looking forward to seeing how they will change the world — maybe we’ll even get the chance to work together some day.  So in the words of Kieran Goodwin, “Here’s to the future of the World Youth Organization.”

Celebrating Live Mag UK: Insight from the Contributors

At Christmas, Live Mag UK came to an end, after 15 years of giving young people a voice and providing them with invaluable journalism experience.  However, the magazine (later online platform) created for young people by young people deserves to be celebrated.

Love Live Live

What made Live truly special was the people.  On Saturday, you got a little insight from the final two editors of Live, but today is all about the contributors.  As someone who contributed to Live myself, I can say that it was an amazing, unique and fun experience, but I’ll let some of my fellow contributors fill you in on their personal Live experiences.


Andre Live MagAndre spent two years as a contributor for Live, which gave him a voice on “all things film, business, interviews and the like”.  It also taught him “more about using existing marketing, advertising, campaigns as tools to break new, existing, stories”.

According to Andre, what makes Live so special is “the fact that it’s a different world to what I am used to when working within creative and arts industries, especially in the office. As you go in, the atmosphere has a cool and creative vibe.”

C-Jay Live MagC-Jay spent six months contributing to Live, coming to seek opportunities that would help her to reach her ambition.  During her time at Live, C-Jay learnt “that taking risks is good, sometimes they will be good but sometimes they will be bad but you’ll never know. I should continuously strive towards what I believe in and never give up.”

During the surprise ‘Live Mag Awards’, C-Jay received the award for ‘Most Read Article’ — “It was SO shocking, I truly was not expecting it. Personally, I wrote the article because it was something that interested me and didn’t realise that it would interest others. I was overjoyed and realised that if I were to change my ambition to being a journalist, I may be able to.

Sophia Live MagSophia came to Live because she had to find work experience for school and started contributing in summer 2015.  During that time, her favourite article written would be “the TPAB review. I’m in love with hip hop as a whole and Kendrick Lamar. I was super glad I was able to share my thoughts with everyone.”

Sophia said: “I have learnt many things from Live. I have learnt about how other minds work (not just my own) as I’m constantly asking for others opinions… I have also learned to take risks and not be afraid of who I am. A young, black female. The industry is dominated by a particular demographic and I want to be able to push through and make my mark. I won’t be afraid to bring council estates and Morleys to a prestigious building I don’t care!”

Malachi Live MagAlthough Malachi only contributed “on one occasion due to work/study commitments”, he “found Live to be a very welcoming and informed bunch of people”.  He made the decision to contribute because he believes “youth led journalism is badly needed in an industry where our voices are seldom ever heard”.

Malachi’s reason for coming to Live ties directly in with his thoughts on what makes it so special: “Live is special because they create opportunities for young people to have their voices heard. Something that is not happening enough.”

Shanice Live MagShanice‘s time with Live was short, contributing once in 2015 when Live worked with the Guardian to create a special, one-off print edition of Live Magazine, but also carrying out work experience with Livity.  However, it didn’t stop her from winning the award of Social Media G at the ‘Live Mag Awards’ — “Social Media G, that title alone is just sick lol. I was super happy, like the experience was enough, but to get an award and really feel appreciated was just awesome.”

Shanice came to Live, because she wanted to explore youth culture and arts, which she felt Live and Livity represented.  During her time at Live, she learnt “about really embracing your individuality and [that] every voice matters, which I sort of already knew. But sharing stories and spending time with the team made it real for me.”

Live Zine
Live Zine Front Cover

Live has a special place in the hearts of so many young people and it will be missed by all of us.  Sophia said, “I’m going to miss the people, the vibes and even the long ass stair case! I guess I’m just going to miss the whole thing.”

So thank you Live for everything and all that’s left are two final messages from C-Jay and Shanice.

“I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me, although I contributed for a short time. I wish we could’ve met each other earlier. I’ll always cherish the memories I made whilst being here and continue striving towards my ambition.” – C-Jay

“Live was the starter for many and even though it’s going their ethos lives on, so really Live ain’t going nowhere cuz the young people and supporters will stay representing! Long Live Live!” – Shanice

Celebrating Live Mag UK: Insight from the Editors

In October, I wrote about the ending of Live Mag UK, the magazine (later online platform) that gave young people the chance to embrace their creativity and have a voice.  Unfortunately, Live came to an end at Christmas, but something that has had a huge impact on the lives of so many young people deserves to be celebrated.

Live Mag UK was all about youth culture, created for young people by the young people.  It provided invaluable journalism experience and opened doors to various avenues in the media industry.

I’m incredibly grateful to Live Mag for all they’ve done for me over the past year.  Through Live, I’ve been able to develop as a writer and more than anything, embrace my love for American sports.  Live gave me the opportunity to write about the trolling antics of Marshawn Lynch, Terry Crews’ response to the issues surrounding Ray Rice and domestic violence in the NFL, and the WNBA not getting the respect it deserves.  I’m going to miss that.

Live Mag UK

What made Live truly special though, was the people — both the contributors or members of the Live team — so it was only right for me to get a little insight from some of them into their time at Live.

Today you’ll be getting some insight from my two editors during my time at Live, Frances and Cherokee.  Both Frances and Cherokee made me feel comfortable, gave me the opportunities to write great stories and encouraged me in everything I do.

FrancesFrances can officially say that she was the last editor of Live Mag UK.  She had been coming to Live “on and off for a while” before starting an internship at Livity (the company that owns Live), and then was made deputy-editor after six months.

And why did Frances come to Live?  “It was quite simple really. I wanted to be a journalist and there was no one else offering journalism experience without having had any experience before (which is a problem that still frustrates me to this very day).  It just seemed like an awesome opportunity to learn and get my CV packed out with experience.”

According to Frances, what makes Live so special is “the fact that you can walk through our doors with no experience and access so many great opportunities.  It really is a great way to get your foot in the door if you’re interested in media…

“It’s also the fact that you can really be yourself.  The fact that young people can use it as a platform to discuss the topics they are passionate about or that I can come in wearing a snapback when I’m having a bad hair day (almost every other day) is also really important. There’s not that many spaces left with that kind of freedom, you know, to play grime on full blast at the same time as doing your work, that’s really rare.”

Frances will most miss “the Live contributors or as I like to call them the squaaaaad”, but she’s got a final message for all of them:  “I expect to hear big things coming from all of you guys in the near future! I expect you to do better than me, if this doesn’t happen I didn’t do my job properly…”

CherokeeBefore Frances, it was Cherokee who was editor of Live.  She joined in January 2014 as part
of the team relaunching the magazine, which had been out of print for over a year with a site that hadn’t been updated for a long time. “The new team and I were tasked with gearing up for the reveal of Live’s digital-only space as well as learn the ropes of working on an online publication.”

Cherokee “stepped into the role of editor in August 2014” and says “there is too much (ironically) I learnt to put into words.  The big thing for me, though, was self-belief. I know, I know, it sounds super cheesy, but when there isn’t anyone or anything else believing in the power of young people, there is Live.”

One of the things Cherokee misses about Live are the editorial meetings.  “The passionate, heated debates that kicked off in editorial meetings, for me, was always a reminder of how wrong the stale opinion that ‘young people don’t care about anything’ is. It was also a space that showed Live at its best – young people, engaging with other young people (who they may not encounter in their day-to-day life) about things that mean a lot to them.”

Cherokee has a final message for Live as well.  “Live is foremost a stepping stone. It was for me, as well as former editors, contributors and any other young person who worked on the magazine. This isn’t the end of your journey, nor should it be. An amazing thing is coming to a sad closure, yes, but you may very well be the person to continue the legacy of Live in a different way. It’s over, but not really – and that’s the exciting part.”

I’m going to miss Live, but it is definitely not the end of my journey.  This was highlighted when Frances and Sonia presented me with the ‘Passion for Youth’ award during the surprise ‘Live Mag Awards’.  I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Live Mag Award

Come back in a few days to get the insight from some of Live’s contributors.