Developing Young People Insight

Three years ago, I set up the Young People Insight blog.

Last year, I launched Young People Insight as a physical, interactive platform by holding the first forum.

Since that initial forum in January 2016, I’ve learnt, observed, trialed, and planned, laying the foundations for what this platform will develop in to over time.

It hasn’t been easy and I know that it won’t get any easier, but it feels worth it when I see all that YPI has done and think about all that it can do.  I’ve wanted to give up on a number of occasions and questioned if there is any use in taking it forward, but I know this is my purpose and I want to continue with the work I started.

The choice to continue was not an easy decision to make – it took time and intense reflection – but once I made my decision, I realised that some changes needed to be made.  After over 15 forums and eight poetry nights, it feels like the format has become a little stagnant.  I also had not come good on providing enough of what the young people said they wanted at the very first forum, or even spoken to a wide enough range of young people.

I know that YPI can not only do more, but it can be more.  The forums (this name is definitely subject to change) need to be fresh and a lot more interactive, with set action points we can take forward.  I want to add some new elements to the poetry nights, so everyone in attendance feels included in some way and the feel is not the same month on month.

The YouTube channels still needs to be added to.  A team needs to be put in place, as I cannot efficiently and realistically do everything on my own anymore.  More events will be coming, including workshops, interactive talks, a wider range of social events and more in line with the work that YPI was set up to do.

Most of all, I want to have a stronger focus on the community/family aspect of YPI, which I believe is part of what makes it so special.  I intend to take a stronger, personal interest in the individuals involved, so I can provide any support or direction to other services and events when possible.

These developments – and a lot more – will also contribute to YPI taking the steps from being just a platform to operating as a social enterprise (I’m already starting work on the business plan).

Overall, the core of the developments made will be suggestions and insights from young people, particularly those in Croydon.  It is important for YPI to be a youth-led platform for young people, with input from others so I am  not solely making the decisions.

One of the key ways you can help is by filling out the YPI survey if you are 16-26, which will only take a few minutes: http://bit.ly/ypi-survey

It is your input that will propel Young People Insight forward, allowing us to make a difference in our community and society as a whole.

Do you prefer synthetic or natural beauty?

On April 18th, it was the battle of synthetic beauty vs natural beauty at the YP Insight Forum.  Regular YP Insight participant, Alana, took the lead on the night, as we discussed the topic of her choice.

After breaking the ice, she kicked off the conversation by asking, what is beauty to you?  Responses included:

  • “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” – Shaniqua (me)
  • “I think it’s on the inside, it’s not what we’re taught.” – Naomi
  • “It can be a number of things… I think it’s subjective” – Renee
  • “I think beauty is everything… To me, beauty is in my cat” – Alana

We then moved on to the beauty industry, with Alana posing the question, do you believe the beauty industry needs any changes or improvements?  Some individuals raised the need for more dark-skinned girls – “They need to make dark-skinned girls feel good” – while we all agreed that there needs to be more representation.

References were also made to what Kendrick Lamar did in his latest music video and Alicia Keys not wearing make up.  Overall though, Alana thinks that there needs to be more self-acceptance and self-expression.

Next up was the big question of the night: do you prefer synthetic or natural beauty?  Personally, I couldn’t say whether I prefer natural or synthetic beauty, because I just like beauty.  Tania said that she prefers natural beauty, because she thinks there are certain things you notice more without make up.

However, Andrae said that he prefered in-between, because some people can’t carry off natural and some people work better with make up.  On the other hand, Alana believes that everyone can do natural, as no one was born with make up on their face.  And Steven, he “prefer[s] natural all day”.

Naomi responded to a point Andrae and some others made by saying that the problem with make up is when it comes off and there’s been too much going on – “I think it should be used to enhance your features.”  Naomi also made us think a little deeper about synthetic beauty, as we had been focusing on make up, saying that you might draw on your eyebrows, but you might also pluck your eyebrows.

Alana then asked us about our views on men taking on women’s beauty trends.  Steven thinks that “they are all liars”, while I believe that there’s a broad spectrum, from drag queens to men simply wearing make up.

This led on to a conversation about social norms with Naomi saying, “I think men wearing dresses, boys wearing blue and girls wearing pink is a norm that has been pushed on us.”  Steven carried this point on slightly by explaining that straight men wearing make up goes back far in time, even past the Egyptian times, which gave us all something to think about.  I mean, who set out the norms that we’re all supposed to buy into?

With the next question, Alana got very deep with us.  She asked, do you believe the reason why some men go for synthetic beauty is because natural beauty shows truths, imperfections and flaws, therefore making the men remind themselves of their own flaws?  Or is there another reason?

Andrae thinks that it depends on the man and Steven thinks that it is purely based on the man’s insecurities – “If you’re comfortable within yourself, you won’t care if a woman has weave, short hair, is bald.”

“I think some of these problems we go through as women is because of you men,” Tanya strongly expressed.  Steven also agreed with what Tania had to say and he later added, “It’s a double standard – why can I be what I want to be and you can’t?”

Us females also spoke about males approaching us more depending on how our hair is done, whether we are wearing make up and what we happen to be wearing.  I said I was approached more when my hair was straightened and in braids.  Naomi said she was approached more when she wore a dress.  But there was a variation of whether we got approached more in make up or not.

Alana’s final question of the night was, what’s your message to women about the whole concept of beauty?

  • “Do you boo boo.” – Steven
  • “Be yourself.” – Andrae
  • “Beauty is the truest form of yourself.” – Renee
  • “Beauty is personality as well.” – Monique
  • “Do what you want to do.  Be what you want to be. ” – Alana
  • “Beauty comes from within.” – Naomi

Our next forum will be on May 16th when we’ll be talking Mental Health from 6.30-8.30pm in Project B and we’ll be joined by some guest speakers.  Hopefully this will challenge the stigma of mental health and generate some interesting points, so come chill with us and join the conversation while we munch on some snacks.

And don’t forget to make a pledge to our crowdfunding campaign as we work towards empowering more young voices: http://bit.ly/empower-youth-voice

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following @youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, liking Young People Insight on Facebook and subscribing to the Young People Insight YouTube channel.

Discussing Relationships at the YP Insight Forum

“A form of communication”; “a bond”; “happiness”; “a form of love”.  These were some of the thoughts young people had of what a relationship is, as relationships (with a focus on women) was the point of discussion at the Young People Insight forum on July 19th.

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We starting by talking about what we think makes a healthy relationship, with responses that included:

  • Communication and honesty
  • Loyalty and trust
  • Not basing it on looks
  • Connection and attraction
  • Respect
  • Same goals.

I then threw in the question of why are so many people in unhealthy relationships, which brought a variety of answers:

  • Bad forms of communication
  • Fear of being alone and trust issues
  • Unresolved issues from relationships
  • People being too clingy and controlling.

This brought up the problem of insecurity and the query of why so many of us are so insecure.  Alana, 21, gave a great response, expressing that we need to learn to love ourselves 100% and bring happiness to ourselves, rather than relying on external factors.

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Andrae, 25 believes that “communication is the key” to relationships, but why do so many of us struggle with effective communication?  Andrae thinks that it’s because some individuals don’t want to hurt the other’s feelings, while Alana thinks that some people are afraid to open up and show their true selves.

Rhianna, 21, believes that it stems from trust issues as if you have trust issues, you might not be able to talk properly or you don’t really want to have to explain yourself.  Andrae also brought up social media – “Instagram plays a big part” – and Sh’kira, 22, made a good point about lots of people having their own different issues.  She said that people are in their own worlds and their own minds most of the time.

Asking how we improve the way we communicate proved to be a very difficult question to answer, as communication seemed to be something that most of the young people struggled with and wanted to improve themselves.

I kicked off that part of the discussion, which eventually resulted in some good solutions:

  • Talking more in person, not just on cyber
  • Being more mature and feeling able to talk about your issues
  • Having workshops and focus groups
  • Don’t watch TV for a month – “Your whole concept of relationships will be new”
  • Respect yourself.

One of my favourite points of the evening was made by Alana, when I asked why we struggle to communicate – she said that we’re living in a technological age where “people are communicating with emojis”.

DSC_0827

This month, there was a special focus on women and relationships, adding a little more depth to the discussion.  We started by discussing why females are objectified and pressured into certain behaviours to “get a man”, which sparked off an interesting dialogue.

Alana stated that “It’s a man’s world” and that women are being seen as toys or things to be used.  However, Andrae thinks that it’s because of the way a women dress, but Billie, 24, strongly expressed that “it’s insulting to think that people don’t think you dress for yourself.”

Rhianna thinks that some women feel like they have to act a certain way, while Billie added that “it’s all to do with money and consumerism.”  There was also the important point of males trying to have more control with less effort, wanting females to come to them and do whatever they want them to do.

When asked why some females portray themselves in a certain way to get male attention and affection, Alana said insecurity and the pressure that they have to be sexually active all the time.  Rhianna made the brilliant point that a lot of women are confusing attention for affection, and Alana also thinks that it’s because they’re not getting affection from the places they need it.

I then posed the question, as women, what do we associate affection with?  Responses included:

  • Being in close proximity with a person
  • A guy paying for you on the first date
  • Being shown that you have his attention
  • Showing that you really care
  • Intimacy and physical affection (not sex, but touching).

Finally, I asked how we can develop healthy relationships, which resulted in some really nice answers.  They were:

  • Communicating more – Andrae
  • Getting to know yourself, loving yourself better and forgiveness – Alana
  • In terms of friendships, people understanding boundaries and learning not to blur lines – Rhianna
  • Surrounding yourself with positive people and not watching certain programmes – Randy, 21
  • Being in tune with God – Sh’kira
  • Experience – Billie

The next forum will be Relationships Part 2 with a special focus on the men, at Project B from 6.30-8.30pm on August 16th.  You definitely won’t want to miss it, so tell a friend to tell a friend.

Follow @YPInsight on Twitter or like Young People Insight on Facebook for any updates.

Discussing Careers at the Young People Insight Forum

Careers was the topic of discussion at Project B on April 19th,  after the topic of March’s forum changed from careers to knife crime.

Young People Insight Forum- Project B

This change probably worked out for the better, as on Tuesday we were joined by two representatives from Croydon Council.  Roopa Doshi and Melad Ali, their Team Apprentice, work to ensure that young people, aged 14-19, do not end up as NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training).  They are responsible for tracking young people and finding out what it is that they are doing.

We also had the pleasure of being joined by Denise Hill from Evolve Housing, which was previously South London YMCA.  Evolve Housing provides hostels for young, homeless individuals, and also supports young people who have been homeless by trying to help them to move on.

This month, I gave Roopa and Melad the opportunity to lead out in the forum, as they are looking for ways to support young people with their limited resources, which resulted in responses that were beneficial to both them and Young People Insight going forward.

When asked about what career advice was like for us at school, college, university etc, it became clear that it was “pretty poor”, as Alana, 21 said.  We either weren’t aware of where to go for career advice, it wasn’t given to us or it simply didn’t work for us.  Alana believes that “as I didn’t have guidance, I jumped through multiple courses and careers.”

However, as 22-year-old Javell later added, “there are many young people who bounce off each other”, which is I am personally a strong advocate of.  Young people have the ability to work together to create something great, if only more of them would take the time to do it.  “If you can’t find a job, create one yourself,” he says.

As we spoke about whether we found our teachers supportive, 25-year-old Andrae brought it to another level, expressing that what was at school wasn’t really what he wanted to do.  He also said, “In my era, it’s like everything happened after… I got too old,” which is a thought that has probably crossed the mind minds of many young people in their mid to late 20s — I know it’s crossed mine.

When Roopa asked how important a career is over just being employed, Andrae’s immediate response was, “A career is about being happy.  Employment is about getting money.”  However, Alana took what Andrae said further, saying that neither matter, because the most important thing is happiness — “There’s no point getting a job if your feel like you’re not going to get anything from it.”

Image by geralt and used under Creative Commons License.
Image by geralt and used under Creative Commons License.

This question also led on to the subject of our working lives in the long-term.  Javell thinks that employment is the only option in regards to short-term gain, but he also stressed that young people think in short-term rather than long-term, which isn’t exactly effective for paving out a career.

As we spoke more about careers advice, we all agreed that there was a problem with how our educational options or opportunities were presented to us.  We all said that were made to believe that we had to sit our A-levels and then attend university in order to get a “good” job.

Melad shared his personal experience, telling us that he started A-levels, as he didn’t know that he had the option of doing a BTEC, but he then went on to do a BTEC and got into university to study Sociology.  Nevertheless, he left university after two years — rather than get himself into an extra year’s worth of debt — and started an apprenticeship with the council.

 

To round the discussion off, we tried to come up with effective ways to reach young people, particularly with a limited budget and limited resources.  Ideas included:

  • Creating a documentary, which would involve speaking to those who are NEET
  • Having young people putting on a careers fair for young people
  • Putting on events to reach those who are NEET
  • Talking face-to-face
  • Effectively utilising what you’ve already got.

Denise also said, “Try and focus on the people that you do manage to engage with and what difference you can make to them.”

I believe that a career is special and so much more than employment, as it is work that you are building upon for the long run and hopefully something that makes you happy.  It just takes thought, time and some help along the way.  As Alana says, “If you’ve got the confidence, you can do anything.”

YP Insight April Forum

The next forum will be on the 17th May at Project B, for anyone who is aged 16-25.  We’ll be talking dreams and also developing the media aspect of Young People Insight further.

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

What does fun mean for young people?

With the festive season in full swing, fun is the word on many people’s lips and in many people’s minds.  In a time filled with reports of economic crises, poverty and mindless violence, we need fun to create a happy medium.

I’ve spent some time speaking to a variety of young people, finding out what the word fun means for them and of course, what it is that they actually like to do for fun.  Just as it was with success, fun has different meanings for different people.

In fact, fun is not a priority for some young people – 22-year-old Reyan* spends all her time working or going to university, leaving her with no time for fun.  Adrian, 21, also said: “Nowadays, I rarely ever intentionally do anything for “fun”.  The word to me is the linguistic epitome of frivolity.”

Nevertheless, the main consensus among young people is that fun simply means doing something you enjoy or enjoying what you are doing, although they expressed this in their own various ways.  Garry, 23, described fun as “full enjoyment, whilst 20-year-old, Jesse, described it as enjoying yourself while being able to be yourself.

Fun  is not only enjoying what you do, but it is also the enjoyment of the little things and just life in general.  Jack, 19, puts it into words, saying: “[Fun is] enjoying your life with family and friends, and enjoying the little things.”Hot Chocolate

One of the major elements of enjoyment among young people seems to be the presence of their friends and family.  “…I just need to be with the right people.  There are people I know I will just have a fun time with,” said 20-year-old Giselle.  Being with loved ones also helps to create lasting memories, which is the meaning of fun for some young individuals.

“Fun is more like happiness,” said 16-year-old Jay*.  There were quite a significant number of young people who said that for them, fun was about being happy or doing something that makes them happy.  Rebecca, 22, illustrates it best: “To me, fun means happiness, joy, peace in my heart, soul and mind.”

Fun is also all about relaxing for some young people – 22-year-old Sana says, “Fun for me is relaxation, unwinding… and ultimately feeling stress free!”  Relaxing is important in a time when young people are facing a lot of pressure, especially for those with constant deadlines or who are always on the grind.  Helen, 23, said: “Fun for me means not having your head consumed with responsibility and deadlines, and just living in the moment.”

Photo by Greyerbaby and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by Greyerbaby and used under Creative Commons License.

In fact, it actually goes deeper than relaxation – it is about them forgetting about their worries, troubles or inhibitions for that moment in time.  It is a way of distracting them from reality.  However, 19-year-old Bright takes it even deeper: “Fun means to me forgetting about the history of yesterday and the mystery of tomorrow, and enjoying the moment that God has allowed you to have.”

A few young individuals also look at fun as embracing their inner child, which brings an innocence to the word.  Nahed, 22, described fun as childishness, while 17-year-old Tia said: “Fun means something that allows me to be childish and have that sense of energy.”

There was also one beautiful, unique response, which stood out from the rest.  Zoey, 22, said: “Fun is very simple to me.  It’s purely freedom of the mind and spirit, in being open to new experiences and viewing life from a happy point of view.”

“When I can’t stop laughing and smiling that’s when I’m having fun,” says Giselle.  It was refreshing – but probably not surprising – to see that fun meant laughter for so many young people, as laughter is usually one of the key ingredients involved in fun.  Nora, 22, expresses it perfectly: “Fun means laughter.  If you’re not laughing, you’re not having fun.”Laughter

It was interesting to learn what different individuals do for fun, especially as I began to see some common themes.  Of course, spending time with friends and family is what the majority of young people enjoy doing for fun.  This may be a family gathering, chatting or “banter” with friends, having a drink with their mates, or as 21-year-old Matthew puts it, “hanging with my boys”.

Sports turned out to be popular, mainly amongst the young men, but I was surprised to learn how many of them played basketball – it proved more popular than playing football.  However, it came as no surprise that listening to music and eating (particularly eating out) were popular fun activities amongst young people.

Photo by iamrubenjr and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by iamrubenjr and used under Creative Commons License.

A significant number of young people also enjoy clubbing/partying, being involved in music, going to the cinema, playing games and reading.  Others also like to sleep, watch TV, play video games, keep fit, go shopping and expand their knowledge.  Having a smoke and going on holidays also came up a few times.

However, it was some of the unique answers that were special and provided extra depth to certain young individuals.  For 22-year-old Meera, fun means something as simple as a lie-in, while 21-year-old Aliya* likes “throwing shade” for fun.

Competitive sportsman, Matthew, enjoys winning and proving haters wrong, 21-year-old creative, Si-Ann, loves teaching dance and watching her business grow, whilst 19-year-old aspiring doctor, Danielle, finds fulfilment  in making others happy.  A number of other individuals enjoy bowling, baking brownies and cookies, spreading the gospel, making their parents proud, walking, making their girl smile and riding motorbikes.

This list could go on and on, because there are numerous different things that mean fun for young people, which highlights their versatility and how much they make of what life has to offer.  The vast majority of what was mentioned were simple things that involved people rather than products, showing that fun does not come down to just money.  Paris, 25, sums it up perfectly: “Fun is priceless.”

*names have been changed

What is your perception of young people?

Young people get a lot of bad press, which leads to negative perceptions of them from individuals looking on from the outside.  However, people are usually only seeing what they want to see.  All they see is the headlines, criminal activities or bad attitudes, rather than the actual person underneath all of that.

There is so much more to young people than what they do and how they are perceived.  If you look closely at many of them and take the time to get to know them, you will see that they are more witty, intelligent, caring, funny and vulnerable than you think.  They also have really good hearts hidden beneath the surface; however, they are unlikely to show them to just anyone – you’ve got to break through the surface first.

Photo by SplitShire and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by SplitShire and used under Creative Commons License.

A few months ago, I met a young man, who has recently turned 18.  He has been arrested more than once and already spent time behind bars.  He would steal and carry a knife.  I knew none of this when I met him, but even if I had known, it would not have mattered to me, which I know would be the case with some people.

He is a sweet and funny individual, with one of the most adorable faces I’ve ever seen.  Although he’s cheeky and can sometimes be rude, he always treats me with care and respect.  I am also incredibly proud of him for going to college and embarking on a subject that he loves, because he wants to do something with his life.

I can see that he is an individual who needs support and kindness shown to him, which is possibly why he responded so well to me.  I simply addressed him with a smile the first time I saw him and then tried to get him involved in a project that we were working on.  Sometimes, that is all that a young person needs to open up.

Photo by Giuliamar and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by Giuliamar and used under Creative Commons License.

Two years prior, I met another young man, who has also been arrested and who also used to steal.  He’s carried out community service and been involved in some foolish things, but he happens to be very intelligent.

For a 17-year-old, he is wise beyond his years, but you would have to embark on a genuine conversation with him to realise that, because I know it can be easy for people to pre-judge him based on his appearance.  This is a young man who did well at school, is currently in college and intends to go to university.  He is also likes to read, which is not a common occurrence amongst young men.

There is a lot more to his story than people know and he is more vulnerable than he makes out, but you would miss this unless you took the time to genuinely get to know him.  Once you get to know him, you will also find that he has a very loving heart, which happens to be one of his best qualities.

Photo by Hermann and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by Hermann and used under Creative Commons License.

Then there is my friend who is currently in prison.  The media have portrayed her as a cold-hearted monster and people have lapped it up, without even knowing the person she really is.  However, I know that person.  I went to school with her, which gave me the opportunity to interact with the girl who had a good heart and kind spirit, before she got in too deep with the wrong guy and went on a downward spiral.

As I write to her, I see a vulnerable young woman, who knows that she has made a series of mistakes that has led to her to a jail cell.  I also see the good person that I knew at school, who supports me, encourages me and asks about my younger sister.

I will put my hands up and say that she did wrong and made a grave mistake, but people seem to forget that she didn’t twist the knife in.  She has also never had the chance to express her feelings or her side of the story, which has led to completely negative perceptions of her character and the media displaying her as some sort of monster, which is not fair.

Photo by jodylehigh and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by jodylehigh and used under Creative Commons License.

There are many other examples that I could give of young people who have so much more to offer than the negative perceptions people have of them, because that is the sad reality of the world we live in.

Countless young people are not encouraged or unable to tell their stories.  In fact, young people are not given much of an opportunity to use their voice at all, which leads to one-sided connotations and the negative view of young people as a whole.

The older generation needs to spend more time with young people, so approach them and speak to them just like you would speak to anyone else.  Talk to them about general subjects, don’t pass judgements and make them feel involved whenever you can – then you will really see who they are.

Of course, not every young individual will be receptive or automatically nice, but sometimes it just takes a little longer to build that trust.  There is more to young people than meets the eye and there is usually a lot more going on beneath the surface than you realise.

Photo by PublicDomainPictures and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by PublicDomainPictures and used under Creative Commons License.

Look past the stealing, drug dealing, anger, bad attitude and violence, to the good that is in them, because it usually is there.  Just take some time to get through to them and you will soon see that there are a lot of beautiful hearts and wonderful talent you may have missed.

What are your perceptions of young people?

 

What does fun mean for young people?

With young people returning to school, college or university this month, fun may not be at the forefront of their minds (although it is said that there is a lot of fun to be had at university).  However, there is  a lot of fun to be had during term time and some young individuals may look at education as fun.

Fun is defined as entertaing, amusement, enjoyment or light-hearted pleasure, which means that it will not be exactly the same for everyone.  Although similarities are inevitable, fun will have different meanings for particular young people.

Fun Fair
Photo by khfalk and used under Creative Commons License.

I know that what fun means to me is different to many of the other young people around me, because of my past and personal interests.  The meaning has also changed for me over the years, as I’ve developed, grown older and gone through various experiences.

When I was a little girl, fun meant delving into my imagination and becoming immersed in the world of my Barbie dolls, which I loved so much.  Now, I prefer to delve into my imagination by reading books, writing plays and sketching fashion designs.

Barbies
Photo by Beatriz Rizzo and used under Creative Commons License.

Having fun and being entertained is an important part of life, which brings joy to our lives and has different meanings for all of us.  In a world that is full of doom, gloom and sadness, I would like to shine a light on the things that we enjoy in our lives by gathering your thoughts on the subject and learning what fun means to you.  Feel free to leave comments below and let me know your thoughts on that bright word we call fun.