Why young people matter: My takeaways from the Future Voices Group
Last year, I was humbled to have been selected as a founding member of the Youth Futures Foundation’s new national youth advisory panel, called Future Voices Group (FVG). Over the last 9 months, I joined 12 young leaders remotely with a keen interest in the vision and work of radically improving youth outcomes for those outside education and employment. I capture some of my takeaways below:
“Nothing about young people, without young people.”
Too often the views of young people are taken for granted, but we bring energy, creativity and fresh insights on the issues that affect us. We are the experts in what our lives and experiences are like and need to be respected. It is imperative for any organisation seeking to engage young people as beneficiaries, to first address equity in its own governance. That means ensuring youth are at the centre of every decision, including in positions of power at Board level, if it wants to be effective. It is great to see Youth Futures Foundation proactively include young people in influential roles from inception.
“Understand the labour market problems facing youth from underserved communities, before chasing a solution.”
We have sought to amplify youth voices from underrepresented backgrounds both within and outside the organisation through podcasts, blogs, and videos, digitally curating the lived experience of young people who have encountered barriers to accessing meaningful work. These have been rooted in deprived communities, overlooked across the country but represented within the FVG. This is crucial to shining a light on the multi-faceted challenges young people have to overcome in transition to the labour market, especially the most vulnerable facing discrimination and disadvantage in society.
“Our challenge is to build a coalition of support for systemic change.”
Partnerships are the basis of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The Future Voices Group exists to ground everything Youth Futures does in collaborative youth-led research and input on key decisions. I have seen first-hand the work Youth Futures has done, investing in evidence and impact evaluations to close knowledge gaps, sharing best practices and co-chairing the Youth Employment Group to hold decision-makers to account through the Opportunity Guarantee. Grassroots efforts led by Youth Futures’ young leaders have enhanced this coalition, engaging educators, practitioners, funders, and politicians. FVG continues to advocate for change on structural barriers faced by young entrepreneurs to educational inequality and the impact of job insecurity on mental health.
On a personal note, I will be stepping back from being an ambassador to focus on my role as YFF’s youngest Grant Committee member, which is the group that makes the important decisions about what programmes the organisation should fund across the country in its efforts to understand what works. It’s been so rewarding to work with diverse like-minded individuals, united by a mission to support underserved young people into good quality jobs.
By Yemi Adeola
The above quotes and ideas are attributed to some of the inspiring leaders I have been fortunate enough to work with at Youth Futures Foundation, including Anna Darnell, Jason Arthur, Anna Smee, Joel Davis, Jane Colechin and Alexander Morawski.