Our work with young people over the last few years has centred around three key issues.
Firstly, young people have consistently relayed to us an overwhelming lack of interest in and understanding of politics, which contributes to a sense of ‘detachment’ from processes of influence.
Secondly, whilst young people have a very sophisticated understanding of inter-ethnic conflicts and racism, further exploration quickly reveals that many hold strong negative opinions about particular groups – such as asylum seekers, immigrants, homosexual people, and women – derived from media portrayals, family influences, and peer preconceptions. At its most extreme, this manifests itself as gang membership.
Finally, young people have an understanding of the causes of community disturbances (such as the Lozells conflict) but few believe they could or should have a role in effecting change and resolving tensions either now or in the future.
We believe in a society which young people are the creators, rather than the inheritors, of the future. Our Equalities Engaging Young People programme – run for three years under the title ‘One Birmingham: Your Future’ – provides workshops for young people on topics such as citizenship, stereotypes, human rights, sexism, and discrimination. We also use more unconventional means of engagement, such as film screenings, to generate discussion and provoke young people into thinking about their role and place in society.
The problems we’re solving
What we’re doing
Over the last few years we’ve engaged with over 850 young people across 25 different agencies, delivering innovative and participative learning and development sessions which explore issues such as racism, combating religious and cultural intolerance, conflict resolution, and individual and collective rights and entitlements. We create a safe and open environment where young people can air their views and have them challenged without fear of judgement, and hear different points of view from other young people from ‘different’ backgrounds.
What other people are saying
The Equalities Engaging Young People programme was showcased in a Children for England report looking at innovative examples of youth projects. To read what they had to say, click here.
The National Council for Voluntary Youth Services covered the project in their magazine, Exchange. Read the write-up here.