“I want to be a pioneer” – Young ambition in Bucharest and London

Romanian TV journalist Lorelei Mihala and I worked together last year for two weeks in two cities, funded by the Council of Europe’s Mediane project. Here’s what came out of it (scroll down for more photos and video).

One in five young people – around 5.5 million citizens – in the EU are unable to find work; many more do jobs for which they are overqualified. Youth unemployment regularly hits the headlines across Europe – but what are the stories behind the statistics? A report from Bucharest and London

Bucharest celebrates
Bucharest celebrates – past and future

Continue reading ““I want to be a pioneer” – Young ambition in Bucharest and London”

Young voices – Bucharest to London

My exchange partner Lorelei and I are finally finishing up our joint project, part of the Council of Europe’s work to encourage more diversity in the media.  Our full piece is coming soon; in the meantime, here’s a little preview – thanks to Iqraa (Somali) in London and Kiki (from Nigeria) in Bucharest – of what we talked about.

Continue reading “Young voices – Bucharest to London”

Going big, with purpose

I’ve gone from a tiny organisation – my last employer had just one part-time staff member – to a huge one: the British Council is the UK’s largest charity, works in over 100 countries, and employs some 7000 people. Another change: my stint at British Council is part of a one-year programme, run by On Purpose, that aims to ‘develop leaders’ in the social enterprise sector.

(What’s a social enterprise? Good question. Simplest of the dozens of hazy definitions: a business for social purpose – think the Big Issue magazine.)

The idea behind On Purpose is that there are loads of start-ups with noble intentions, and plenty of funding and schemes to support the entrepreneurs behind them, but a weak spot still in terms of the managers and professionals needed to keep those new businesses going. And, of course, to make those initiatives broader and better, since scaling up the successful models is one of the big challenges right now. Continue reading “Going big, with purpose”

Blisters and early mornings

Isle of Mull challenge“Do your research. Don’t be scared to try and do what you always wanted to do. Think of something really challenging”

I spent my summer months at the Mark Evison Foundation helping with their first proper evaluation of their youth programmes; the quote above was one response to the question “What would your advice be to future applicants?” (though it could apply to life in general…).

Anecdotally, the trustees knew there’d been tangible benefits of the foundation’s work – i.e. encouraging young people to plan personal challenges and funding the most motivated teams or individuals to see those challenges through. But, now in their fifth year of giving awards and with plans to expand, they needed something more concrete than anecdotal evidence or the excited emails we got from some of the award-winners returning from their trips.

Two focus groups, dozens of questionnaires, and millions of email reminders later, we got our data (the full report is here). What did we learn? Continue reading “Blisters and early mornings”

Scaling new heights

I’m doing some work for the UK-based Mark Evison Foundation at the moment – nothing to do with international development, but as a charity that helps young people identify, plan and complete challenges that they wouldn’t otherwise have the means to do, the ethos and target group are similar to previous projects I’ve worked on (even if these kids are starting from a somewhat easier level than, say, their Ugandan counterparts).

The foundation, set up in 2009, has been run entirely by volunteers till now. Along with another part-time colleague, I’ll be helping them build up their profile, expand the number of school reached, and improve how they organise their work. More news on that soon – in the meantime, check out the video, here, made by one of the first teams to win a grant – two 16 year-old boys who scaled the four peaks of the UK within four days, using only public transport in between mountains – and did it all accompanied by their dog.

“I cannot be heard”

At schoolWatching the ‘Amplify Dandora‘ video, below – they used some of my footage from the slum in Eastern Nairobi – brings back memories of a great group of people. The Amplify team are hoping to do more of the video work I started on a very small scale last November (more on that project here) – and improve education opportunities for young people in Dandora.

The link between teaching video skills to unemployed youth and improving a (primary) school is perhaps not obvious. Continue reading ““I cannot be heard””

Get local

classroom-cSomewhat daunting to find myself speaking right after someone with three honorary doctorates and a knighthood last week – especially when Noerine Kaleeba opened her talk wondering why anyone would use Powerpoint (‘Where is the power… and where is the point??’).  Needless to say, the rest of the day – a seminar on HIV prevention organised by my former employers, BTC – was somewhat Powerpoint-heavy (presentations, including mine, available on their website).

As is often the case, the most interesting stuff came during the discussions. The formidable Ms Kaleeba, who founded one of the first AIDS support organisations in Africa and was once a lonely voice speaking out about the disease that claimed her husband, is still trampling over taboos. Continue reading “Get local”