Cartagena, community, and sixty-minute Sundays

Three things I learned or loved this month

Saturday stroll among the colours of Cartagena

Everything feels different or disjointed: the air oppressively warm; my knowledge of Spanish buried too many years ago to find the words I need; and it should be afternoon, but I’m the first to order breakfast. Eggs with tomatoes and onion, fruit, black coffee to shake off a six-hour time difference. 

Last week an overnight flight took me to Cartagena de Indias, a city of around 1 million on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, where men push carts piled high with mangoes through busy streets, where horse-drawn carts join traffic jams, where friends pose for selfies amid flags or pink umbrellas or street art. A dark history – a one-time slave trade hub, and one of three seats of the Catholic Inquisition in the Americas — but the city has since become a UNESCO heritage site, and tourists come nowadays for the colour, the nightlife, the nearby islands, the easy stroll along thick fortress walls.

Continue reading “Cartagena, community, and sixty-minute Sundays”

Speaking up

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The first speaker’s voice barely carries above the hum of the crowd. Even with a microphone, it takes a while for the 200 or so people gathered to notice she’s addressing them. 

When she’s done, others climb onto the fountain steps alone or in pairs, reading aloud from notes on their phones. Not understanding the words, I watch the body language: a few hold themselves confidently, most less so. One, clutching a diamanté-embellished phone, tries hard to control a visibly shaking hand. Continue reading “Speaking up”

Group chat

Selfie no. 372

We recently recruited 14 young people from six countries for a reporting programme, and before they’d even met, the WhatsApp group was buzzing. When we did get them together for an intense five days in London, they seemed to form a tight-knit group within 24 hours. By departure day, the WhatsApp group was filling with heart-eyed emojis, group selfies and emotional farewells as they prepared to return to four different continents.

Apart from the emojis, it was similar to an experience I had 10 years ago, when 30 of us from different European countries got flown to Berlin for an EU-funded youth journalism scheme. That short trip led to some of us creating our own joint project the following year – planning it over multiple Skype calls from our respective countries – and a few lasting friendships. (Plus, apparently, at least one romantic encounter.) Continue reading “Group chat”

Real-world work experience 

At the Impact Collective — the network of social impact consultants I work with — we’ve published a new case study outlining what we did for the national charity The Challenge.

The Challenge describes itself as a national charity aiming to ‘build a more integrated society’. Its founders set up the National Citizen Service, a government-funded programme that brings together 15-17 year-olds from different schools/backgrounds; to date, 400,000 young people have taken part. I met some of them two years ago while facilitating a few NCS workshops in photography/video; the workshops involve not only practising a new skill but also using it to engage with the wider community: elderly people, adults with special needs or young children.

Anyway, at the Impact Collective we helped The Challenge to deliver another project, which focuses on a reform of the UK’s technical education curriculum. Continue reading “Real-world work experience “

Talking it out

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The guys have their say

Working with London schools and colleges is one way to appreciate this city’s diversity.

While preparing Exposure’s latest podcast on gender and feminism, participants talked about their family lives, and inevitably got onto discussing how culture and upbringing affects your views of a woman’s role in the world.

It made for an interesting debate: we had one young person who’d grown up in Iraq and Sweden, another raised in Zambia by his grandmother, two with an Asian parent, one Jamaica-born Christian, one daughter of a Rastafarian, another whose dad was Algerian. Continue reading “Talking it out”

A tried and tested format for group media projects

Last week we wrapped up a short project at the Compton School in Barnet, north London, just in time for International Women’s Day. Our group was smaller than usual, but super organised and very capable. Their final piece explored political representation, the pay gap, reproductive rights and period poverty.

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Exposure has been producing these type of group projects (known as Exposure Asks) for several years, working with dozens of young people and covering anything from exam stress to modern slavery.

So what makes this format work so well? Continue reading “A tried and tested format for group media projects”

“People can always say no” and other careers advice

Sian at Take A Break tells us how she got there

This year at Exposure we’ve been running a new project known as ‘I’m Inspired’ that gives young people the chance to find and interview a professional in their local area about their work.

The project has involved bringing teenagers and students — some shy, some not so shy — to radio stations, open-plan corporate offices, theatres, newsrooms, and community centres around north London.

Many of our interviewees, especially in the creative sectors, downplayed the importance of qualifications. It’s more about your portfolio than any certificates you’ve got, said a graphic designer. We don’t require qualifications to work here, just drive and initiative, said a radio producer. I’d hire someone with experience and the right attitude over someone else with a three-year degree, said a news editor. Continue reading ““People can always say no” and other careers advice”

Listening in

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Last minute prep before recording in the pink pod at White City Place

What’s it like to be a triplet?

What do teenagers think about 8-year-olds using smartphones, or about online groups that encourage anorexia?

What do young people’s ‘stress monsters’ look like, and how do they keep them in check?

At Exposure we’ve learned about all of these things since we started producing youth-led podcasts. It’s been a lot of fun, especially when you get them into a professional recording studio. So far we’ve been hosted/supported by White City Place, a creative development in west London, and across town at Splice in Shoreditch. Continue reading “Listening in”

Pirates, purpose, and programming: the business of education

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Photo: ellalarose on Flickr

Talking about the UK education system isn’t very uplifting. Family income and where you live still seem to define how well you’re likely to do at school. In international rankings of reading, maths and science performance among 15- and 16-year-olds, little has improved despite government ambitions to make our schools among the best in the world by 2020. Meanwhile, there’s both a shortage of qualified teachers and a ever-tighter budget squeezes on the schools employing them, with almost two thirds expected to cut one or more teaching posts before September.

But another trend, said Joe Hallgarten, former director of Creative Learning and Development at the Royal Society of Arts — speaking at a recent On Purpose event — is the rise of organisations working outside or with schools. (The Charity Commission for England and Wales, for example, lists some 65,000 registered charities dedicated broadly to young people’s education.) They’re bringing writers and artists and scientists into classrooms. They’re helping kids start a business, or teaching them martial arts or philosophy. And they’re introducing them to modern-world skills like coding — “the new piano lessons”.

Continue reading “Pirates, purpose, and programming: the business of education”

Europe’s hottest hub

IMG_6985aAfter ten years abroad, my friend Débora moved back to her hometown, Lisbon, last year. People there sometimes ask why she came back. Surely there are so many more opportunities abroad?

Sometimes Débora wonders why, too. After Bonn, Leipzig, Brussels, Geneva and London, it’s taking a while to adjust to the laid-back Portuguese attitude to planning, the open-ended work meetings and the buses that don’t turn up. Not to mention eating dinner so late.

It’s not only the reverse culture shock; for many returning to Portugal, there’s also a financial one, in a country where the minimum monthly wage is under EUR 600. Continue reading “Europe’s hottest hub”