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”→
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”→
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.
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.
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.
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”→
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”→
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”.
After 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”→
At a panel discussion last month about young people and technology, the most telling moment came towards the end, when someone in the audience raised her hand. She worked for an organisation that recruits numerous young volunteers, she told us, and one of the questions they always ask at interviews is: “What are your hobbies?”. For the first time not long ago, a 16-year-old girl had responded: “Going on my phone”.
There was a collective, sharp intake of breath among the audience, most of us of generations who remember life before the Internet. We may be just as attached to endless scrolling, and just as afflicted by powernoia as adolescents; but unlike them, we automatically think that’s a bad thing.
We’ve just finalised our podcast on exam stress, produced by youth media charity Exposure and featuring five teenagers from Barnet, north London.
I’ve been working with Exposure since early this year, but it’s the first podcast I’ve been involved in, and actually quite a new area for them too – to date they’ve focused largely on short films and the magazine.
I know people are talking more openly nowadays about mental health – for young people, it’s increasingly relevant, with Childline reporting a rise in calls to do with exam stress, cyberbullying or anxiety – but I was still impressed by how maturely and honestly these kids (aged 15 to 17) shared what goes on in their heads. Continue reading “Monsters & mindapples”→