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3 March, 2005

Young people motivated to engage politically

The Youth Act! programme trains and motivates groups of young people from deprived areas of London to campaign for change in their neighbourhoods. And research shows that it works.

"Youth Act! has given me confidence and helped me to use my energy and time in a positive way. I love it." Francion, 15

The young participants and their 'supportive adult' are given six sessions of training, with the expectation that they go on to deliver a campaign in their local community.

An independent evaluation published last week shows that the pilot programme was successful "in increasing the motivation, confidence, skills and knowledge of the young people".

"Youth Act!… helped me gain self-confidence and communication skills that helped me do what I thought could only be done by professionals." Jeffrey, 14

Youth Act! was successful at attracting young people from communities with high levels of social exclusion, the report said. Many were "those 'most likely to motivate their peers', although some clearly displayed relatively lower levels of motivation, thus generally providing a constructive mix".

"It has meant to me that small people do have powers and sometimes grown-ups don’t realise" Zak, 14

Although 75 per cent of participants felt they were confident at the start of the training, after a month this had risen to 100 per cent.

The role of 'supportive adults' was seen critical to the success of Youth Act!. The partnership of adults and young people were integral to the successful projects, with both "clearly gaining much from them".

"I never thought I would see a police officer sitting down with young black people doing something positive", said one deputy head teacher.

And the verdict from a pair of supporting adults:

"Youth Act! has given us the skills required to conduct a successful campaign. It has given us a sense of being active citizens and making young people confident and aware that they have a voice and can make a change in their community".

Engaging young people in community action, policy change and political campaigning is never an easy process, says the report:

"A number of variable factors always affect the success of such work and this is exemplified in the Youth Act! programme. All projects working in this area experience the real barriers that exist to youth participation in democratic processes and community action.

"However, such work is needed now more than ever and the fact that the Youth Act! pilot has succeeded in enabling young people to engage in political action in their communities demonstrates that this is a scheme that warrants attention and resources."

"Youth Act! – great experience, great people. Wonderful to be involved with." Daniela, 15

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