Here at SouthwarkCAN we've recently been joined by St Michael's Catholic College student Victoria Bakare for a couple of weeks of work experience. One of the tasks we set her was to research and explore the barriers that prevent young people becoming more involved in their communities. We are all aware of the well documented disconnect between young people and a feeling that they can genuinely make a difference.
Victoria's insights have certainly given us food for thought and we welcome any other comments or suggestions. Perhaps you'd even like to work with us so we can act on the content of the following report in a meaningful way? Drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Young People and Social Action in Southwark
By Victoria Bakare
This report was made to investigate ways to help people in the borough become more active and involved in their local communities, by first having a better understanding of the ways in which young people engage in social action, and by identifying the barriers which prevent many from getting involved.
In society the amount of young people involved in their local community is decreasing. In my opinion, this is mainly because the majority are not interested in assisting others without pay. Those who do volunteer take part, not only to assist those in need but to also gain skills such as: communication, teamwork, innovation, self-confidence and responsibility, which could help them when they venture into a career path.
From an evaluation carried out by the National Youth Agency, it is suggested that before volunteering many young people perceived social action as something which was not available to them due to a lack of awareness and knowledge about social action from their community. Other barriers that prevent young people from getting involved in social action includes; limited available opportunities, a lack of motivation, negative prejudgements of young people which pushes them away from social action, and that many are not aware of the importance of involving themselves in their local community.(Stated in a report by Universities UK and NUS).
As a young person, I believe that more young people in Southwark would volunteer if they were made aware of the uprising issues or the organisations in the community that require help financially or through volunteering. Young people are important in the community as 14.9% of the total population of Southwark are aged 15-24. As a result of this, we should have a voice in what goes on in our community as it not only affects adults, but us as well. By having a voice within the community we can also help to improve the community of Southwark by helping to inspire more events or services that could gradually assist more people.
As young people we are unfortunately only shown one side of our community- the good side. By doing this we are discouraged to volunteer as we are being shielded from getting involved in our own communities as we are not being informed about the issues that occur. This causes young people to believe that nothing can be done by them to solve the issue, however through the process of innovation, new solutions can be found.
Solutions- How to get involved
In order to make young people aware of the volunteering opportunities in Southwark, I believe that different approaches can be taken.
School: To make children involved in the community, workshops could take place where different organisations could go to schools and talk to the young people about what they do and about the different events that take place in their communities. This would help increase the amount of young people taking part in social action as they will be aware from a young age.
Events targeted towards young people: Another way to get young people involved in their local communities could be to create more events specifically targeted towards young people. At the moment Southwark holds many events but they are mainly for infants and adults. By shifting the focus, this would make young people aware of their influence in society by introducing them to different ways in which they can help. The events would also make young people aware of all of the benefits of volunteering in their community.
Provide more volunteering opportunities: Providing more volunteering opportunities for young people located in Southwark can also increase social action in the community. Many young people who are already volunteers have stated that volunteering has allowed them to be more aware of current affairs, the lives of those around them and their own lives. Volunteering opportunities for young people will also unite the community as they will begin to realise the value and importance that they hold in their community.
Taking advantage of social media: In this day and age, the influence social media has on young people has increased. By using this platform to promote the importance of young people in society, more people are being influenced due to the vast amount of young people who use social media on a daily basis. Catching the attention of ten young people could lead to one hundred new people getting involved in the borough of Southwark, bringing their ideas and opinions about the community forward.
Giving young people positions: Giving young people positions in society can also increase their involvement in their local community. Young people could be placed in committees or simply asked to complete a survey. No matter the size of the role, by doing this, young people are given a voice on whether they agree or disagree on the choices made in the community and on the development of ideas.
By considering these ideas young people will begin to feel more involved in their community as their views and opinions are being shared amongst others in society. Therefore this will lead to young people wanting to make more of a change in society, to improve their own life and the lives of others.
I then went on to ask young people in the community of Southwark, their opinions on their experiences and perceptions of social action.
From two interviews from two young people situated in Southwark, I have gained a perspective about why some people may not get involved with social action within their community. When asked the question about why they do not get involved in their community, both stated that it was due to a lack of awareness as they had not heard of any opportunities or seen any advertisements for them, and it was also due to a lack of spare time to be involved.
When asked the question ‘Does your community inform the residents about events which are coming up?’ They both agreed that the information given was very limited and was only given through posters instead of direct information.
When asked ‘What do you believe is the reason behind why the majority of young people are not involved in their community?’ One young person said that it was because of the lack of awareness, whilst the other stated that it was because the events do not appeal or interest them.
When asked about their own opinion on ‘What methods can be carried out to attract young people to involve themselves within their community?’ the both mentioned the method of creating more youth-centred events and more awareness, especially through the use of social media.
When asked the final question on the benefits of social action for young people in the community, the young people agreed that it could be carried out in order to gain more skills, stay out of trouble,, to gain different experiences which can influence career prospects, and to broaden their love for their community.
The information gathered from these two interviews has given me a sense of why some young people may not get involved in their community; however it only highlights a few reasons as two people cannot represents all the young people in Southwark. In order to get young people involved in social action, I believe that the first step should be to instill with them the importance of it at a young age so that they are encouraged to continue as they grow up.