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Last year Merton’s young people were asked how they wanted to be represented within their borough, young people from all over the area voted in a referendum and collectively they decided on the Young Advisors model.
Young Advisors are professionally trained community organisers or young consultants who work with organisations and agencies to ensure that young people are involved in decision making.
In February 2011 successful YA candidates were trained at the Acacia Intergenerational Centre in Mitcham, they learnt about participation and began to identify and map challenges in their communities. The Young Advisors then held a presentation evening where they invited local partners, elected members and strategic leads within the council to attend.
The YAs spoke passionately and articulately about their local communities, they charted local challenges and suggested realistic solutions to real problems in their areas. One of the positive results of the presentation evening was elected members allocating £25,000 for projects inspired by young people. Since then they have been working hard on raising the profile of their team and enacting real change in Merton.
This year the Merton YAs have designed and delivered training for Local Councillors where they explored ways in which they could work together effectively; this included the YAs explaining that they have limited time during exam periods to shadow and support Councillors. The adults and young people are working together to draw up a timetable that will suit everyone. The YAs also requested that papers from Council meetings are summarised so that they are more digestible for the YAs to read.
The YAs have also been involved on panels for Positive Activity funding, they have been trained on mental health, domestic violence and drug issues as part of a Pan-London Safeguarding Children Culture & Faith Project. Three YAs recently made a presentation to Wimbledon Town Centre management and the local Chamber of Commerce about the “hot and grot” spots in Wimbledon as part of their mapping exercise for their Young Advisor training.
Two of the Merton Young Advisors have also made the trip up to Young Advisors HQ in Manchester to work with the National Charity on the Co operative sponsored ‘Truth about Youth’ campaign. All in all their first six months of being a trained team has been busy, full of opportunity and truly had an impact on their area.
So what’s next? The YAs are keen to grow and develop and are looking at options for recruiting and training more young people to join their team! They also have plans to hold a series of focus groups with young people from specific communities in Merton as part of the Pan-London Safeguarding Children Culture & Faith Project they are involved with and their findings will be presented at a conference on the 30th November. Focus groups are being held with a variety of youth groups e.g Polish community, girls group at the Mosque in Morden, young people who have disabilities etc.
The YAs will be working as young researchers on what promises to be an interesting and challenging project. With lots of ideas, brilliant links with partners and elected members in Merton and a drive to enact real change, these Young Advisors are really ones to watch!