Solidarity Projects are an activity available under the European Solidarity Corps where groups of five or more young people can apply for funding to run a project in the UK. There are a range of possibilities and opportunities with this funding, so how do you go about getting involved?
To inspire you to join forces, we spoke to Birmingham-based Hidden Voices. They have seven projects approved to date as an informal group of young people under Erasmus+, most of which are youth exchanges. Their projects range from InforMigration dealing with issues around refugees, hate speech and human rights, to FEMpower! tackling gender discrimination and United We Stand Against Radicalisation, a project raising awareness of the causes and consequences of radicalisation that is considered a good practice example featured on the Erasmus+ website.
25-year-old Shamas Khan, who created Hidden Voices in 2017 with Elizabeth Bull-Domican, 21 years old, explains how they pick their project topics:
“The conversations we were having were the same ones happening in the media, but as soon as you bring back to yourself, to your own community and make it personal, that’s when it connects. I think that’s why so important that we inspire young people to start doing it as well.” Their project topics are examples of subjects that could be explored locally within a Solidarity Project. Unlike Erasmus+ youth exchanges, Solidarity Projects participants must be aged 18-30 age and no European partner is needed.
Shamas and Liz are now well experienced in applying for funding and have just set a community interest company up (CIC). They share their story with us, with hints and tips for young people who are also keen to take social action.
How did you meet?
Liz: Shamas and I did a leadership programme in Birmingham in 2016/2017, which resulted in a social action campaign. We were in the same group, trying to get the official recognition of climate refugees which are migrants who move due to natural disasters and climate change. Towards the end of their time on the leadership programme, Shamas also took part in an Erasmus+ Youth Exchange in Turkey. By this point, we had a really good working dynamic together. We ran InforMigration, our first project, in Bulgaria in 2018. After that, we just carried on submitting more projects applications on issues we care about and that we come across on our day-to-day lives.
Do you enjoy working on projects together?
Liz: Yes, and it's a really nice thing to do. Shamas works full time, and I am in my third year of university. It’s a side project, something we are passionate about. We can actually implement and manage the projects ourselves. You can do it your own way, and focus on what you really enjoy. Our first application was in October 2017. We will now be up to seven projects by the end of 2019.
How do you reach young people in the UK to take part in your projects?
Liz: It started with friends of friends and colleagues who know other people. Shamas and I have different connections, we ask: “if you can’t come, do you know anyone else who would benefit from taking part?” We post on our Facebook page. I don’t know how people find us, but they reach out to us too.
How do you find inspiring other young people to take social action as well?
Shamas: When we meet with young people, we talk about our group and this inspires the young people to form their own group. Lots of our participants have since run youth exchanges! It’s all about what has more impact and which conversations are most important...
Liz: … as opposed to what we think is important. We have a social action background, so we know how to run a social action project and we want young people to get involved!
Shamas has been an Eramus+ participant, but Liz hasn't. How do you reach people who haven't had this opportunity before?
Shamas: That’s really hard. I am from a deprived background and being from an ethnic minority group as well, the work that we do is connected to people from ethnic minorities and deprived background. A lot of times they are outside the European bubble. We think it is really important to engage with young people and give them opportunities that might not be available otherwise. We talk to youth groups in the local area and we speak to our partners. To attract these young people, we need to show that is not the old sitting in a classroom. None of that! It’s enjoyable, we create a platform for exchanging knowledge.
"In our approach, we are not coming to you as experts, we say let’s have this conversation and see what we can actually do!"
European Solidarity Corps’ participants will be able to get a Youthpass certificate at the end of the experience. You issue Youthpass to the young people completing your Erasmus+ projects as well. How do young people benefit from it?
Shamas: It’s more an empowerment tool. For me, it was something I could pull out during a job interview and say what I have done in my own spare time.
Liz: It’s nice to have at the end of the projects as well. We give the Youthpass to our participants in a fun way, and they enjoy getting it because they worked towards it.
Hidden Voices’ projects are inspiring young people in their local area and benefitting their community – how could your local area be improved? You can bring together a group of friends or passionate people and take social action in your community through a Solidarity Project. Whether you are interested in climate change, gender equality, democratic engagement, or another important topic – Solidarity Projects are all about the causes that matter to you.
Find out more about Solidarity Projects on our webpage for young people or our webpage for organisations working with young people.