Promoting youth participation with a Solidarity Project in lockdown

One of ALYVE UK's recent online meetings

European Solidarity Corps beneficiaries have been doing their absolute best to adapt to the restrictions imposed by the lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. We caught up with one of our Solidarity Projects to see how they have adapted their activities to this challenge.

Action for Local Youth Voice Empowerment UK (ALYVE UK) is a Scottish charity and a two-year Solidarity Project led by a group of young people with extensive experience in local youth participation. It aims to advocate for and support local youth forums across the UK by assessing current practices, developing recommendations for local authorities, and providing small grants to support the development of such groups within local communities.

Huw Sherrard, chair of ALYVE UK, says that the group transitioned to operating in these unique circumstances as well as they could by changing some actions, and bringing forward others. 

He joined the UK National Agency on an interview on CHAOS TV:

Huw also shared a glimpse of the group’s activities during lockdown with us:

Staying connected

“Although we had to adapt to the circumstances relating to COVID-19, we actually had a wee bit of a head start regarding virtual meetings. ALYVE UK's Charity Trustees are spread quite widely across Scotland. Additionally, as young people, we already had other commitments – from education to employment – that made it difficult to always meet in person. We actually amended our constitution to allow for board meetings to be held virtually in 2019, which has allowed us to be slightly ahead of the curve, though adapting to working entirely virtually has still been difficult! These meetings are typically once every two or three weeks (photo above).

We're utilising platforms like Google Drive, which allow us to collaborate on documents and other work, and we're continuing to communicate through a Facebook Group and Facebook Messenger in order to track progress and collectively discuss and agree on decisions. That's been a positive aspect of having younger people involved in charity governance during this pandemic. ALYVE UK's Board has an average age of 20, which is 41 years younger than the national average in England and Wales. We're likely already more adapted to the digital world than the typical charity trustee.”

Changes on timescales

“Originally, ALYVE UK's period as a Solidarity Project was to last for 12 months, starting in August 2019. However, due to the impact of COVID-19 on our work, especially considering a number of our participants were at higher risk, we were able to secure an extension of an additional 12 months to our contract due to the force majeure nature of the pandemic. This means that our time as a Solidarity Project will end in August 2021.

COVID-19 has thrown a bit of a spanner in the works of our plan for progressing as a Solidarity Project! We have brought forward our ALYVE & Kicking small grants initiative in response to the pandemic, with the financial support of the Royal Society of Arts. It’s a small grants fund to support local youth forums in ensuring young people have a voice in their communities in relation to the circumstances. 

"We will seek to understand how Scotland's 32 local authorities meet key indicators in relation to their support of a local youth forum."

We're also looking to reschedule an event that would have been held in March. The event would have gathered young people involved in youth participation and advocacy in Scotland together to discuss its future in Scotland, as part of ALYVE UK's work understanding young people's experiences, opinions, and views relating to the field. Overall though, we have made a lot of progress in other stages out of order.”

State of play

“We've started our assessment stage, which will seek to understand how Scotland's 32 local authorities meet key indicators in relation to their support of a local youth forum. These indicators have been developed by drawing from academic literature, existing and similar activities from other entities like the British Youth Council, and sources like the Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life. We're really excited about how we will be able to present the results, and are currently working on a heatmap model of Scotland broken down into each local authority area.”

Feeling inspired to start your own project? Find out more on the Run your own project webpage.

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