Every year, inspired by their passions, our different groups of young people come together to find inspirational ways to create positive change in our world. One year into our Mayor of London-backed initiative that enables us to support young leaders, we look back on what our Generators have been up to with and in their local Camden, Islington and Southwark communities.
Since last year and for the first time in our history, we’ve been delivering our youth leadership and social action Generator programme simultaneously across three sites. Different cohorts of young people have participated in sessions that have helped them develop their confidence, creativity and other social and emotional capabilities that, in turn, then enable them to lead on and deliver their own social and environmental action projects.
Integrating creativity, enterprise and ecology, we provided a total of 59 young people coming to our Urban Campsite in Regent’s Place, our Skip Garden in King’s Cross and our Paper Garden in Canada Water experiences and skills that widened their perspectives to help them reach their full potential. Our framework of ‘I, We and the Planet’ helped shape how we planned and engaged with them, ensuring that these three interlinked territories were present throughout the programme:
I: young people develop themselves, gain practical skills, become more confident, engaged and resilient individuals
We: young people build and strengthen networks within, and between, communities - connecting with others across ages and backgrounds - as well as the land
Planet: young people influence their environment and futures, enabling tangible delivery of local ideas and improvements, thereby leaving a positive social and environmental legacy
Social action activities and projects were co-produced with the Generators, building on their interests, working alongside them to establish which issues they would like to address and giving them experiences of what is possible through participating in activities such as food-growing and ecology, cooking, woodwork, event hosting, public speaking, storytelling, land art, creative writing, art and photography. This was done in partnership with other community organisations, with support from businesses such as British Land and Townshend Landscape Architects. Each young person has had the opportunity to take part in weekly sessions over a period of 3 to 5 months - and, in some cases, more.
The sheer variety and success of the young people’s co-produced projects has been one of the main highlights. Examples of this include:
The launch of some of our projects and spaces - the Milk Float, the Urban Campsite in Regent’s Place and our Story Garden in Somers Town,
Hosting Winter and Summer Solstices in the Paper Garden
Intergenerational sessions at Third Age Project and Time & Talents
Litter picking with CleanupUK’s Beautiful Boroughs project
Creating wildlife friendly gardens in our spaces as well as planting up at and seed sowing for local organisations such as Surma Centre, Old Diorama Arts Centre, the Printworks, Fitzrovia Youth in Action, Gantry Garden, and Islington Bangladeshi Association’s garden in Barnsbury
Sharing across cultures through food and heritage by cooking for patients at UCLH, hosting an Iftar event during Ramadan and learning all about Japanese tea ceremonies in the Skip Garden with Azuki Foundation
Exploring history and social justice issues by visiting cultural spaces, exhibitions and events, including the excellent Mandela exhibition in Waterloo and Journey to Justice in Islington
Another highlight has been how we’ve been able to bring our different groups of young people together across sites. When we designed this programme, based on our previous experience of the powerful impact of bringing young people together in order to share ideas, meet new people and create wider impact, we were keen to enable our different groups of Generators to be able to meet each other and share their social action efforts. Our main plan to do so was by introducing members of each new cohort in every site to meet the others through setting up opportunities for them to host one another at each site - the Skip Garden, the Paper Garden and our Urban Campsite.
Over the last year, we have so far had two days where this has happened. The first took place in the spring at the Skip Garden, and for many of the young people who attended, it was during the start of their journey with us. It was a great way to get them all to meet and interact with one another, and for us to get to know them, too. We had over 35 young people attend, with a handful of our existing participants welcoming and co-hosting their new peers in the Skip Garden. The day was focused on getting everyone to ‘land’ in the space and become familiar with the journey of a Generator as a young leader wanting to create change. We asked each of the young people what personal values and qualities they would like to take forward with them on their journeys, and they said things like:
“I chose wonder because I ask a lot of questions and it brings me a greater understanding about stuff.”
“I’m very scared of things and always think of the negative side - I can bring awareness of what can go wrong!”
“I chose kindness because if people aren’t kind to each other, you can’t get anything done.”
“I chose creativity because when we put our ideas together we can come up with amazing things.”
“I chose motivation as I like to motivate others. I think if I believe I can do something then I will do it.”
“I chose teamwork. Not everyone in the world is a leader - I’m not, but it’s important we work together.”
They each took theIR values with them into the first phase of their journey. We then had a follow-up day south of the Thames at our Southwark Paper Garden. As it was leading up to World Environment Day, we designed the day so that young people could look at their impact on their world, and then take the time to focus on their health and wellbeing, too. After an early afternoon spent connecting with nature in Stave Hill Ecological Park, we all headed back to the Paper Garden for lunch and then proceeded to create nature-focused art as well as take part in gardening and sharing stories, before all heading in to the Printworks for a blissful yoga session.
In addition to this, our groups have started visiting each other’s projects - for instance, some of the Skip Garden Generators heading down in July to Regent’s Place for the launch of a series of youth-led projects in the community, including the Gantry Garden and the intergenerational photography exhibition at the Old Diorama Arts Centre.
We’re now looking forward to another year of young Londoners leading inspired action!