Covering a whole range of exciting, high-impact activities, the term ‘Social Action’ can mean everything from campaigning and fundraising to volunteering. At Volunteering Matters we refuse to see young people as anything other than as asset, whose voices should be heard and ideas taken on board. This is why we focus on youth social action as one of our key areas of work, and why this has led us to run so many successful projects and programmes across the country.

Positive Futures London (PFL) ran in the London boroughs of Hackney, Haringey and Tower Hamlets from 2016 – 2019, and the topics that young volunteers chose to focus on ranged from body image to racism. PFL has recently come to the end of its three years of funding, but the effect on the community will remain; so we thought it was a brilliant time to showcase some of the brilliant work the young people have produced over the course of the project.

As well as campaigning for issues important to them, the young PFL volunteers took part in inter-generational community visits, fundraising for local charities, and created their own unique young-led podcast – ‘Youth Cast’.

With 25% of the population in the local area of Hackney under 20 years old, it’s essential to provide opportunities for young people to have their say in a non-judgemental, productive safe space. PFL Volunteer Managers Anthony and Amber began recording Youth Cast with the young people in the Autumn of 2018, when London was facing its worst year of knife violence in a decade. The podcast was intended as a response from the young people to the wider community, so volunteers from local schools, community groups and organisations were invited to have their say.

Volunteer Manager Anthony said:

‘Young peoples’ views about topics such as these aren’t usually addressed; and it feels like they are far from valued. These young people can see the damage knife crime does to their community, and they should be able to express their opinions and solutions. Youth Cast has demonstrated that young people have their own views of the world around them, not just the one the media portrays.’

Since its creation, volunteers have spoken out about mentorship schemes, the power of stop and search, youth identity and much more. Volunteer Manager Amber explained:

‘Youth Cast has challenged young people to stretch their thinking and enabled them to get their voices heard. It has been embedded within the communities of young people, allowing any young person to be involved and creating pathways for young people to feel safe to discuss their own opinion and their own story.

It shapes the narrative of young people and supports other young people to do the same. Through Youth Cast, we’ve seen that young people feel the ability to engage in challenging conversations whilst respecting the opinions of others.

Not only are the young people reflecting on how they contribute their voices to community, they are also reflecting on their own learning and starting to critically understand their roles within society.’

Thank you to the Big Lottery for funding Positive Futures London, and to the many organisations who have supported the programme with their involvement, but also by providing young people with opportunities to get involved.

Running in Hackney in 2019 we have ‘Futures East’, which is a programme empowering young people with additional needs to lead on social action projects. To find out more information about Futures East, visit our project page.

You can listen to the podcast on the Volunteering Matters Souncloud account, which you can find here or listen to below.