UK Youth Parliament (Spotlight Project)

Umar Kankiya talks about his work for the UK Youth Parliament

What is your project about? How long has it been running?
The UK Youth Parliament is an organisation that was set up with the premise of giving young people a voice on a local, regional and national level. This is done by having young people from all walks of life who put themselves forward to stand for election on particular issues that they are facing and campaign on it through a variety of ways to help make a difference for other young people. The UK Youth Parliament has been around now since 2000.

Describe your role on the project?
My role in the UK Youth Parliament is that of being the London Region Coordinator. What this entails is that I am responsible for helping to facilitate the work of the elected Youth MP’s and Deputy Youth MP’s to work on various campaigns and projects that they want to make a change and difference in. An example of this is that last year, the region was campaigning around the issues to do with Gun and Knife Crime, Sex and Relationship Education and Youth Provisions.

What is the aim of your project?
The aim of the project was to culminate in an event (Youth In The City at the Ministry of Sound) that would see young people from across London come together, to feed their views and opinions and solutions around the issues and then for that to be presented to the government ministers, whose ministries it affected to see how young people can best be involved to continue with making a difference in these areas.

How are children and young people involved in your project?
How they have been involved is that the young people have been the ones who have driven the project from the beginning. From setting up meetings with the venue, getting the performers and publicity together, right up to the actual running of the event itself. They have been the driving force, and everything that has happened has been as a result of what they have wanted to see for this project.

What has been the key outcomes/ learning from the project so far?
The key outcomes that have come out from this project so far has been that young people want more opportunities to talk about these particular issues and want more to be done by government to act on these issues. With particular regard to young people being the ones who are sitting on the decision making bodies to ensure that a youth voice is heard when solutions are being formulated.

What are the key success factors of the project?
The key success factors of the project have been the dedication and drive of the young people that have been involved. As they have been the ones that came up with the idea of the project in the first place, they have been the ones who have ensured that their vision for the project has been met.

What have been the key benefits of the project to young people?
The key benefits of the project to young people have been that they have been able to take a big lead and have learnt many skills along the way. As well as this, it has given the young people the opportunity to express themselves and to take on responsibilities that they may not have had the opportunity to have before, such as organising, planning and implementing such a big event.

What barriers have you experienced when setting up and delivering the project and how were they overcome?
Some of the barriers that they faced when setting up the project involved, trying to find out a date / time that would be good, to have a wide range of young people to be able to attend. Another barrier was trying to do an event that was engaging, educational and entertaining, as many times when discussing these topics, it tends to be in a formal way and the challenge was to get the young people to do it in a way that meant it was fresh, innovative and out of the box and this is what they achieved.

In your opinion, what has been the most significant thing about this project in terms of engaging children and young people to participate in decision-making/ have their say?
The most significant thing about this project has been the way the young people formed a steering group from the region and then were the ones who took complete control with regards to how the project was going to be run, from things like booking a venue, right up to hosting the event itself, including serving lunch to over 500 attendees! For me what this project had shown was that if you believe in the work the young people want to do and you support them enough, they will always deliver and this was a prime example in this instance.

If you could give your top tip to anyone who wants to develop a project in this area what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to let young people make mistakes and learn from them. There was many times when the group wanted to do certain things, which did not work out, but rather then throw in the towel they looked at what went wrong, rectified it and moved on. Also don’t be afraid to think outside the box and not use conventional tried and tested methods. One of the key reasons for the success of this project and why it engaged so many young people was because the young people who were involved, tore up the rule book and created a new one and did it the way that they wanted to do it, and what was seen on that day was the vision of the young people brought to life.

Participation Works is a partnership of…
British Youth CouncilChildren's Rights Alliance for EnglandKIDSNational Council for Voluntary Youth ServicesNational Youth AgencyNCB