After having been a member of the #iwill Youth Advisory Panel for the Virgin Money Foundation, I have seen the impact and importance of giving young people a voice in governance.
From the start of the programme, the Panel were given an equal footing to our ‘professional’ counterparts, influencing the way in which we worked together and how we made our opinions known. Rather than expecting adults to guess the ways in which we work best, this gave us the opportunity to play to our unique set of strengths and knowledge. Young people’s skills and expertise are not limited to what it means to be a young person, and the Youth Advisory Panel gave us the opportunity to make the most of our knowledge by giving us a seat in trustee meetings, on site visits and throughout the funding decision making process.
Just as diversity of gender, sexuality, socio-economic background and other characteristics provide valuable insights to governance, as does age. Society may be forcing children to grow up much quicker than they used to, but this has created a unique generation of young people who can communicate their experiences, concerns and ideas in an incredibly insightful way. Now more than ever, young people are the experts in lived experience of mental health, being a carer or living with the impact of gang violence to name a few. It would be short-sighted of the charity sector to ignore this valuable resource when designing programmes that are designed to help both young people and wider society.
As our generation of young people develop into the next generation of leaders, programmes such as the Youth Advisory Board will have provided us with a head-start in learning how to change society for the better, creating a sustainable and future-proof structure of governance that involves all perspectives.
#iwill Take Action Fund Youth Advisory Panel Member