Geena Whiteman, member of the IARS Youth Advisory Board (YAB) gives her opinion of the UK Government's Civil Society Strategy, which was launched this month.

IARS and the YAB welcome the commitment from the Civil Society Strategy to engage young people and enhance their contribution to society through collaboration with policy makers. The 5 foundations of social value outlined in this strategy are People, Places, Social Sector, Public Sector and Private Sector. in which we agree need to collaborate to effectively build a Britain which works for everybody. Here at IARS, we actively endorse this collaboration across many of our projects and are working towards making Britain a better place for young people. We further encourage the involvement of young people in all consultations and believe young people should be classified as equal stakeholders in decision making, allowing them to build a better future for their own tomorrow.

The IARS International Institute is a user-led NGO, emphasising the importance of making users voices heard in matters that directly impact them. Whilst we fully support the strategy, we are disappointed that it fails to identify the obstacles that disadvantage young people today. Instead, the strategy merely outlines the need to get young people into the workforce. To proactively make Britain a “place which works for everybody”, we need to aim to tackle these inequalities and obstacles first. This is why at IARS, we currently run our NatWest sponsored –Skill Up project, Care 2 Work and the 99 percent campaign, all aiming to tackle the systemic roots of inequality here in London, and further afield. Projects such as Care 2 Work aim to generate and pilot new knowledge on the needs of BAME young carers with a goal of achieving institutional and cultural change in the UK and Europe. Our 99% Campaign is a youth-led initiative and participation programme aiming to make society more inclusive, fair and responsive to young people’s views and realities. It achieves its mission by giving direct voice to the most marginalised young people and by dispelling negative stereotypes. We hope that this change will help break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage for one of the most marginalised communities of our society.

Whilst aiming to tackle the roots of inequality, we also aim to encourage innovation and growth in young people, through our entrepreneurship projects such as Care 2 Entrepreneurship, Promyse, The Drop-In Project and EYEE. The Drop-In Project is a EU-wide project aiming to engage early school leavers into education, through the provision of a digital platform. Alongside this, our Promyse project aims to promote social entrepreneurship in the health/ social care sectors as an alternative pathway to youth self-sustainability, by developing the social entrepreneurship and business skills of unemployed youth. With the development of these programmes working in line with the EU Youth Strategy, we believe that by both tackling the problem and building solutions collaboratively we can forge a brighter and more secure future for generations to come.

In order to provide longevity to this strategy, true collaboration and equality of stakeholder value is necessary. The YAB are impressed by the increased importance of collaboration, and the increase in participatory democracy approach, however, to be fully inclusive, it must prioritise highlighting and resolving community-based issues first to target the root of these systemic issues.

With a strong Youth Advisory Board consulting on all our projects and a strong team of young interns and associates guiding our work forwards, IARS holds the voice of young people at the heart of everything we do. True collaboration involves engaging the voices of all young people, meaning a special focus on engaging those from disadvantaged backgrounds to come forward and speak up about issues concerning them in their communities. At IARS, we fully advocate for this by having a diverse Youth Advisory Board and many projects centred around empowering young people from various backgrounds across the UK and beyond. We are committed to supporting the implantation of this strategy, and continuing to elevate the voices of young people and civil society led youth service providers across the UK.

By Geena Whiteman
      Youth Advisory Board Member