Unleashing the Power of Youth

Amanda Naylor OBE, Chief Executive of Volunteering Matters discusses the importance of supporting and enabling youth social action.

Young people, 10 of which are in a room posing for the camera
Young people at the Power of Youth Day event in Blackpool

At the heart of Blackpool, the Backlot Cinema served as the perfect backdrop for the Power of Youth Day event. This beloved community gathering place was alive with the energy of young people, adults, and stakeholders from across Blackpool, the Fylde Coast and the wider region. After the vibrant and lively discussions, we sat down with Amanda Naylor OBE, Chief Executive of Volunteering Matters to discuss the importance of events like this and the value of youth social action in communities.

Q: How was your experience at the Power of Youth Day in Blackpool?

Amanda Naylor: Today, on the Power of Youth Day, I’ve been fortunate enough to come to Blackpool with an amazing group of #iwill Ambassadors to really launch the #iwill Movement across Blackpool and the Fylde Coast. We’ve been discussing youth social action, the difference young people make, and the talents, skills, and diversity they bring to our towns. It’s crucial that young people are involved in shaping and leading decisions across the area.

Q: How does your organisation create the conditions for young people to lead?

Amanda Naylor: Volunteering Matters co-hosts the #iwill Movement with UK Youth. As the new CEO, it’s enlightening to see the different ways young people can gain and share power. We provide an environment where young people lead programs and make decisions by creating space and offering support. We avoid focusing solely on KPIs and instead ask young people what matters to them and what they want to change in their communities.

Quite often, young people choose big, difficult issues, and we work with them every step of the way to make a difference and change things locally. Having been a youth worker for 30 years, I thought I had seen it all, but what #iwill does is truly unique. You can feel the energy and difference when young people lead the movement, supported by adults providing space, money, and resources. The magic happens when they work through these problems together. Today, we’ve already seen young people addressing issues based on their lived experiences and what is important to them.

Q: Why is youth social action critical for place-based change?

Amanda Naylor: So today, one of the #iwill Ambassadors who’s travelled up from Manchester to engage and support other young people in Blackpool said on the panel debate today that, 20% of young people make up the population, but 100% of the future. And that’s really stuck with me today. That’s something I’m going to take away and remember and think about, because how can we in geographies, in places like Blackpool, of Fylde and at the towns and cities across the UK, how can we really be future facing and looking at what our younger generation is going to inherit? And how are they going to lead those communities as they move into adulthood and make space for other young people coming behind if they are not at the forefront of change now?

A few weeks ago, I was at the Ipswich Hope Hack, where young people identified a need for a safeguarding system they feel safe in. This is the core of what #iwill does—it cuts through bureaucratic processes and policies, highlighting what isn’t working and what needs to change, based on the lived experiences of young people today. Youth social action enables us to work alongside young people to make these changes now, ensuring a better future for others.

That’s what excites us all. We want change. We want our young people to be safe, secure, and develop the skills and abilities that will serve them in adulthood, while also ensuring the next generation has a better deal. The children and young people of Blackpool deserve a brighter future, and through youth social action, we can help achieve that.

Q: What is your call to action for organisations?

Amanda Naylor:  The challenge for all of us is; are we going to #BeThatPerson? Are we going to stand alongside young people? Are we going to enable them to really claim the power of youth and make a difference in their communities? There’s lots of things you can do. Support, listen, advocate, share resource but also sign the Power of Youth Charter. Show your support externally. Encourage others to sign the Power of Youth Charter. Talk about #iwill, share our videos, really show communities what young people are achieving, and the power of youth is something that’s here and here to stay.

Feeling inspired?

The Power of Youth Day in Blackpool highlighted the incredible impact young people can have when given the opportunity and support to lead. As Amanda emphasised, by creating spaces where youth voices are heard and valued, we can foster a generation of leaders equipped to shape a better future for all.

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