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A sunny weekend in London – young people define priorities for BIG’s new investment

5 April 2012

Blog post by Reanna Vernon, 21

It was a sunny Sunday morning and as I left Manchester for London, I was looking forward to meeting with the design team and finding out what they had been up to over the weekend. My job as the Investment Team blogger is to make sure the outside world knows about the hard work we are doing to help BIG design its next investment in young people.

Reanna and Kelsey Talking

I interrogate Kelsey

As I entered BIG’s offices, everyone was bright-eyed and all smiles. After a full day of discussion, presentations and hard work the day before, I had to consider if this was for real! I mean, these nine young people had given up their entire weekend and were fully engaged in a presentation at 10am on a Sunday morning.

Intrigued and inspired, I called each member out for some “honesty time” and first asked how they thought the weekend was going. Each person expressed how much they were enjoying it:

“We covered so much interesting information.” Steven, 23, Newcastle

“There was so much food for thought.” Kelsey, 24, London

“It’s been really informative, I’ve learnt loads of statistics and the weekend has made us all become friends.” George, 17, Cornwall

When asked what their highlight of the weekend was, without hesitation each person listed many talks, discussions, information and events that not only made it fun, but very productive.

The design team meets Dharmendra Kanani, BIG's England Director and Albert Tucker, Vice-chair of BIG's England Committee

The design team meets Dharmendra Kanani and Albert Tucker from BIG’s England Committee

Outside input
On Saturday afternoon, the design team met with Albert Tucker, Vice-chair of BIG’s England Committee and BIG’s England Director Dharmendra Kanani. Jenna, (22, Liverpool) said this was her highlight as “they were genuinely interested in us and the programme.” Kelsey agreed, explaining, “Dharmendra genuinely and passionately offered his support.”

Jenna and Kelsey in discussion

Jenna and Kelsey deep in discussion

Everyone I asked highlighted a speaker from YoungMinds, Lucie Russell, confidently listing and exploring thestatistics she had given to them. Not only was the team able to gain a deeper insight into mental health issues facing young people in England today, they also gained invaluable skills in critically exploring issues as Micah (16, London) explained, “We got to question her and really find out if this should be a priority for BIG.”

Working with the wider investment team
It was clear this had been an important and productive weekend. But the nine young people in the design team are by no means working in isolation. Two other groups of young people are helping develop the investment – the learning team and the social media team. Along with the support of great staff from BIG, these twenty young people are working together to ensure young people from all over the country and from all ages and backgrounds can get involved and have their say.

Over the past few weeks the learning team have been providing research and looking at theories of change, while the social media team gather evidence, promote the investment and of course, blog!

Investment priorities
Using the input of these two other groups, the design team were able to spend the weekend exploring the issues young people and those who work with them had highlighted as priorities for the investment. These were:

  1. Unemployment 
  2. Mental health and wellbeing
  3. Young people’s portrayal in society

I asked each member of the design team why each area should be a priority for BIG.

Daniel (18, Essex) explained youth employment should be a priority area: “If BIG can do just a little part to show the opportunities that are out there, maybe young people will be more motivated.” He highlighted that it is important to “stay positive and find a role model who can guide you” when looking for work.

For Vicky (20, Birmingham), tackling mental health issues is key, as they are “such a complex issues and can affect everyone – we really need to get to the heart of the matter.”

Discussing the negative media image of young people, Topes (20, London) told me, “It’s a major issue as the media has influence over everyone and no matter which paper you read, you rarely find a good story about young people.”

Jashmin, (23, London) agrees that the media could do more to combat negative perceptions: “The media only ever put out the most catchy story… they just gave a basic story of a hero and a villain without exploring the underlying issues, which really doesn’t help.”

John Taylor from BIG talks to the team

John Taylor from BIG talks to the team

Each member had been doing a lot of critical thinking over the weekend and it was clear that they all felt these issues were very interlinked. Negative images of young people coupled with not having a job might mean a young person has a poor concept of self, low motivation or mental health issues – and visa versa.

Looking at these issues has not been straightforward, but the weekend allowed the design team to focus on the key issues and come up with some potential solutions.
One thing we all agree on is that young people in England do face many issues and this BIG investment really needs to make impact!

The design team talk about what it’s like to work on such a BIG investment

Download a transcript of this video

What’s next?
The whole investment team will meet again on 21 April to develop our recommendations for BIG’s England Committee. Before then, we’d love to hear from other young people and groups that work with them. In particular:

  • we really want to hear about the major issues facing young people with mental health issues and learn more about projects and activities that have been really successful in improving people’s lives.
  • we want your views on how to build young people’s resilience and prepare them to deal with life situations.
  • If you have some interesting content relating to any of our priority areas – a video, blog, piece of research, picture – we’d like to see it please! Post it to our Facebook page.

Here’s how you can get in touch
Like our Facebook page

Follow #BIGyp on Twitter

Subscribe to the BIG Blog

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 9 April 2012 4:53 pm

    This looks like a terrific co-design process, with some great blogging. I hope we can link up with the exploration Tim Davies and I are doing with Nominet Trust into how digital technologies can support young people to engage socially and economically with their communities. I’ve made the connection in this post on Reanna – or anyone in the group – we could be delighted if you would like to blog a piece for us.

  2. 13 April 2012 7:03 am

    Always good to see lottery proceeds going to good causes. Very heartwarming and decent initaitive. Good Work!

  3. 23 April 2012 2:31 pm

    Not all the lottery players realise how big their contribution to good causes are. It is really heartwarming to see these good initiatives.


  1. BIG co-designs its new investment with young people, openly | socialreporters

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