Making a real difference: working with Esmée to involve young people
Thalia Papanicolaou and Samuel Zubair from our Involving Young People Collective (IYPC) reflect on their time so far at Esmée. They discuss the opportunities for leadership and training that have been provided, how the experience allowed for personal development as the project progresses and how they're making a real difference to how Esmée works already.
We can make a real difference not only in the amount of young people who are directly involved, but also in the way that organisations conduct themselves as we bring a fresh perspective to practices that are often thought of as the norm.
Expectations and accountability
Sam: When the IYPC began, I expected it to be a fun, energising, and refreshing experience. For me, this was communicated in initial meetings, where we decided amongst ourselves what we wanted to gain from working as a group - including what areas we wanted to develop over the course of our time together.
Thalia: From the get go, there has been an emphasis on development and collaboration. When we broke into working groups, we were given the opportunity to decide which skills we wanted to contribute to the Collective, as well as ones which we wanted to improve on further. I was certainly keen to develop my social media & comms skills, so I joined that sub-group, which meant I could apply what I learn to other projects I’m working on. For others, the opportunity to lead subgroups offered individual responsibility for the different streams of work. Throughout this process I’ve been appreciative of the fact that our capacity as students or people in full-time employment has been taken into consideration. This way we are able to develop in a way that is sustainable, and doesn’t lead to burn-out!
Sam & Thalia: The fact that we’ve been given a lot of responsibility means that we’re also expected to be accountable for the work that we produce. I think this is a further opportunity for development as often projects involving young people can be on the more tokenistic side. This way, we are able to take full ownership of what we’re doing and be certain of the fact that we had full control of what we produce. Furthermore, whenever we discuss our ideas with the staff at Esmée, they’ve been very open and receptive - never rejecting ideas, but being very honest with telling us what they agree with and what we can improve on.
I think that the approach of the IYPC should be more widely adopted! Having the space to explore and research as well as develop personally means that the results that we have produced have been really authentic and considered.
Involving Young People - opportunities for us but also for organisations
Sam: I believe that the IYPC can become a network of consultants that can go into any organisation and provide advice where young people's voices need to be heard, across different industries as well as the charity sector. Given how open the team at Esmée has been to our suggestions, I’m sure that we can make a real impact across the charity sector in particular as leaders in how to involve young people.
Thalia: We can make a real difference not only in the amount of young people who are directly involved, but also in the way that organisations conduct themselves as we bring a fresh perspective to practices that are often thought of as the norm. One way this is being put into practice is through the grant shadowing that we are currently doing. Members of the Collective have been able to indicate which themes they are passionate about and apply this to active grant applications. In my experience, grant managers have expressed that we have already changed the way that they think about some applications. This has been particularly evident in the fact that some applicants are now bringing young people along to assessment calls so that there is a stronger emphasis on testimonial and the experiences of young people! Not only has the Collective been able to learn more about how the grant-making process works, but we’ve also been able to actively influence and change the way it’s conducted at the same time. It has been an exciting experience for Collective members and Esmée staff alike!
Thalia: Overall, I think the IYPC is a great development opportunity for young people, especially if they’re interested in the charity sector and philanthropy in general. I’ve felt that the emphasis has been on us as experts in representing the interests of young people, as we’ve come from organisations that do this well. Being able to apply this whilst also developing skills that I want to improve on has been a refreshing experience, as usually projects are only results driven. I think that the approach of the IYPC should be more widely adopted! Having the space to explore and research as well as develop personally means that the results that we have produced have been really authentic and considered.
Thalia Papanicolaou, IYPC member at Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
Thalia is currently studying International Studies at Leiden University. She co-organises the Climate Justice Collective of the Advocacy Academy’s alumni network, working on the issue of intersectional youth representation. She is a Young Trustee on the board for the Advocacy Academy, helping to steer the future of the organisation as it grows. She is also currently involved in ‘Influuenzers’, the Advocacy Academy Alumni response to the COVID-19 crisis, creating content related to the pandemic, hoping to educate her community and hold the Government to account as we come out of lockdown.
Samuel Zubair, IYPC member at Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
Samuel is a UWE MEng Aerospace Systems Engineer graduate with a passion for diversity within all industries. Sam was also a former UWE African Caribbean Society President, STEM ambassador and part of the Young Collective for the Bristol Museum. He has created a podcast and creative piece in conjunction with the museum to shine a light on the Benin Bronze and the decolonisation of museums which was showcased to the wider community of Bristol and was featured on the BBC. Sam is also a poet and works full time as a Project Engineer. He is originally from Edmonton, London and has strong connections to his Nigerian roots.