Through our New Spaces for Leadership and Learning programme, Space Unlimited has developed a youth-led enquiry approach that enables young people to work alongside their schools, local youth service providers and community anchor organisations to establish new services and opportunities for young people in their local communities that address the attainment gap. Our high level goals were to:
- Encourage young people, as school students and as citizens, to become more active participants in influencing and initiating change in their communities;
- Build collaborative capacity in communities, and among young people in particular, to sustain a dialogue about their shared needs and aspirations;
- Break down artificial boundaries between schools and their communities that act as barriers and open up rich learning that draws on the diverse assets within communities;
- Identify the links between such experiences and pupil achievement/ performance in school in ways and thereby support the design of a more relevant curriculum that genuinely prepares young people for life and work.
We have been working in two Glasgow communities - Gorbals and Govanhill in order to:
- Build the confidence and capacity of young people to create opportunities in their communities to support them as learners.
- Co-design a model for sustainable youth leadership and engagement in Gorbals and Govanhill that might be replicable in other communities.
We’ve partnered with New Gorbals Housing Association and Govanhill Housing Association, as well as local schools and youth service providers. Over the last year, 196 young people, aged 11-17, have participated in the programme. 76% of those involved, say they feel more confident to offer ideas and opinions and share these with others in their community and a number of ideas are being developed with young people. These include:
- ‘Community Shapers’ programme to engage young people as designers of local learning opportunities
- A peer support group for high school students
- Events designed and managed by young people
- Community outreach programme with a local theatre
- Local ventures to develop practical skills like woodworking and cookery.
Together we have a developed a new model for youth-led enquiry in which the school, local youth service providers and community anchor organisations are delivery partners. We are excited about the potential to adapt and replicate this model in other places.
"It felt good to be part of the youth-led events planning group. I liked that I could lead something that might help other young people in the Gorbals. It was great to share ideas, get ideas from other young people then plan stuff…. I also got to talk to lots of different people at events to hear what they thought. I felt really happy doing this, especially when we did the questionnaire. We got some good ideas and it helped me to know that we really were going to do this for real. I think I was happy because even though we were doing all this work I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out brilliant When I think about the whole experience of planning an event I realise I have learnt some things. I learned how to budget, to get better at communicating with others. I used to hold back a bit when I had something to say. I don’t hold back as much now. The youth workers helped me to talk more and share what opinions I had. They were good at asking me questions that helped me to think about things. I think youth-led planning is good because you need to know different young people’s ideas. Not just the adult’s ideas. I don’t mean that in a bad way it’s just better if the adults just listen so we can tell them what we need."
"In communities where young people are often viewed negatively, Space Unlimited see only innate potential. They help young people realise their skills, strengths and abilities plus their ability to identify solutions and bring positive change. Staff give young people space and time, carefully building relationships and trust. They enable young people to grow in confidence by skilfully communicating and adapting approaches to get the best out of engagements. In Govanhill we are already seeing the impact of Space Unlimited’s approach through youth-led activity, but specifically in young local residents whose skills are being developed so effectively."
We like to let young people do the talking; hear directly from the participants in our Community Shapers video.