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Monday, 13 November 2017

#TrusteesWeek 2017 - A Young Trustee's View

Young Trustees make up 2% of UK Charity Trustees, despite research that 85% of people aged under 35 would consider becoming a trustee”- Charities Aid Foundation

It was September the 2nd, the day after my job contract finished, the day after I had moved out of my home in Cardiff. I travelled to London, waking up at 4AM (I had fallen asleep next to my rucksack a few hours before) in order to make it to the British Youth Council Annual Council Meeting in time, to find out if I was to be voted in to join their board of trustees. It was one of the most stressful periods of my life. And with my successful election, it launched one of the most rewarding.

I’m Joe, I’ve just graduated from Cardiff University, and I’ve been involved in the charity sector here in Wales for the duration of my degree. I have just become a trustee of the British Youth Council, a nationwide organisation who give a voice to young people, and works toward a world where young people are respected, and able to really influence and inform decisions that affect their lives. We’ve just finished Make Your Mark 2017, a vote of over 950,000 young people, with a House of Commons sitting for our Youth Parliament, for young representatives from across the UK. I know Cardiff’s own MYP got the chance to speak, which I was very pleased to see. I am incredibly passionate about our cause, and I think we fill a niche and support a demographic that deserves excellent support.

I find being a trustee immensely challenging, and rewarding.

For the bulk of this blog, I’ll spell out the three biggest challenges unique to being a young trustee (which I haven’t experienced at BYC, just to be clear):

Number 1: “You’re 18-25, what do you know?”

It should be no surprise to know that the average age of a trustee is 57. Many organisations who represent and support young people won’t have a young person within several miles of the board room, where decisions are made that matter, decisions which really affect the lives of those young people. As a young person who has represented Wales at an international level, there are three main bodies of response when a young person talks in a room of older people. Either heads lean forward and pay attention, people ignore you, or people say “Ooh isn’t it nice that we’ve got the young person to do something”. I’ve put those in order of my preference to receive, because there is nothing as demeaning as tokenism. I’ll order in big foam hands for my next speech, for the best patronising hair ruffles. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a huge body of people who care, and who listen, and who challenge. And I love that, and it leads into my next point.

Number 2 – “I don’t agree with you, and here’s why”.

This is subjective, but there is nothing I enjoy more than being disagreed with. (“Yes there is, Joe” etc) I get bored as a young person of being treated like ‘a really really great young person’, because you don’t get listened to when you’re a ‘really really great young person’. No-one challenges your opinion. It is by getting young people into positions where they can vocalise the issues of other young people fairly, without special treatment, in which we learn firstly our importance, and secondly we learn to find our place. As someone once told me when discussing charity roles, we learn "when to shut up". And that is also crucial. Making young people not 'special voices who are beyond reproach'. 

I think that might be why sometimes there is less appetite from charities for appointing a young person to their board, this idea of young people + soapbox = obnoxiousness.  And I am sure that is a true formula. But if the box is removed from day one, and young people are on equal footing, there is no temptation towards the end result. 

Number 3 – The deep end

As a young person in a governance position, I am hugely lucky in that I have friends who are experts in their respective fields who I can quiz. A close friend works for Barclays, she broke down a balance sheet for me, taught me how to read it. A kind soul at WCVA talked through charity finances, another kind soul at WCVA ran through data protection and GDPR implementation tips with me. I am also lucky that on the board of the British Youth Council is an amazing network of skills and abilities which I can tap into, and learn from. I didn’t come from a youth politics or a finance background, I come from a youth work/social action/Comms background. They are my specialties. But I can lean on those in the board who have other abilities to myself. And that is really important when you work with young people in governance like this. In Leon Ward’s words, “it’s about nurturing and harnessing the talent of future givers, philanthropists, thought leaders, chief executives and charity staff”.  

We as young people are the future of all sectors, the charity sector isn’t exempt from that. If you as an organisation are looking to get young people involved where it matters, able to get their hands dirty, to learn, and to eventually take the reins one day, I loudly encourage you to do so. If you are an organisation that works with young people, I encourage you doubly so. There are young people that really want to get involved in charity governance, a whole lot of us.

Give us a chance.

Inspire change.

#Trusteesweek

Helpful resources:






Tuesday, 7 November 2017

#IWill week: November 20th- 24th 2017

Social action is practical action in the service of others that creates positive change”

#IWill week is upon us. This week we celebrate the thousands upon thousands of young people across the United Kingdom who lead social action, who inspire others, and who create positive change in their communities. Hundreds of organisations will be holding events to shine a light on these young people, Social Action Awards will be held, there will be workshops, and there will be cake. By the end of the 2016 #IWill week, 670 organisations had made a pledge to support the #IWill campaign and to support young people, by the end of the 2017 #IWill week, I hope even more organisations make a pledge, and get involved.

What is an #IWill pledge? How can I get involved?

This pledge is a promise, made by an organisation, to young people. This pledge can offer a variety of things, some examples include:
·         To inspire and empower young people to get involved in social action
·         To put social action at the heart of my school, college or university
·         To develop new, youth-friendly social action opportunities
·         To ensure young people have a voice and are represented in decision-making.
All of these examples centre around one thing, and that is enabling young people to engage in meaningful, positive change.
An organisation signs up to a pledge, and then holds itself to that pledge, with support from the IWill team, and the IWill ambassadors, signing itself up to a campaign backed by leaders from across UK society, led by HRH Prince of Wales, with support from all major political parties.

Why get involved?

Simply put, it’s worth it.

42% of 10-20 year olds took part in meaningful social action in 2016. The Office for National Statistics puts this age range (10-20 year olds) at roughly 19% of the population of the UK.  What a huge demographic. What a charitably involved demographic. Organisations ranging from Comic Relief to o2 to the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner for Surrey support that demographic in what they do. These 670 organisations are putting their deeds where their words are, and committing to creating a more socially engaged group of young people. That benefits everyone in society, all the way up the scale. The Scouts have made an #IWill pledge – they run the “A Million Hands” project, looking to support those suffering dementia, among other groups.

I for one wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t get involved in Social Action work in my second year of University. I went from being inherently shy and lacking confidence to knowing my strengths, to knowing the good I could do, and to knowing how I could do that good for the benefit of others. That’s the most powerful reason to me for supporting the #IWill campaign. It gave me direction and it connected me to organisations who wanted to do good for the benefit of others. Knowing you are not alone in what you do is an inherent human need, #IWill connects and supports through its work.

I cannot encourage enough participation in its work, I cannot encourage enough the change in young people’s lives it creates. I am a trustee for one of the UK’s biggest youth organisations, and I do a lot of charity work across Wales. I’ve worked for WCVA (A Welsh umbrella charity that looks after thousands of Welsh organisations) for several months. I’m not saying this for brownie points, I’m saying this to make the point that 2 years of involvement with #IWill organisations changed my life. I also mention my trusteeship for a reason, it is crucial that young people are on charity boards, especially those with a youth focus. In 2010, 0.5% of trustees were aged 18-24, a tiny number. Pledge to change that. Pledge to support. Because with support, #IWill can be that touch-paper that other young people can light, and take part in, and change their lives too, for the benefit of all in society.

Get involved.


Change lives. 

Friday, 8 September 2017

Home again (And why I am learning the importance of Time)

So last week I packed my bags, filled cardboard boxes and made the trip back to my parents.

I am now in Northampton till the end of the month.

When I made the decision to go back, I had a lot of conflicting thoughts, namely:
1. Why? Why am I going back when I intentionally went so far away?
2. Can I cope with the lack of independence that living with parents entails again?
3. Is this regressive?
And 4. I need some time off.

That number 4 is the crucial argument, the one that won me over.
I have been working full-time, from the day after my last exam till last Friday. I have created four pieces of national work, I have developed some good practice and I have learned a hell of a lot with one of the biggest charitable organisations in Wales.

Because of that, life has passed in a bit of a blur since that magical letter telling me I had secured my 2:1.
I have tried to see as many friends as I can, and as many members of my family as I can, but when you're working full time, about three hours away from most of your family/friends, it's difficult.

Last weekend I secured a position, beginning October, as a British Youth Council Trustee, something I've wanted to be for several years, with an organisation I have represented for the last 18 months. I am so proud of myself for that, and the desire to move immediately back to Wales and begin working in the not-for-profit sector is immense.
But that's not what I need right now, I think.

I need a few weeks of downtime, I need a few weeks of catching up on Game of Thrones, and drinking hot chocolate, and conquering the world in any game that lets me.
And I need to breathe, and go to the pub with friends, and have long, essentially meaningless conversations about politics and life and growing up.

I need some time off.

That's a very difficult 5 words for me. My Father is the same, we have had many conversations about our innate desire to always be busy.
The problem is, if you're working full-time, and your head is consumed with work, you miss the fun of the fair.
The golden rule is working to live, and I'd like to add a caveat.
"Work to Live, occasionally don't work and enjoy it."
Not as catchy, but just as important.

I find it incredibly easy to throw myself into things. Then several months later I lift my head out of the project and realise I need some time to myself.
The biggest lesson I guess I'm learning is being kind to me.

I'm certain that's a lesson I will continue to learn till the day I die.

I am proud of myself. That's a sentence I didn't think I'd be saying about five years ago. I am so well positioned to do what I want to do. That's another sentence I didn't think I'd be saying about five years ago.
It's time to relax a bit, eat, drink, and catch up with people I care about. I'll do that till the end of the month, and then throw myself back into everything.
I think I deserve that much.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

A letter to 18 year old Me (part 2)

Hi, I am Joe. 

I've just graduated from Cardiff University, with a BA in Ancient History & Religious Studies. I'm now working as much as possible in Cardiff, in the not-for-profit sector, and I am really enjoying it.

I've changed a lot over the past three years, this right here is a part 2 of a letter to me, three years ago.
(Part 1 is here)
------------

Hi again, Joe from three years ago.

I don't know about you, but I really enjoyed writing some life tips to you last week. 

I've got a final five for you, if you're not bored sick of me. Well, I hope you're not, because you're me. This got very existential.

6. Indulge creativity
There's a time in a few years where you have a full-time job, and bills to pay. Right now, you've got the most time you'll ever have in the world, and you'd better use it. Spend a day with the guitar. Start drawing again. Enjoy creating for the pleasure of creating, not for any other reason. And bloody hell, believe in yourself you dweeb. Part of that is consuming creativity too, stop watching crap tv, I know it's a novel concept to be able to watch telly, but seriously, pick up a book. Read some poetry. Watch good films. Be a #CulchaVulcha for a bit, and enjoy it. Ooh and podcasts/Radio 4/audio books.

7. Cook
I guess this pointer is a bit like No#6, but it's something you'll really love in the future. 
Have you ever made pancakes with blueberries and cream? 
No? They're great. 
Have you ever made proper pad thai?
No? It's great.
And you'll make an amazing pasta bake, like, you'll just take the tray upstairs, screw bowls.
If you start now, you might know what herbs are, and I'd really appreciate that now.

One day you will be designated pancake maker for your house; it's a heavy burden, but a tasty one.

8. Stop wearing that jacket, you know the one
'Nuff said.

9. Start thinking about what you care about
This is a biggie. Right now,  you're a big mouth, with a veneer of intelligence. You really really think you know everything about every topic under the sun. 

I hate to break it to you flower, but you ain't jack. You're about to meet people your age who are experts in their respective fields, you'll meet some stupidly clever people. Stop nodding along without knowing what they are talking about, stop trying to look intelligent, listen to them instead. Ask dumb questions. 
"Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than open it and remove all doubt" doesn't apply to learning. 
Because honestly, you are going to get some really good opportunities in the near future, be brave in them. Take every opportunity to learn. 

10. Think about your past, carefully.
Role models will dominate your head a bit, guaranteed. A few will surprise you. A few will shock you. A few will raise so high in your estimation. Be willing for that change to happen, and also:
Be willing for that unshakeable pride in your upbringing to whirl around your head for a year or two.
That will dominate your thoughts.
All that pride in the empathy, people skills, maturity, don't trust it. I'm coming back to the conclusion of the last little letter, but trust your family, and trust your close friends, and don't trust much else. 

Love you, you little git. 

All best

Future Joe.    
xxx

Monday, 7 August 2017

A letter to 18 year old Me (part 1)

Hi, I am Joe. 

I've just graduated from Cardiff University, with a BA in Ancient History & Religious Studies. I'm now working as much as possible in Cardiff, in the not-for-profit sector, and I am really enjoying it.

I've changed a lot over the past three years, this right here is a letter to me, three years ago.
------------

Hi Joe three years ago. 

What a smelly boy you are. Good music taste though. That guitar you don't put down will be a really good friend to you, look after it. 

Here are a few words of advice, from future you. Hope they're helpful. 

And seriously, have a shower.

1. Takeaways are wonderful. But don't get them every week, they're really expensive.
That big loan and grant you have, don't spend it on takeaways. I know, you come from a family that didn't do takeaways. And it's so easy isn't it, to treat your body really badly, when quick tasty MSGy (it's a word) food is just round the corner. But the novelty factor of them will wear off, after way too much money spent on a variety of Chinese food that a Chinese person will punch you for calling Chinese food. And God it's not good for you. Future you will need to eat healthy for a few months at the end of University to drop that tummy.

2. Packed lunch
Spend £7 a week on lunch, big sandwiches/yogurts/grapes/crisps. 
Spend £17.50 a week on lunch, pasta/drink/crisps. 
Meal deals are the same as number 1, convenience = expensive (and not as filling as homemade)
This one's a no-brainer. Stop playing FIFA and drinking all the time, spend ten minutes making yourself lunch. Go on. You'll have so much more money to drink with. 

3. Blog more/Write more
Write a blog, boy. My blog has been for me, one of the most enjoyable explorations of self & ideas over the last few years. My journal similarly, the one you haven't written yet, has been amazing fun, and quite poignant every now and then. I find writing about my day, every day, is such a good habit, because in 5 years time when I look back to the 'bliss of university' I'll remember the mold on the ceilings and the bowl of plain pasta for dinner you just ate. 
In a less negative light, blogging and writing will create some awesome opportunities for you later. If you start now, who knows, future you could get paid to do it.

4. Do the things you enjoy
You will one day stop caring what people think of you so much. I know, I know. The crippling anxiety of what the person in the flat next door thinks of your new shirt is painful, but you won't live near them for much longer. Soon you'll be living with some equally awesome people, and you know that imagination you have, you'll be playing all sorts of awesome games that use that imagination. You'll meet some of the coolest people in your life, and have some amazing conversations with them. Stay close to them. Stay close to people who are just as odd as you are, and who don't care about it.

5. Trust your support network, you dummy
Sorry to say it, but there's going to be a lot of hurt in your next three years. You're going to get kicked about a bit, punched about a bit, and occasionally mistreated. The police won't be too much use, and I'm sorry about that. But remember, you little shit, you have one of the best and most supportive groups of friends you could hope for. Use them. You know your Dad? He's actually pretty good at listening for an hour to your ramblings. You know your sister? Believe it or not, she's experienced a lot of what you have, being your sister and everything, and she cares about you. You know your friends? Well you will lose a few, but the ones who stick around are the most worthwhile people in your life. They'll really help. And those takeaways I mentioned at the start? Don't feel bad about getting them sometimes, when you're feeling really low. I don't mind eating healthy now, so you can feel a little bit better on that evening. You'll know the one I mean. 

And look, me from three years ago, I know you didn't think it would be possible, but you turn out to be alright. You have a few amazing friends, too. You will develop. You will quite like you in a few years time. 

Sorry for getting emotional on you. I'll write to you in a few days with some more things you might want to know. 

------

Sunday, 23 July 2017

I hate dancing in the rain

There's a really interesting quote I heard recently: "It's never your successful friends who share inspirational quotes".

I had a big think about that statement. I am naturally quite a cynical person, a Christian upbringing has taught me to sniff out hypocrisy from a hundred yards. So I was pre-disposed to agree here. It ticked my box of hating quotes like "It's not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about dancing in the rain".
Grrrrrrrrr that quote makes me want to break every picture and rip every tee-shirt emblazoned with it.
The pure butterflies and everything is happy-ness of it incites a primal rage inside me, in a way only queue-jumpers and people who walk slowly normally incite.
(How British am I?)

Don't get me wrong, I bloody love a good quote - I started my last blog with one - but the sheer twee-ness of some occasionally drives me up the wall.

NB. I think, just to restore my faith in quotes (and to balance out the good/bad ratio of quotes in this blog), I'm going to put in some bangers for the rest of the piece.

I eventually calmed myself down from that pinnacle of rage, and had another think. I realised that there was a time a few years ago, hell, 12 months ago, that I worked in epiphanies.

I'd go through a funk of making it through days, being directionless, ("If a man does not know to what port he is sailing, no wind is favourable" - Seneca the Younger) days were obstacles to climb over until the next thing happened. Then every few weeks, I'd watch a really inspirational video, or I'd see the most beautiful sunset, and then for the next day or two I would smash life, doing all my work, eating healthy, staying on top of everything, and nicely tiring myself out for a few weeks until the next inspirational video or beautiful sunset came along.

The thing was, I didn't have any responsibilities, I didn't have things to do. I could afford to be directionless.

University began to change that, I suppose. But starting full-time work again was a bigger challenge to my epiphany-led life. Before I had others relying on me, I could afford to share inspirational quotes to Facebook, because I could afford to live a life of peaks and troughs.
I guess that is part of growing up, isn't it. I guess that's part of not being quite such a hormonal shotgun of emotion all the time.

I have noticed a lot of blogs I write are about things I realise. And every few months I'd look back on the last blog, and have developed a more refined understanding of thing X I cataclysmically realised all that time ago.

I guess that was my own form of inspirational quotes.

For me, life's not about inspirational quotes, life's not about constant 'epiphanies'. It's about the slow grind of progress, edging your way towards something you believe in. And God, I'm young. I've got all the time in the world to slowly grind towards something I believe in.

The only 'inspirational' 'motivational' thing I have in my life, and it's right at the front, and the only one you might ever see me share, is about not working to sustain.

Whatever I do, I want to create.
Whatever I do, I want to be in the deep end.
To quote a song from a very different time in my life: Whatever I do, I never want to be comfortable.
As long as I'm out of my depth, I'm happy.
"Then on the shore of the wide world I stand alone, and think till love and fame to nothingness do sink." - John Keats

Monday, 17 July 2017

*BREAKING* Votes@16 in Wales?

Starting today, Welsh government are introducing a consultation on electoral reform, designed to make voting more accessible and more available. It's to be a 12 week consultation, with some fairly major changes being discussed. 
When it's all said and done, it looks to implement the biggest change to the Welsh electoral system since 1970 - when the voting age was lowered to 18. 

Here are the highlights of the new Local Government Bill:
  • 16-17 year olds given the right to vote in council elections, under powers given to the Welsh National Assembly under the Wales Act
  • Councils given the right to determine whether they implement a First-Past-The-Post system, or a Single Transferable Vote
  • Electronic voting at polling stations, and mobile polling stations
  • Welsh Government are examining whether all foreign citizens resident in Wales should have the right to vote in local elections
  • A "root and branch" review of town and community councils
You will have heard this blog demand Votes@16 for a long time now. Theresa May and the Tories are the only major six party to oppose it. Cabinet Secretary for Local Government Mark Drakeford, agrees: "There’s no reason why 16 and 17 year olds can marry, pay taxes and join the army but can’t vote in our elections." With turnout of 18-24 year olds at a high in the last general election - around 55%, and turnout of Scottish youngsters in the Scottish referendum at a huge 77%, there is no better time. 

However as British Youth Council chair of Trustees Anna Rose Barker states, "what is severely lacking is the government's response to young people" . She is correct. UK politics seems to view young people as a nice sub-section, and a group to meet to tick a box, not a group of people, who want to be listened to. 

And voting rights for 16-18s is all well and good, but it feels a little like Welsh Government are fumbling around trimming branches while the roots remain bad. There needs to be Votes@16, there also needs to be PSHE lessons for young people, taught in schools, so they grow up as Voters, that the young people in Wales learn the benefits of the youth vote. 

Young people are fed up of being talked about. 

Welsh Government are hopefully going to implement another step in changing that.