A group of young people from our Autumn 2018 Youth Leadership Course had the privilege of attending a roundtable discussion with fellows from the Forward Institute in May 2019. The Forward Institute is a 18 month long leadership programme, aiming to cultivate thoughtful and responsible leadership across the public, private and social sectors in the UK.
Our young people, as well as a number of young people from other youth organisations, were invited to share their thoughts and perspectives on major questions of leadership and the future with the Forward Institute fellows, in the hope that fellows will hear and appreciate the views of young people on major issues as they move towards greater influence and leadership on a national level.
Each young person was placed in a smaller discussion group with a number of fellows and discussed themes such as climate change, mental health, education and social media. It was wonderful to see some of our young people eloquently and confidently sharing their ideas, concerns and thoughts with a room full of leaders. Not only were they able to add to the discussions with their unique experiences and perspectives, but it was also clear that the experience was transformative for them as they witnessed leaders of major institutions and organisations sit and listen to them. Simply being heard, and feeling that their opinions were being valued, was a powerful experience. One young person commented that,
“what I found really interesting was that there were a lot of people who are leaders and who are going to be leaders and they actually listened to our thoughts and our ideas and our plans for the future, and they found it interesting!”
The young people also remarked afterwards that they too had learned a lot from speaking with and listening to people they usually would not have the opportunity to discuss these issues with. One of them told us
“it was interesting to me that there were people who have different ideas and different perspectives and views, and I learnt a lot from them. I hope I will use it in my life.”
Another shared that
“it was a good experience to meet new people and learn from them, and also share my ideas, especially about the environment, and lots of other stuff. It’s really opening my eyes to the world and the people I met, they were from big organisations, and that was a good experience”.
We would like to thank the Forward Institute for the opportunity to highlight and give attention to the voices of young refugees and asylum seekers, which is an aim that we at Refugee Support Network believe passionately in. It was inspiring to see national leaders intentionally involving and prioritising the perspectives of young people in discussions about the future. We know that it will also inspire our young people to listen carefully to the perspectives of others, and handle leadership and influence with responsibility and thoughtfulness.