The Creative Collisions conference was an incredible day: innovating, inspiring and stimulating. Massive thanks to all the partners–Leap Confronting Conflict, Foyer Federation, UK Youth, London Youth, NUS, NYA, vInspired and NCVYS. Also thanks to all the speakers, organisers and delegates. When I initially wrote up my report of the day, it was five pages long. No-one wants to read that, so here are my highlights instead.

Favourite speakers

Toni Pearce (NUS)

Toni is the first NUS President that has never been to University, which is something I found quite intriguing. Her speech was very inspiring and motivating; it made me and others sit up to listen more intently. She stated that all youth organisations are unique and asked the floor, ‘Who should be in this room? Who do we need to reach out to?’ She then talked about youth unemployment; nearly one million young people are unemployed. This is something I imagine everyone in the room knew, and something we must not forget until it starts to change. She believes the answer to this is to create good, sustainable jobs for young people in this generation and for the future. The room erupted into applause when she stated ‘I’m fed up of young people getting told it is their fault’. She spoke about the fact she was only the 8th female president of NUS out of 56 and she wants to address the barriers of getting women into leadership roles. She also agrees with the vote at 16. Whilst I agree, I think that the more pressing issue that needs to be addressed is getting more people–young and old–understanding politics by making it more accessible. I believe this will then result in more people being more informed and actively engaged in the decisions of the country.

David McQueen (Founder of Magnificent Generation)

David was also a powerful speaker. He really got everyone’s attention. He was very animated; he got all the delegates to wave hands in the air and made everyone giggle. He said we were on the cusp of a youth work revolution and every conversation is vital even if it isn’t valid. He believes in keeping it real and honest; he also stated one of my favourite quotes from the day, ‘If you don’t like it, build a bridge and get over it!’ His resounding statement was that we need to not save young people but enable them to save themselves.  I think the idea of gaining skills such as leadership, teamwork and a sense of self-belief is vital for young people and can enable them to achieve their goals and dreams. Organisation’s that enable young people to become trainers (Leap) or associate mentors (NCS) after finishing their programmes are really important to achieve this.

Favourite Learning Labs

London Youth

The first learning lab I attended was with London Youth on good programme design. Rosie Ferguson CEO of London Youth introduced the session. She began in a very honest and open way. She explained some of the ways in which London Youth had sometimes failed to do programme design well.  These included not being as accessible to disabled people as could be and young people not being as involved in decision-making as she would like.

We then talked about what we could change and develop to create more successful planning of programmes. Ideas that came through were to do with having a clear rationale, possibly using digital formats to give feedback, embedding feedback in the learning process, keeping the young people informed and the idea of a continuing support network between programmes.

I think potentially using digital formats and embedding the feedback are particularly important to think about as I know I often hear groans when I talk about the paper evaluations at the end of the programme that we as staff and the young people must do to enable the organisation to monitor ‘success’. It can often give an amazing experience quite a dull and boring finale so it’s vital to try and make it as fun and interactive as possible.

Leap Confronting Conflict

Another learning lab I went to was Leap Confronting Conflict. I loved it. Leap really turned the day on its head. It was totally different to the other workshops. We were all sat in a circle, rather than the typical audience style. We began by playing a game called ‘The sun shines on’. The trainer (Rene) asked if anyone knew the rules. Silence fell over the room and although I’d promised myself I wouldn’t be too vocal in the session, I couldn’t help but put my hand up and explain. The sun shines on is something I play regularly with the young people as it usually puts everyone in a positive mood as you dash around the circle plus you find out more about your fellow players! We began by playing it by saying something such as ‘The sun shines on anyone with brown shoes’ and then myself (with brown shoes on) and anyone else would have to dash to another seat. It then moved onto experiences and finally linked to your own relationship with conflict such as ‘the sun shines on anyone who has had conflict with a colleague in the last week’.

It was really interesting. Unfortunately due to this, I was separated from my notepad so unable to make notes, but the session was pretty memorable anyway! We then went on to chat to the person next to us and create a role play about what our ‘red flag’ is. That is, something that is our tipping point when it comes to anger and heightened negative emotions.

I had a great discussion with George from Circle Support. We talked about where we actually feel these feelings in our body, such as your chest or your muscles etc. It was really interesting. I’ve never really thought about that, or how self-awareness is key to understanding conflict, both with yourself and others.

The last activity we did was really good too. The group was split in half and we stood opposite each other. Rene and Chantal (Leap trainers) set the scene. (A) worked nights, he wanted to sleep in the day; (B) had a very noisy dog which yapped away all day. We were told to debate using ‘YOU’. E.g. ‘You should get a proper job, a day job!’ ‘You should keep your animal under control!’ etc. It was really interesting how loud and pointy the whole room got! Next we were told to use ‘I’ to solve the situation. E.g. ‘I’m finding it really difficult to sleep’ ‘I didn’t realise you were next door asleep’ etc. The room was much quieter and most people came to some resolve. It was ace. My communication skills are good and I pride myself on my approach but it showed the importance of thinking about your own feelings and how to portray them in a non-confrontational way to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.

It was a great session. The trainers then asked us to sum up the session in one word. Thought-provoking.

Inspirational quotes and moments

There were lots of ideas from the youth-led session that I thought were particularly great.  In this session, there were young representatives and ambassadors from most of the partners speaking about their organisations. The young people really brought the organisations to life, speaking with such passion and excitement about them. The young people’s public speaking skills and the way they grabbed the attention of the audience (through chanting, poems and energisers) was brilliant.

Ideas presented included:

  • Using your background in a positive way to help others
  • The youth sector is doing it right but should want to do it better
  • ‘If you don’t chase your dreams, you’ll be hired to chase someone else’s’
  • More politicians to look at the positive things young people are doing, such as volunteering rather than all the negatives!
  • ‘If we work together, we can achieve great things’
  • ‘Give us [young people] opportunities and we will thrive’
  • ‘The voice of young people matters’
  • ‘Young people are shepherds, not sheep’

Five key points I took away from the day

  1. Youth organisations need to collaborate more. We need to find a way for young people to go on a journey through different programmes.
  2. Momentum is vital. Rosie Ferguson (London Youth) pointed out this was the Wi-Fi password for the day, and how relevant. Momentum was something you could really feel building as the day went on with regards to how organisations would develop even further to improve the lives of more young people in an more effective way.
  3. I’m proud to be a part of the youth work sector. I’m proud to becontinuously developing young people and myself.
  4. A lot of great work is already being done.
  5. This is most certainly the sector I want to work in. A sector full ofpassion, innovation and the power to enable young people achieve their dreams and potential.

The day ended with the 2012 Pandemonium Drummers. As they descended the stairs of the main hall playing, it was actually quite emotional! What a way to end the day. Brilliant.

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