Part of Young ICA, the ICA Learning Associates Programme is a peer-led series of events that enables the organisation to forge and sustain meaningful relationships with diverse youth partners. Ahead of their ICA Learning Associates event, SE1 United founder Natalie Bell discusses why working class young people need organisations like SE1 now more than ever.
The working class young people I work with face a plethora of barriers blocking their pathways to employment, university, housing, setting up a business and basically accessing many things that their parents found simple as a young adult. With generic work for youth being decimated by cuts, and arts and sports falling off school curriculums, poorer young people tend to fall into deep crevices of drug abuse, crime, benefit dependancy, low-paid low-skill jobs and meaningless courses, and possess an education which is not fit for the future job market.
We have increasingly higher rates of youth depression, ill health and a cancerous hopelessness compounded by our recent government decisions around student fees, Brexit, abolition of housing benefits and Education Maintenance Allowance, compulsory education systems and cuts to services. So how refreshing it is to work in partnership with Peabody, SE1 United, Organicks and the ICA and do something creative, high profile and youth-led that gives young people a platform to let their voices be heard in a meaningful way through a soundscape representing the lives of young black people growing up in South London.
The best youth projects are where professionals can come together and offer their resources and time to a completely authentic youth- led agenda.
The best youth projects are where professionals can come together and offer their resources and time to a completely authentic youth-led agenda. It’s a win-win situation where young people learn responsibility, integrity, professionalism, communication, time management and are in the driving seat. If the project starts failing they feel the stress and consequence and have the opportunity to learn fast from the experience. As a society we infantilise and pigeon-hole young people for far too long, stripping them of real life experience and personal development, then throw them violently into adulthood with no induction to maturity. We need organisations prepared to give young people the chance to take risks and aim high, to facilitate hope, trust and offer practical support. SE1 United has humbly worked like this with over 30 professional partners and thousands of disadvantaged young people for 12 years, resulting in them becoming amazing adults with ambitions and a can-do attitude.
Young people need those super-charged, adrenaline-inducing moments where they can shine...
Youth leadership with professional collaboration is the way forward for youth work. It needs to be futuristic, creative, expressive, enterprising, exciting, collaborative, socially mobilising and inspiring. Thank you to the ICA, Organicks and Peabody. You are risk-taking and forward thinking, and investing in young people. Young people need those super-charged, adrenaline-inducing moments where they can shine, try new skills, feel invested and really tell you what matters, what life is like and how they feel … Where they can feel proud and stand tall, and refer back to that moment when times get “long”, tough and dreary. To keep going against the odds, to be a better person and to feel like they truly matter in a city that often doesn’t care.
I can’t wait to hear the results of this project. It’s going to be raw, hard-hitting and powerful. ■
Natalie Bell is the director of Unleashing Talent Limited, providing research, training and development for youth organisations across London. ICA Learning Associates SE1 United Present: Music To Live By is on at the ICA on 24 September.