Saturday, 16 December 2017

How to survive: Being Unemployed edition

Since September 1st 2017, I've been without a job, and I would say it has been three of the more difficult months of my life. I am adamant that I want to work in the charity sector, and I worked throughout secondary school and university, so I have a decent enough buffer to allow me to not need to work right now, but still, being unemployed post-university is miserable.

Thoughts fly through the mind of being part of the statistic of the wasted degree, or of missed opportunities of just starting a more manual trade and not going to university at all, or of going back to live with the parents.
None of these I believe are the right path for me, and I'm glad I am where I am now, with the skills I have now, but to any graduate, none of those thoughts will be new ones.

This blog is written with sympathy, for other graduates, for third years in the final stretch of university. Any digs at graduates are at myself first and foremost, but if the boot fits, please wear it. Here are 4 things I picked out as the feelings of graduating into unemployment. I'll state them, and then give the solution I worked out. I hope it's helpful.
1. Free time = Guilty time. 
You feel guilty spending any time in the day not applying for jobs. No application is ever guaranteed to be successful. But when each application improves the odds of that phone call coming through, not doing part of an application for even an hour washes over you with this nasty guilty feeling. Down time becomes anathema, so of course the applications suffer, because you feel mentally chained to the keyboard, and you're not able to relax.
This is not a novel solution. This is rule one of unemployment. Routine, and contracted hours. Wake up at a normal time. Go to sleep at a normal time. Go outside at least once a day. Eat at least one vegetable a week day. Treat applying for jobs as a job, because it is, so clock in and clock out. I have a specific place I apply for jobs from, I get up at 8, read with a coffee till 10, then apply for jobs till 1. I'll have lunch, go for a run, and apply for jobs till 5. I only use Mozilla Firefox for applying for jobs, and when 5 hits, I close Firefox, and I don't open it till the next day. Not keeping a routine will only hinder when you eventually get a job.
2. I am a skill-less use-less waste
Skills you know you have, you begin to question. When that rock solid application you sent off to do 12 hours of admin work a week, oh pretty please let me answer phones, comes back as a failed application, because they've got someone who's answered phones for 20 years who wants the job to keep themselves busy, you doubt your ability to do anything. You try to reword everything, rejection makes you limit your own opportunities. When your nose is in the dirt, it's hard to look at the sun, and it's hard to know you're good at what you do when implicitly it feels like you're being told you're not.
This is a bit exaggerated. But getting told you suck by 5 different employers a week hurts. I began to doubt if I was as good as I said I was. Here's the kicker, they don't think you suck. Employers don't think you suck when they turn you down, you heard it here first (They might do, if you don't show up). There's just someone there who fits the bill slightly better than you. And that's frustrating. So what I have done, is when I apply for a job, I make a circle of my current skills. I make another circle with the skills the job is looking for. I then cross the circles, thus making a Venn diagram. The goal is to have as many skills in that cross-over as possible. Then I go from there! I have three set examples for pretty much every skill in the world.
"Used to changing levels of work" - Like a flash, I've got three.
"Excellent administration ability" - Bang, three examples.
"Experience of managing volunteers" - Three.
"Beautiful face" - One example. Me.
As a result, I can apply for pretty much any job within a certain sphere in about half an hour.
3. Guilty money
You feel guilty spending any money on anything, because there's no income to replenish it. I spent £16 on a bottle of whisky as a birthday present to myself at the start of December, and I nearly put it back twice on my way to the counter.
If you do have any money, try something with me. Start a new bank account. For every hour you apply for jobs or do other productive things (volunteer etc), transfer £3 across to it. That's your spending money, right there. I've been going between this and giving myself pocket money every week.
4. We all hate interviews
You absolutely hate the interview system. You hate the fact that you have a degree and you can't get 5 hours polishing banisters.  
So two little anecdotes here.
During the summer, I was flying high. I'd got an internship with a really good organisation in the charity sector, and I had three interviews to do a position I really wanted, each on about 20k a year. The organisation offered me about a month of administration work, which I turned down immediately. I was going to get a well paid job.
Fool of a Took.
I was unsuccessful in all of the interviews, I had badly prepared because I thought I'd walk into the position. They said I lacked demonstrable experience in one or two things, one being admin. I wish, I really do wish, that someone had grabbed me in August, and said "Joe, the sun doesn't shine from your rear. You are not owed anything from society. Well done for the voluntary stuff, get some paid experience". No-one did, because I'm not owed anything from society, but I learned that lesson the hard way.
The second anecdote, on hating the interview system.
I had just finished hearing back from a 15 hour a week admin position, I hadn't got the job. On a question on data protection, I had not given the obvious answers, but had talked more about the whys of its importance. Now I'm not tooting my own trumpet, but I know data protection pretty well for a muggle, I've been in several seminars on it, attended workshops on it, read thousands of words around it. And I was being penalised to the point of not getting the job (I missed out on this job by a point, apparently), for not saying "data protection is gud becuz it protects the customer". And I was ranting down the phone about this to a friend. I knew that data protection was gud becuz it protects the customer. And then I realised that was exactly it. I knew it, but I hadn't said it. I hated the game, but it didn't matter that I hated the game. I could hate the game in unemployment for as long as I wanted. Actually, it was time to learn the game, learn how to play it, and actually get a job.
It's all about the game, and how you can play it, all about control, and if you can take it. etc etc. Thanks Trips.

So I hope this was a helpful read, or even an interesting read if you are one of the lucky people with a job. I'll still do my voluntary work, my trusteeship with the BYC is more enjoyable than ever, and I'm doing a few other interesting charity bits, but that's a different blog for a different time.

To end, I'll quickly introduce you to 10/10/10. It's my new life motto. It stands for ten days, ten months, ten years. The motto bit is when you see a problem, you say "will it matter in ten days? Will it matter in ten months? Will it matter in ten years?"
I don't currently have a job.
Will that be the case in ten days? Probably.
Ten months? Almost certainly not.
Ten years? I won't remember this feeling in ten years.

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.


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.    

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.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

"The World is worth fighting for"

I've had a lot of time recently for reflection.

A lot of the reflection has been internal - about how I have been shaped over the past three years, and about what university has meant to me.

Some of the reflection has been external. Into the insanity that is modern politics at the moment, and the frequency with which terror and tribalism have crept into lives.

The first year or so in Cardiff was full of naivety on my part. I used to walk at all hours, anyone walking behind me didn't make my pulse quicken, didn't make me cross the road, twice, to make sure I wasn't being followed.
I wasn't bothered by aggression.

A few things which I have previously written about shattered that naivety. I was going to say "a little", but you can't shatter something a little. Once something is shattered, piecing it together is quite tricky.

The second year in Cardiff was full of a sense of purpose, purpose I hadn't experienced before.
I was in a city I could do things in. I was in a city where I could make change happen.
I got into youth politics, I got into social action. I did some really cool things.

A few things which I have previously written about honed that purpose. As I cultivated some awareness, the burning desire to do things, the burning desire to throw time at people and action threatened to overwhelm a bit.

This final year in Cardiff has been full of replacing role models, and learning to be kind to myself. Learning to pick battles. Learning the importance of an early night, and sometimes of cancelling to catch up on myself.

Trump has been a thing for almost all of my final year.
Brexit has been a thing for almost all of my final year.

They're two crazy things I'm still not quite familiar with.

The sector I would like to work in and devote time to is hugely reliant on EU funding. How well the 3rd sector will cope when EU payments are phased out, I don't know. It will survive, I'm certain of that much, charity always survives change, it has to.
Whether the government will pick up the slack though, I'm even less certain.

I talk about characterization of the past three years, well these past few months have been characterized by uncertainty.

But with every storm is the end of that storm - the petrichor, the clouds scuttling away, the fresh rays of sunlight.

I guess I'm saying with this entire post that I'm looking forward to the end of this storm.

"The World is a fine place and worth fighting for" - Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Memoirs of a (nearly) ex-UK Young Ambassador

                                                       National working group with UKYA – Hard at work! 

All good things come to an end. The classic proverb.

All fixed term positions come to an end. The slightly less classic proverb, but just as true nonetheless.

I am sad to say that as of July I will no longer represent the young people of Wales as UK Young Ambassador, with the British Youth Council. There's an odd comma in there, because of course I'll continue to champion the young people of Wales, and more widely in the UK, just without the title.

I’m writing this blog as if I was talking to an elderly family member, attempting to explain to them how I found the experience, because by necessity I’ve gotten good at this talk.

Joe, what actually is a UK Young Ambassador?

So, in my role as a representative I voice the views of young people in Wales, particularly through the medium of structured dialogue (If you want more info on SD, Click here). Structured dialogue is a way for young people to get involved with current affairs & politics; we asked them a whole lot of questions through surveys, round table events, and in working groups just exactly what they thought about some key issues.
The key issues we examined were Community and Diversity, particularly important with Brexit looming. That boiled down to a lot of hard work, a lot of frenzied scribbling at the back of coffee shops, late night phone calls, a mind-boggling number of train journeys, and being way out of my depth but learning to swim.

With my wonderful co-representative for Wales, Arooj Khan, we met with representatives from each major political party in Wales, we met the councillors and we met the Welsh Assembly members. In and out of the Senedd (Welsh Parliament building) about three times a week at one point. We talked to young people, in centres in Cardiff and in London.

(Actually one of my biggest regrets as a young ambassador for Wales was that I didn't remove myself from Cardiff enough. Even though I was in my final year of university, I still wish I had made more of an effort on that particular point.)

As a full team of 8 UK Young Ambassadors we also surveyed many young people across the UK. Several of us then wrote our findings on Community and Diversity into a 5000 word report, (you can read my summary of that report here) on a roasting afternoon in a sweltering London office. 

I also got to travel a lot, and represent, a lot. I did some work with the Royal Commonwealth Society in Wales, chairing a meeting of about 80 young people, I got to go to the International Culture Summit in Edinburgh as a delegate – I was and am very lucky to have these opportunities.

                                                      RCS Commonwealth Youth Summit in Wales

So that’s what you did, how did you find it?

I think I was a left-field candidate for the role. I am older than most of the other ambassadors and my experience of representation has been a little more hands-on than most.

So for the first six months? I was utterly out of my depth. I didn't know the relentless acronyms, and not having the officially recognised youth representation experience that everyone else seemed to have felt like it was counting against me.
I remember midway through the first residential, texting my Dad, telling him I shouldn't be there, everyone there had been through so much, and knew so much. 
They all knew the acronyms.

And I was just J.o.e. (Just Observing Everyone)

But quickly realising I was a little rough around the edges in terms of traditional youth representation was the best bit, as I could make it my business to be the one who put the most effort in, at every meeting, on every task. 
And I learned.

In summary, I'd say I found it nerve-wracking, and easily one of the best experiences I have had so far in my life. The responsibility and platform to demonstrate my abilities has been amazing. I have had the opportunity at opportunity, which is priceless at this age (or any age!). These included:

·         Co-authoring a national report.
·         Representing UK young people in Scottish Parliament with Secretaries of State from around the world.
·         Working with Google at Google HQ to improve data analytics for our surveys and online material. 
·         Getting to talk at several secondary schools about the charity sector and how to get involved.
·         Using the skills learned to improve other representative systems at my University.
·         Being brilliantly over my head, and clawing my way to the surface. 

It's been a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun. I have learned so much. I have met so many amazing people. 
And I can't wait to continue in my representation. 

I'll hand the badge over (there's not actually a badge), but UKYA has enabled me to continue championing the rights of young people wherever I end up.

If you want to read more of my blogs, you can find them at:

If you want to follow me on Twitter, you can at:

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Choosing Life

It's so easy to forget, isn't it.

I find it really easy to forget where I put my glasses - when they're not on my head they're mysteriously absent, and when I take my contacts out I can't see, so I generally can't find my glasses. If only I had my glasses, I'm sure finding my glasses would be easy. See the catch 22?
God I'm tired.

I find it easy to forget that there's 7 billion other people, living life. Every second I live, 7 billion people are living that second also.
The billionaires, the homeless, people working and sleeping.
How many tens of millions are on Facebook? If you're reading this, you're probably guilty, but you're reading my blog so I'll let you off.

That thought has been the one that's driven me through most of this block of finals revision; that when this draining horrible block of my life is over (and it will be over by next week), I can go for hours of walks around sunny parks, cook the most amazing stir-fry you've ever seen, play pool with friends. I can live life again.
I'm realising that I am unlikely to find a job that uses my incoming degree much, and I'm increasingly OK with that.

I might go to college, and take a vocational course. I might do an MA and a PhD in 30 seconds of Egyptian life in 672 BC, or something equally specific but enjoyable.

All I know is that I want to do more with my seconds.

I look around and realise how little I know in comparison to people my own age.

I was talking to an older friend a few weeks ago, and he said how much of a shock it was turning 25 and realising that the up and coming entrepreneurs and businessmen were younger than him.
I'm reaching that age. People my age are beginning to have global impacts with the work they're doing, people my age are changing the world for the better.

I want to do more with my seconds.

I want to learn more, I want to inspire more.

One of the key things that got me into youth work and youth representation was a picture of Malcolm X, in it, at the height of his popularity, when he was working 20 hour days, and under threat of death.
He was in a school classroom, in front of four or five school children, talking about the importance of politics to making a difference.

Love him, hate him, at that point in his life he was one of the most influential men in America. And he thought that talking to young people about politics was important enough to take time out of his day to do so.

I'm not the most important person in my house. popularity is not something I want or have ever particularly had. No death threats for me. I haven't worked a 20 hour day in months.

What's my excuse?
I don't have one.

I'm choosing life, being passionate about things I care about, and less time on social media. (But seriously, I appreciate you being on Facebook long enough to click this link, really appreciate it x x)

Cause the alternative is bumbling along, and watching people with more motivation and drive do stuff I can't come close to.

And I've only got one opportunity to do this, one opportunity to do some amazing things on the canvas I've been given.
In (hopefully) 60 years time, I want to look back and know I made the most of these years.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

How I'm Learning to Get Angry and Hate the Bomb

I was trying to work out a Dr Strangelove reference in the title, I'm not sure it quite fits but look, I'm all cultured and stuff.

In the wake of the near-miss I encountered (nearly got stabbed over £10 - see previous blog) about three weeks ago, life has been very, very odd.

I got an extenuating circumstances on my dissertation, and I've been desperately trying to have my superman mask on whilst revising for finals, finishing my dissertation, and saying goodbye to a lot of friends, whilst indulging myself in takeaways and lazy weekends because 'I can start again on Monday'.
Anxiety and depression I spent a lot of last year throwing off my back have made an unwelcome re-appearance due to the stress of dealing with the police and the workload of a final year who really would quite like a decent job after university, please thank you.

How have I pulled myself out of that miserable pit?


Oh, and my mum's forever appreciated care packages.

I have raged in the shower about the stupid fucking man who I let really shake me up.
I have raged whilst looking at my ceiling for hours about how I'm just laying there, looking at the ceiling, feeling not very much.
I have raged about the suicidal political scene I am growing up in.

And it's helped.

I guess it's the Christian upbringing; the only Jesus I ever really got on with was the version not often talked about in popular Christian circles today, the one who threw tables and hated injustice. I always felt a little more similarity with that Jesus.

I am increasingly a fan of righteous anger, often I feel I've nodded my head when inside I'm rejected everything someone is saying. And believe me, there's nothing that drives you more than a righteous anger.

My head is still a mess, but I'm picking myself back up again, and going again.
Doubtless I'll trip over my shoelaces soon enough, but the hope is that I'll fail just that bit further along the line next time.

I guess I'm bored of nodding along. I feel like I'll nod along, then eventually nod off, and that's not what I want my legacy to be.

"Joe Stockley - good at nodding" is a crap epitaph.

Friday, 7 April 2017


So last night, on the way home from my friends after lots of silly games of cards, lots of gin, and lots of food, I got stopped by a man in a tracksuit.
He wanted the time - I didn't trust him, so I kept going.

Seconds later, I heard him ask me if I wanted to get stabbed.

No, Mr Man, I did not want to get stabbed.

He wanted £10 or he was going to stab me, as he kept repeating, it looked like he was holding something under his jacket - I had no reason to disbelieve him.

Stammering something along the lines of being a student and poor and that I didn't have £10 on me anyway (I didn't), I turned and ran, as quick as my little legs could carry me.

Once I felt safe, I rang the police, who showed up within minutes, and stood with me as I chain smoked quarter of a packet of cigarettes.

After they took a statement, they took me home, and I made myself the biggest hot chocolate (with cream, and chocolate, and sprinkles) , and tucked myself up in bed.

My sister rang me shortly after (I'd texted the family whatsapp to let them know I was ok) and said "I love you. I always do, but things like this make it so much more important to say".

And that made everything a bit alright again.

All the stress from my unfinished dissertation, everything that happened last night, all the angst about exams and my future: it sounds corny as all hell but it all faded a bit, and to love, and be loved in return, rose into sharp focus. What really mattered shone in my face.

Tell your loved ones you love them, whenever you get the chance.

All of this ties into my current fears about working in the 9-5 machine, and living to work, and whether I can use my degree or not.

Perhaps I'm becoming less and less sold on making money, and more and more sold on myself.

Maybe I'm just still in shock.

(Massive thanks to the South Wales Police who were so good to me last night, dropping me home, taking care of me)

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Getting passionate - Votes at 16 (part 1 of 2)

There's a real problem I see increasingly, the more I get involved with youth voice and charity work.

The problem -
Young people, on the whole, have been separated and isolated from politics and the importance it has over our lives.

Now you're probably thinking I blog a lot about big problems; well this would be a crap blog if I blogged about the food I made today. And I like to think the readership (?) I have is a little bit interested in big problems.

This separation from politics I mention is partly a separation of our own transient ignorance - I don't say ignorance with offence here - and partly a separation by our government which doesn't teach young people to become voters any more than it teaches young people to become citizens.

The education system in the UK is therefore unfit for the purpose.

We approach the government with caps in our hands, and wonder why nothing becomes of our requests. Approaching any issue in this manner, I have realised, denotes a superiority of the request-granters. Parliament is made up of our representatives, and it's crucial to remember that.

It's always more productive to approach with ideas, and to get those ideas into the heads of every decision maker who will listen, and even those who don't care to listen.

Young people often have no knowledge of how to vote, or how to protest to vote.

We make petitions, and we tweet about things.

Not a problem, any involvement is involvement.


Youth councils can be talking shops for CV hunters (as a side note, this is an area in which the British Youth Council are fully exempt), young people are told that they are world changers and action takers, and so often do not understand the drive and skills needed to enact their ideas.

I've been talking to a few Welsh politicians over the past few weeks in my capacity as UK Young Ambassador, and a common trend of comment is being told that young people are in the most creative periods of their lives. We can be making the changes we want to see, not waiting in the wings, talking.

I have made the point in a previous blog but I feel it's still worth making, if we as young people are only allowed a say and input in the future, then we will miss the point again.

If we are only allowed to be the future in the future – and until then we have to passively wait in the wings – then we will struggle with the same questions that our predecessors have struggled with.

Firstly therefore, the primary step on this journey must be giving 16 year olds the right to vote.
It must come from the people, all the best programs come from the people, and when it happens this advantage must be used.

Voter turnout among the 18-24 year olds in the 2010 general election was around 40%.

16-17 year olds can cause an embarrassment by turning up on election day in droves, while their older siblings stay at home.

Claimed turnout in the Scottish referendum for 16-17 year olds was at 69%, markedly higher than the 54% of 18-24 year olds.

What is key from the report on the Scottish referendum is the fact that those who discussed the referendum in schools felt higher levels of political confidence and understanding.

Schools can play a distinctive role, but only when they are allowed to do so.

So I've identified the issue, and discussed some positive opinions relating to the matter.

Next week I'll be creating a 'how it can happen' blog.

Interested? Here are some links:




Sunday, 5 February 2017

Onward and Upward

I had an odd out of body experience recently.

I had been playing guitar for about 40 minutes, working on a new bluesy style of playing, very percussive, very melodic.

I always practice guitar best with my eyes closed, I can concentrate on what I'm playing better that way.

After this practice, I opened my eyes and looked down at my hand, it felt wet.

My hands were sweaty, and there was a long line of blood running down my finger from where I'd hit the string a little too vigorously.
I say my hands, that wasn't what I saw.

I saw my Dad's arms, thick hairy arms, defined veins, long fingers, hairy knuckles. Signs of wear and tear.

I've finally cut out a smoking habit, but the small nicotine marks on my fingers were still visible.

Barely visible scars up my arms from a long long distant past.

I have been so caught up in University and the mad busyness of every day life that I've failed to notice that I've grown up. I know myself better than I ever did, I've started to do boring adult things like drinking lots of water and making packed lunches for myself, and having a sleeping pattern that doesn't involve 3AM.

I am finally getting University, the hours you have to spend with your head in books. I'm finally getting how to find that motivation.
And it's just about to finish, for now.

I've got a job lined up post university, for Christ's sake.

And most importantly, I've began to realise that I am an introvert, and that I recharge my batteries by spending time on my own. That used to puzzle the hell out of me when I was younger, I would feel so drained and tired sometimes in people's company, and I used to get so frustrated with myself.

I'm growing up, I'm getting a back-story, I'm making my legacy, and it's happened without me realising it.

I mentioned earlier turning into my Father - the thought of that five years ago would have filled me with existential dread.

Now I'm OK with that. I really am.
If I am half the man he is, I will be over the moon.

Hopefully I'll remember his stories right; what's the point in growing up if you can't tell your younger relatives the same stories each time the family get together?

Sunday, 29 January 2017

On a Fat Blonde Guy and the 'New Iron Lady'

I've had a strange reaction to the news over the past few days.

I see stories of a man who once had a mission to offend as many minor demographics as he possibly could, now in charge of one of the most powerful countries in the World, whose mission now seems to be to provoke as many religions as he can with his executive ordersdefeat ISIL in 30 days, and hold Theresa May's hand.
That man is Donald Trump, if you're really really out of the loop.

And the guy tasked with keeping Trump grounded is a four-star retired Marine Corps general affectionately called James 'Mad Dog' Mattis.

Doesn't that fill you with hope.

And then there's the second person in the news without the popular vote, without any vote at all - it's Theresa May!
Only after swathes of criticism from politicians and public outcry (even her own MP's weren't best impressed), she would state that she "didn't agree" with Trump's ban on Muslims entering the US. This from the New Iron Lady, who promised she would hold Trump firmly to account before her visit to America.
Oh and there's those bits she didn't mention about Trident, about the misfire off the coast of Florida, which she knew about and didn't raise before the MP vote on renewing the £40 billion system, that's been conveniently buried.  

It's funny isn't it - a gallows humour kind of funny - that the increasingly populist Theresa May and the pure populist Trump campaign both succeeded without the popular vote.

May seems bent on attempting to secure the special relationship for another four years, hoping that if she feeds the crocodile enough, it will eat her last.

That's the thing.

If you look for similarities in World history of blanket bans of certain religions by major World powers, you only have to go back about 80 years. 

Will our un-elected Prime Minister stand up to oppression?
Will she defend against the breed of exclusive nationalism that killed Jo Cox?

The sad thing is I think that Theresa May not.

Sunday, 22 January 2017


When I was a fresh-faced teenager, just beginning secondary school, I vividly remember a moment of clarity.
I was looking through my brother's biology A level book, (looking, not actually understanding anything) and I found a page which described the skin, and its layers.
I had eczema, and it was interesting to see such a comprehensive breakdown of the skin, the thing that had caused me so much annoyance and pain over the past ten years of my life.

Intrigued, I asked my Dad over dinner to talk me through, in 13 year old language, how the skin works, and what the reasons were for eczema. He told me, and I went back to my brother's book and what my Dad said was there, in the book. Me, a mere kid, understood about a sentence and a half of my brother's A level book, I was basically a God.
I was enthralled.
I thought if I simply had the time, I could read every book, and understand every thing, and then I would be much cleverer, and wouldn't that be a wonderful thing.

Thus began my love affair with books.

Fiction was my favourite superficially, I could immerse myself in different worlds, I could be totally different characters. I was a keen actor, and loved to spend days acting out roles of characters I'd read. But my real favourite, the books I'd want to really comprehend, were non-fiction. History books. Science books. I read hungrily, if you knew me around that age (and bless you if you did) I would read, and I would sleep, and I would eat, and I would smell like a teenage boy. My happiest days were in our book section at my parents' house, curled up on a rug with a hot chocolate and a book. How very twee, I know.

The most important bit of non-fiction for me was the truth. The facts that were stated were, until proven otherwise, irrefutable.
And I liked this.
Amongst the hormones, amongst a tough time growing up at home and at school, I had books, with facts, that were true, and I knew they were true.
And I have carried that love with me throughout my life, right next to making the perfect instant noodles, and the correct answer to "how do I look in this?"

Then I got introduced to politics.

Anyone can be a good enough politician if you can gesticulate enough, if you can pretend enough, if you have enough money.

Yesterday you had the new President Donald Trump denouncing the pictures of his inauguration, stating that the pictures were wrong in fact, there were far more people there than at Obama's. Although that's patently untrue, and President Trump has lied through his teeth throughout his campaign.

On the day after the Brexit vote, you had Nigel Farage stating that the claims 'Leave' made that £350m was going to the NHS were actually untrue.

And it turns out that Brexit hasn't been catastrophic for our economy, as experts predicted it would be, and as David Cameron trumpeted from every roof he could get his grubby little feet on.

Turns out adolescent me was naive.

That's often the case though, but when people told me to grow up, I didn't expect growing up to mean accepting that liars get to run the countries we live in.

I didn't expect growing up to mean accepting a rise in popular nationalism, as Trump has shown so well in his campaign.

Most of all, I didn't expect growing up to be so lonely. You can see nationalism as a way for some to rediscover a common identity. You can see the white-lash after Obama as the same thing.  But with that nationalism, with that sense of common identity, of us and them, comes the unpleasant reality, the facts of nationalism:
The rise of hate crime, of racism. When one distinguishes commonality by skin colour, or sexuality, you get a gay man being pulled from his car and beaten, or images of the swastika or Nazi salutes popping up in schools(Ibid).

Post-truth and Nationalism aren't one and the same thing at all. But it seems that it is now acceptable to make them so, and while that remains, the concept of a world-wide community is dust, and we have no common man.

We should not honour man more than truth. And we do, and we are.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

The invisible Epidemic

Just right out of the bat, domestic abuse as a problem is widely ignored. 
Citing quotes from Mankind facts & Statistics and their latest report into domestic abuse: 
One in four women will suffer domestic abuse 
One in six men will suffer domestic abuse. 

That’s an awful lot of your friends, your acquaintances, maybe even members in your family circle.

But male victims are over twice as likely (29%) than women (12%) to not tell anyone about the abuse they have suffered. This topic is more deserving of conversation than ever before. 

There seems to be something ingrained in a man's DNA; some dogma that dictates that to be a real man, we must make light of emotion and pain. (I talk more on the male ego and its stupidity here - He Man

But worse than this is the societal expectation of a man, which creates our own self-image. 

It's the story of the mental health counselor who told a husband being locked out of his home by an angry wife that "As long as he has his car, he has a home".

It's on the Jeremy Kyle show, in a rare second of humanity being horrible, where the audience laugh and jeer at the guy who jumped out of a three story window because his girlfriend - who regularly gives him black eyes and is smiling about it in the back - had locked him in the flat. 

It's the policemen who questioned my friend, who was submitted to horrible sexual abuse "why didn't you just push her off?" – like his shouting "No" multiple times wasn't enough of a sign that perhaps he didn't want to have sex. 

And it's here where male domestic abuse falls the hardest. At police response level. It's the most damning bit of this blog.

In England and Wales, 44% of police responses believed the man's partner that she was the victim. 
35% totally ignored what the man had to say.
In 21% of the cases, the police arrested the man. 
In 3% of the cases, the woman was arrested.

Police are nearly a third likely to ignore signs that a man has been assaulted by a woman, when they respond to a call. 

This is no competition. I'm not writing this blog in any way, shape or form, to say that the situation surrounding domestic violence against women is any better. It's not; it's an issue that makes victims of more people. But I think it's fair to say that domestic violence against men is talked about a whole lot less, and this is why I have written this blog.

And finally, and painfully. 

For the one in four women who will suffer domestic violence, and for the one in six men who will suffer the same, 

In the UK, there are 7,500 women's shelters, which is not enough.

In the UK, there are 60 men's shelters, which is not enough.

If you need support, visit –