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I am sad to say that as of July I will no longer represent the young people of Wales as UK Young Ambassador, with the British Youth Council.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.

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