'It was essential to me that the voice of the young person was heard'

On 22nd August 2020, The London Community Foundation held a decision-making panel with three young Londoners, to decide which applications to The Young People’s Fund would receive funding.  

This pilot round of funding aimed to support grassroots community groups who were putting youth voice at the centre of their work to tackle violence affecting young people. Peabody Community Foundation (PCF) have worked with young people aged 11-25 from across London to develop The Young People’s Fund, which is designed by, owned by, and for the benefit of young people.  

The fund received 50 applications and following a rigorous decision-making process, the panel decided to award almost £77,000 through 8 projects spanning Southwark, Waltham Forest, Lambeth, and Hackney.  

We spoke with Akeem, 24, who participated in the panel to hear about his experience having a voice on issues affecting young people. 

I first heard of the grant panel via LinkedIn; the entire process was straightforward. I contacted Peabody who then sent over a brief application form, upon completion I sent it off hoping for the best. Around a week later, I was contacted by Peabody Lead Youth Development Coordinator, letting me know I had been accepted onto the youth panel.  

When I first came across the opportunity, I was quite sceptical as I didn't believe many previous anti-violence campaigns were genuine or even had relatable aspects towards young people who were being affected by violence.  

Growing up in East London, I've never been far from gruesome stories of stabbings or violent encounters. These incidents have often been too close to home for me, as I have had many friends and associates who have had the unfortunate experience of being affected by violence. Having this personal connection has often left me feeling disheartened, as this phenomenon has been going on for years.  

The British tabloid fascination with click-bait stories such as London being the world’s most dangerous place on earth has not helped either.  Last summer, Top Boy, a British television crime drama series premiered on Netflix, it detailed the peaks and falls of drug dealers in the London Borough of Hackney. Not too far from where I was raised. 

Whilst on the tube one day I overheard two city workers discussing the show. Throughout the conversation, I realised that whilst Top Boy was fictional, these two city workers honestly believed that all young people from council estates or areas like Hackney were ‘trouble’. That violence amongst young people was self-inflicted.    

Many of my peers and even friends have unfortunately been involved in violent incidents, but I know that the vast majority of these issues could have been avoided. The incident on the tube gave me the drive to ensure that people like my friends would not end up in these situations or just another sensational headline.

There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.
Margaret J. Wheatley

The importance of community investment became a way for me to understand how the increasing issues of violence amongst young people can be addressed. Talent is evenly distributed, but opportunities are not. This panel gave me the chance to ensure opportunities were given back to the communities that need them the most, like my own!

Once my appointment was made official, I went through rigorous training by Peabody and The London Community Foundation, where many new skills were learnt, and others developed.  

Most important for me, was understanding how to communicate amongst a team with different opinions. Trust me it wasn't easy. But massive shout out to my fellow panel members - Dominic and Adam! For being such great decision-makers.  

Additionally, I was given a more profound understanding of the different functions needed to operate a social impact organisation. How young people came together to solve an issue they were passionate about, throughout the decision making, it was essential to me that the voice of the young person was heard.  

Why does the youth voice matter? Well, because to build a fair and just society for young people we need underrepresented opinions and voices to be heard. It is incredibly essential that opportunities like the Youth Panel are advertised to young people, and I encourage all youth to engage with such opportunities. Afterall, as young people, we should have a voice in what our society should look like.  

To conclude, if I were given the opportunity again I would gladly take it up, ensuring that I make an impact on my community is something that drives me and I encourage all young people  to make the same decision.