Dr Dayo Eseonu shares her optimism for a future shaped by dynamic and ambitious young people who want to improve society and the environment today.
The COP26 youth march earlier this month saw thousands of young people skip school to demand action to address the climate crisis. Activists Vanessa Nakate, Greta Thunberg, and Xiye Bastida joined the rally, supporting other young people across the world to take social action and speak up for their future.
This is a moment of youth power where, whatever their cause, young people are standing up to be counted. There’s courage in that, and I’m seeing it encapsulated in a variety of contexts – not least in #iwill week, a celebration of youth social action all over the UK – and, on a national scale, through the Youth-Led Peer Research Network, which is engaging 60 young people across England to undertake research into the experiences and priorities of their peers. Across diverse regions, their work will inform funders, delivery organisations and youth organisations on where young people want to focus youth funding, bringing the sector a step closer to understanding and meeting their needs.
Among the young people in the network, I’ve noticed a common motivation in why they wanted to join, and a clear theme across their hopes and aspirations: these young people are passionate about making a positive difference to their community, and they want to amplify the voices of those who are not always heard.
It is up to funders (public, private and corporate), delivery organisations and youth organisations, to help them, providing motivated young people with opportunities to build their expertise and bring about the change they want to see.
I’m impressed by the drive I’ve seen, both by the big-name youth activists featured in the media, and by the quieter but no less determined network of young people I’ve seen working hard to grow the knowledge, skills, and experience to become positive changemakers. It’s happening now. Young people aren’t just the leaders of tomorrow, they are also leaders of today. And, through social action, they are making a positive difference on the issues that affect their lives, their communities, and broader society.
Youth-Led Peer Researcher Network is delivered by The Young Foundation, working alongside The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.