Big society’s big mouth

A guest post by Terry Ryall

The recession and deep cuts in public services have prompted a very important debate around the role of young people and their ability to manage and direct their future in this ‘age of austerity’. 

The rise of youth unemployment, tuition fees, higher education cuts, job losses, closure to local services, slashes to social housing and scrapping of youth employment schemes and the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) will all impact the lives of young people. The last few months of 2010 saw an up-surge of youth activism, as young people rallied against fees and government cuts, dispelling the myth that young people are apathetic and uninterested in politics.

Here at v, we believe that young people want to be vocal about what matters to them, and deserve platforms and opportunities to share their opinions and be heard. It is crucial that they influence the discussions taking place around them and shape what role they want to play in society. Not only that, young people are vital to the realisation of the government’s goals for a more civically and socially engaged ‘Big Society.’

v wants to put opportunity and power into the hands of young people. This week we have launched a national campaign – Big Society’s Big Mouth – which asks young people what role they want to play in society. 

The creation of v’s Big Society’s Big Mouth project will help facilitate debate, promote concerns of young people to those in power and empower young people to take an active role in their communities. It bridges the gap between young people and the government, amplifying young people’s views and solutions for a bigger, better society. .

This campaign is a response to research which found that only 25% of young people have heard of the Big Society and over two thirds (67%) of young people don’t know what the Big Society means for them.

The Big Society is a concept that is moving rapidly from rhetoric to reality. We at v believe it is vital that young people are given the opportunity to help define and refine what the Big Society means to them.  Many young people are already taking real action in their communities.   However policy makers currently run the risk of ignoring the views of a group without which building a more socially active society will be impossible.

The Big Society’s Big Mouth campaign will develop young leaders and inspire real action as well as conversation.  Through social action projects on the ground, young people will engage with community issues and develop their own solutions to local problems. 

Our mission with the Big Society’s Big Mouth campaign is to start a debate that will not only engage with thousands of young people, but that will also identify tangible solutions to the barriers that may be preventing them taking a more active role in their communities. We will then work with young people to take their proposals to government and ensure they influence the development of Big Society and youth policies at both a national and local level. Big Society’s Big Mouth will give young people the chance to finally have their say on the key issues affecting their lives today.

Terry Ryall is CEO of v

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