Mon 11 May 2020 11:53AM

Youth Alternative UK - Mentoring/Supporting the next generation

RB Rosamonde Birch Public Seen by 13

Is there potential for mentoring/supporting young people/youth organisations?

Working with young people to explore 'alternative' approaches to grassroots politics is connected to the aspirations of A/UK. Additionally, as a Citizenship Educator and workshop lead in political-literacy I have observed a huge interest and desire for a 'different politics' amongst young people and young adults.

What might this look like?

Who might A/UK link with?

What already exists?

I am keen to put together a summary report that will include a) Models/approaches, b) Connections/links, c) Offer/content


Alex Cooper Mon 11 May 2020 7:25PM

Great questions and an area that deserves to be explored.

Those workshops that you've already led ... how were they set up?

We'd all do well to question everything more. Helping young adults, with any interest in politics, to do the same would be a great thing: https://free.vote/slash-tag/democracy/1213 (Don't point anyone to George Carlin's comedy without knowing the strength of it - for example, here's George Carlin on education (strong language) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNXHSMmaq_s ... trusting you won't be offended.


Rosamonde Birch Thu 14 May 2020 3:21PM

Hi Alex,

Really glad you are supportive and interested in extending a conversation around this topic. And yes, I do enjoy a bit of George Carlin. His opinions of the 'education systems' I do align with and a huge part of my work is exploring alternatives in education.

My past practice teaching and workshop content has included:

  1. Citizenship Education - media-literacy (awareness of narratives and stories that influence our sense of reality and perceptions), political-literacy (awareness of existing political infrastructures - political party groups, political perspective positions and the role of government/parliament/judiciary), alongside democratic-literacy (elections and different systems, holding power to account, comparing democracies, participation in community and campaign groups). The curriculum also included rights and responsibilities in communities (Human Rights, rights of the child, UN), active citizenship projects in the community (decision making, self-governance, collaborative skills development and implementing a problem-solving idea, reflective practice - Action Research style approaches).

  2. UK Parliament - introduction to the three parts of the UK Parliament (Commons, Lords and Monarch). Workshops on Creating Laws, General Elections, History of the Vote, and Campaign for Change. I did specialist workshops on UK Parliament Committees (scrutinising the Government), Improving voter turnout, Student Voice and UK Youth Parliament, Inequality of Representation past - present, exploring the characteristics of a successful politician, Women's Rights in Politics. We even ran large debating workshops on topics such as abolition of the Monarchy and introducing PR voting.

  3. Young People's Social Enterprise Awards - Worked with a Cooperative College and the students in the fashion and design Sixth form class created three products for the local palliative care home. Exploring community issues, identifying practical art/design products for commercial sale, ecologically minded production and manufacturing for a social benefit.

  4. Active citizenship projects

  5. Student Voice (pedagogical approach to classroom learning and can be adopted as a school culture)

  6. UK Youth Parliament (workshops with elected youth representatives)

  7. School Councils Awards (UK Parliament project)

  8. School Council self-governance workshops

The above approaches and methods are all very much attached to the existing models of the UK democracy infrastructure, but are obviously vital to understanding how we have the existing system and then learn how it can be shifted. A substantial element of knowledge and exploration missing, and something I always noted, was an assumption in schools or across some teaching that everyone knows what 'democracy' means as a concept or way of sharing space together. For me I think this would need to be a bit element of supporting young people in a more meaningful way - What does democracy mean to you? What are the values and ethics underpinning a democratic way of being?

Most recently I have been using educational approaches of:

  1. Philosophy for Children/Communities (P4C) - democratic learning approach to explore complex and philosophical questions using provocations (stories, quotes, images, articles, documentaries or speeches etc), where children, young people of adults question presumptions about the world and themselves whist discussing themes and topics that influence our perceptions and meaning-making as communities. It is hugely supportive of plural inclusive spaces. It is all about asking QUESTIONS - so George Carlin would be happy :)

  2. Open Space for Dialogue - similar to P4C but includes an 'action' element after the philosophical discussion process and is used very much in environmental education or global citizenship workshops.

  3. Small-scale class citizen assemblies

  4. Futures Thinking, which may link into Indra's 'Futures Competencies' work from Austria too?

  5. Empathy discussions - global learning materials

  6. Systems thinking through sustainable development education

  7. Transformative Education - working with students to not only see short-term fixes to environmental issues, but delve deeper into the causes of issues and problem-solve them at the source (i.e. reducing car emissions: stage 1 thinking = electric cars, stage 2 thinking = increase public transport, make transport free and reduce need for cars and fossil fuel, and stage 3 thinking = change construction of city spaces and design cities to be residential, business, food, leisure, care, health and creatively driven across spaces. Encourage different ways of working. Reduced working week?) This approach gets very interesting as it has to involve systems thinking to see how different options impacts across the web of social, environmental, cultural and economic features of our communities.

Sorry, that ended up being quite a substantial essay! But also good to get it all down to refer to for future planning etc.

But to round it up many of the core pedagogical aims of these approaches are 'critical thinking', 'creative thinking', 'collaborative thinking', 'compassionate thinking' and 'systems thinking'.

If you spot anything else, article, examples or ideas definitely send it across :)



Alex Cooper Thu 14 May 2020 8:57PM

You've got some great content there Roz, very well thought out. I can see the need, and would love to be engaged with such work somehow "on the ground" in a supportive role maybe. Of course time is always limited when you work full time in a non-related discipline and have other projects on the go.

In a break-out group in a recent AUK Sunday Zoom call, there was another guy who ventured similar thoughts about engaging, supporting, mentoring, assisting young people to find their political feet and voice - I wish I could remember his name ...

If we can help channel the energies of the next generation with the ideas and energy to move mountains then that has to be a good thing.


Rosamonde Birch Fri 15 May 2020 11:16AM

Hi Alex,

I really appreciate your energy in support of this exploration and the potential mentoring/supporting young people can bring for the future. Your time, thoughts and ideas will be invaluable.

If you remember the other guys name please do let him know about the conversation here and it would be great to have his involvement.

I'll get on with some more research my end and get started on the summary document.

Speak soon



Alex Cooper Sat 16 May 2020 9:37AM

Content areas are looking great Roz. Have you had any thoughts about defining the target groups more specifically and whether the workshops would be delivered online or locally in person?


Rosamonde Birch Sat 16 May 2020 12:36PM

Hi Alex,

I was going to explore different delivery types as part of looking at the models and how they might work virtually and in person. My personal preference would be 'in person' as it links into place-conscious thinking and the ability of the facilitator to really work across group dynamics etc.

Another area I wanted to look at was existing organisations that might be worth approaching (Prince's Trust, UK Youth Parliament, National Union of Students?, Association for Citizenship Teachers, even the RSA may support small-scale projects or they could have pilot projects underway?). Although these links would be useful, the principles behind the Youth A/UK would be to not replicate existing ways of doing/thinking about politics, so I'm wondering if we approach it through different youth based groups (arts groups, youth theatres, youth groups, young carer networks, eco councils in schools?). Any other groups you know of?

One additional idea I had was to include a youth group in the consultation process too? So I'm just considering what links and networks I already have and how I could include youth voices in this - what do they prioritise when learning about 'politics', 'community', 'localism' and 'futures'? There is a Youth Community Trust near me in Lochalsh and they are very proactive, which could be a great relationship to build?

I'm still undecided between 'young people'/'young adults' - the UN defines 'youth' as 15-24 years old so that would encompass a wider demographic but also could make it slightly more challenging to offer mentoring/support/workshops/engagement across those ages?

I also don't want a proposal to become prescriptive as an 'engagement model' with young people, so there needs to be flexibility and fluidity to how different youth groups might work and different mentoring/workshops can be adaptable to people, place, interests, projects and aspirations?

Any extra reflections and possible groups to consider for linking with let me know. You input is hugely appreciated.



Alex Cooper Sun 17 May 2020 1:37PM

Hi Roz,

You've obviously put a great deal of time into this and I really wish you well.

It's not possible for me to know how much time and energy you have to devote to this project, and what timescales you have in mind for getting things moving, but setting up and learning from a small pilot project seems to be key to building success.

If there's something I've learned from projects I've started and failed to make a success of, is that it's probably a mistake to deliver a finished solution to potential partners and expect their buy-in, so including a youth group in the consultation process would seem to me to be a great start.

There's also the WIIFM question that should be considered - from the young person's perspective "What's in it for me?". Of course there will be some who have had something that has sparked an interest in politics and citizenship, but for many that spark will be need to be fired to engage them. How can that be done most effectively?

I've just been pointed in the direction of https://www.newcitizenship.org.uk/ have you come across them?


Rosamonde Birch Mon 18 May 2020 12:36PM

Hi Alex,

That's all great advise and thank you for your additional support of a pilot or youth involvement process. The WIIFM would be a great framing for working with young people and to engage groups in the process.

I haven't come across 'New Citizenship' but some of their ideas cross-over with A/UK. I will include their model/example in the summary document as a possible structure to consider in how they work and what they offer organisations.

And yes, timescales and hours at present are more flexible due to home working, but that may change ASAP depending on my personal circumstances?

Thanks again for your ideas and support.



Indra Adnan Tue 12 May 2020 9:04AM

Hey Ros, this is core to our thinking about the future so would love to see you develop this strand. We encounter a lot of young people via activism - XR or School Strike or youth groups like Momentum where the 'political education' is either a protest against the government or broadly progressive / Left. Similarly in schools, while I was a governor, political education introduced the system but never fundamentally questioned it.

We have been skipping the X,Y, Z categories that read the generations through the current political lens and have been developing the notion of RegenA as capable and compelled to generate something different for the challenges of the future. Here are a few AUK pieces that begin the inquiry.

Also I have a colleague in Austria who runs something called the Institute of Future Competencies https://www.zukunftskompetenzen.at - they run regular co-labs for young people called Days of the Future. Unfortunately they do everything in German, but would be easy to set up a call to share practice.


Rosamonde Birch Thu 14 May 2020 3:35PM

Hi Indra,

Thank your for the links and really glad this is something that you are keen to explore further. And as my essay above highlights I am in agreement regarding the 'protest' to existing systems rather than 'political education' meaningfully exploring what politics are possible and supporting/menoring young people and young adults in building skills to really materialise the collaborations and politics they want.

The articles are really useful. The emerging terminologies and how young people are defining themselves is really vital, which I shall endeavour to adopt into the summary document. In one of them you mention the Human Givens, serendipitously today Fee was suggesting I check out their work!

I just did some google translating on the Futures Centre in Austria and a lot of my MA dissertation links directly to the work they are doing, which is fantastic! This entanglement of 'futures thinking' that explore democracy, participation, ecologies, community need, wellbeing, hopes, visioning and really facilitating a relationally constructed potential future together.

Great, lots to be exploring and thinking about.



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