Engaging the leaders of the future

Only in Wales can you attend a social enterprise awards ceremony and be serenaded by the dulcet tones of a Welsh tenor (from a somewhat famous comparison website advert)! It was clear from then on our time in Wales was going to be delightful, which is was! Attending the Social Business Wales awards allowed us to get a real insight as to the growth and development of the social enterprise sector in Wales, which can come as a much-needed refreshment from the sometimes stifling atmosphere of the repetitive showcase we can see in London. The sector is going from strength to strength in Wales with a huge variety of social enterprises starting and scaling, from luxury products and leisure centres to zero waste shops, and we’ve only become more keen to see how we can contribute to it.

We then delivered a workshop the following day at the Social Business Wales Conference, titled ‘engaging with the leaders of the future’. We had a good number of attendees for both our morning and afternoon sessions from a variety of organisations including government, social enterprises and support organisations. As it’s part of our mantra to promote young people as the voice that shapes how we should be engaging leaders of the future, we briefly gave the floor to two participants from our DfC Journey cohort! The DfCers who joined us were Antonella and Rachel from Port Talbot. They both work for Tai Tarian, a housing association that we visited as part of the June journey and who are very much at the forefront of working in the area to combat issues such as high-cost credit, which has shown to have devastating effects on poorer communities in the region.

One of the aims of Drivers for Change is to have our programme and voice co-designed by the participants we work with, and we wanted that to come out in our session. It seems pretty strange to us that we would run a programme for young people but not allow their voice to be heard and determine our direction, but rather to pick them up and drop them as and when we need. Thankfully the workshop attendees agreed that having Rachel and Antonella in the room sharing their experience bought a new dynamic to the session and felt it was refreshing! 

However, we came away from the workshop with quite a few questions which we discussed on our very delayed journey back to London. I think its safe to say that we had different outcomes than we were expecting, and it had really highlighted quite a few pressing questions…How ARE we engaging young leaders of the future? Do organisations understand the importance of harnessing young talent and future planning reflect it? Are we actually allowing young people to have a say in the growth and development of our organisations…or are they being kept silent until we need that bit of young inspiration or generational advice? Are they being allowed to suggest new ideas and content when creating policies, or is it just when we need a facebook post to be uploaded? When in roundtables discussing these questions, some of the standard points were raised e.g. that young people need the tools in order to create change and only then they will do it, that young people are disillusioned and need direction, so on and so forth. However we’ve come to see that they are the most innovative, inspired and creative generation yet, and so we think its not tools they need but the opportunity to use them. We spoke about new disruptive ideas such as reverse mentoring when a young person and an older person will mentor each other 50/50, and challenged them to see what the results will be (something we are trying out ourselves!).

Sometimes it seems that we’ve put young people in a box of the disillusioned and disempowered and are panicking as to know what to do with them and how to know when is the right time to include them. Through our programme, we’ve seen the opposite. They are highly visionary, inspired beyond words and have so many ideas that our challenge is harnessing them and giving them strategic direction. They are a generation ready for the task at hand, with the energy and the resilience to target the challenges that are critical to the future of the world and our lives as we know it. Our challenge is to adapt our current organisations and programmes to enable them to come to the forefront of the decisions we make and allow their voice to be heard.

Thanks to our Programme Manager Gemma for writing this blog post.