Welcoming ELBA’s Youth Board

 In Blog, CEO's blog, Community

ELBA’s Youth Board is up and running. We now have 12 young people aged 16 to 24 who have applied and been appointed to offer a voice from young people direct to the heart of what we do. The Youth Board will be a formal part of our governance structure, not a remote advisory or reference group. As such it will have a direct link to the main ELBA Board of trustees.

We have taken this step to reflect that nearly all ELBA members have support for young people included in their community engagement priorities. Some prefer to support school age students – from primary through to sixth form. Some like to help college or university students. Young people making the transition to work as apprentices or graduates may also be the focus. Whatever it is, the young people theme is all pervasive. No great surprise in that as it is the natural desire of every generation to be helping the next. The heartening thing in relation to ELBA business members is that they set out to help those who may come from different backgrounds to themselves, and who may not have had access to the same advantages.

So our thinking was that if such a large part of our purpose is to help young people, they ought to be involved in helping to shape the projects and services we deliver. I am not saying ELBA staff and trustees do not have the young among them – but some of us do have to echo Bruce Springsteen when he says “maybe we ain’t that young anymore”, and not all of us grew up in east London. I have been rightly mocked of course for mentioning the Boss, and proving exactly why direct youth input is necessary. Youth Board members are a mix of school students, young employees, apprentices, non- service users and past and present service users. Among the latter are, of course, current and former EAGLES, our graduate placement scheme – now recruiting for the first two cohorts of 2017. One thing the new Youth Board members certainly are is representative of east London.

We will be asking our Youth Board for input and views on all aspects of ELBA’s work – from big strategy and business planning to project design and bids for funding. We hope they will also identify issues of importance for young people that we have not thought of, and with a little bit of resource, we will support research and development into the themes they prioritise.

We had a weekend orientation day to get the group underway, and one of the first tasks was to elect a Chair and Vice Chair and appoint a Secretary. After a tough hustings, Gerald Palmer and Fatmia Musa were elected to the former two posts and Sehrish Ahmed to be the Secretary. We wish them all good luck in their two year term of office.

Naturally enough we also took the opportunity to ask them how they thought we could communicate better with young people – fully expecting to get some helpful suggestions for our fledgling social media strategy. Instead they surprised us by saying face-to-face was the most important means to influence young people. Take every opportunity at every stage of education, study and employment to meet and tell young people about jobs, careers and making the transition to employment, drawing in as wide a range of people as possible, in a simple and genuine way. And at all costs, stay away from the social media platforms young people use for their social interactions. An ELBA presence there would be about as welcome as a trendy vicar in a youth club.

So welcome Youth Board. We all look forward to working with you and I hope our services will be reflective of the needs of young people and responsive to the issues they feel are most pressing. The profiles of the Youth Board members will be up on the ELBA website shortly, and you can contact them at youth.board@elba-1.org.uk.

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