You will have no doubt have heard the stunning fact that Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe. 40% of the population is made up of under 25-year-olds.
A young city calls for young and courageous leaders, but people in positions of power are often older and out of touch.
In 2017, Beatfreeks commissioned the first ever Brum Youth Trends report, and this year they will release the 2018 edition. From a collection of over 600 responses, the first report showed that 62.7% of the young people believe that local government make the majority of the decisions, 11% believing ‘big bosses’ run the city and 18.7% of young people said that the city is dysfunctional and not run at all. The first two figures alone are no cause for concern, local government plays a vital role in the provision of public services, and businesses provide jobs & help people to become socially mobile. The problem is… the local government and the upper echelons of business are made up of people who might not be in touch with the needs and wants of Birmingham’s young population. It could even be argued that the young people who think that Birmingham isn’t ‘run’ at all might feel differently if there was some more descriptive representation where decisions are being made, which is when representatives look like and share experiences with the people they are supposed to representing.
On the other side of the debate, people might argue that young people aren’t suited for these kinds of leadership roles as they might not have the same level of experience possessed by their older counterparts. Of course, it’s absolutely right that if people work hard for many years they should be in senior positions. However, this doesn’t mean that local government and businesses can’t do more to reach out to younger people, including setting up youth boards, communicating decisions directly to them and helping them to access leadership opportunities and courses.
Local authorities can learn lessons from organisations such as UpRising.
Uprising provides opportunities for young people to become socially conscious leaders and have a mission of breaking “the cycle of unrepresentative power in the UK.” As well as organisations such as Free Radical which gives young people space to challenge where power lies and tell stories about themselves and the world; with one of their core beliefs being that when young people are “engaged, empowered and educated” they “apply their creativity to affect change in their own lives and their communities.”
I was once told that you could predict the future success of a city by the number of cranes in the sky. Birmingham has these in abundance. Major economic developments are constantly being undertaken that we hope will bring employment and prosperity to the city, but what say do young people have in these decisions?