Meet the finalists: Participation & Youth Voice

Sponsored by: YouthLink Scotland

Young people have power when it comes to making a difference. They are brave, full of ideas, and always thinking about the future. Their ideas are sparks that can ignite big transformations. These finalists are supporting young people to fearlessly question and have their say.

Participation & Youth Voice finalists

Celebrating Renfrewshire Fund (Renfrewshire Council CLD) 

Nurturing and giving voice to young people to deliver real change in their communities. That’s what Celebrating Renfrewshire is all about. The programme is a participatory budgeting initiative designed by and for young people, where young people aged 12-25 have a direct say on which projects are funded in their local area.  

Last year, more than 35 successful projects were awarded funding, including an outdoor hut used as a community meeting place for young artists, opportunities for young musicians to harness skills in sound and video, and training to assist in mental health first aid and suicide awareness. 

The fund is managed by a steering group of young people from across Renfrewshire, supported by the council’s community planning and youth services teams. 

Nicola Perratt, one of the young people involved in the steering group talked about her rollercoaster experience: “Don’t get me wrong it was hard work and there were times I was pushed well out of my comfort zone, especially when I was asked to be the MC for the Celebrating Renfrewshire funding announcement event, which I had never done before and I was shaking in my boots, but I did it! 

“I would never have done such a thing if I hadn’t been given the opportunity of being part of the Celebrating Renfrewshire steering group and pushing myself.” 

Trans Rights Youth Commission (LGBT Youth Scotland) 

There are not many young people that can say they made history in the fight against transphobia, but these youth campaigners have done just that.  

The Trans Rights Youth Commission is an outstanding piece of participatory youth work that took young people’s voices to the highest levels within the Scottish Parliament to inform the reform of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA).  

Young people’s views were core to this legislation reform. A challenge at times, working within a climate of controversy, but one that the youth commissioners and youth workers rose to, often against all odds.  

Their influence is something most lobbyists could only dream of. Meetings with government ministers and MSPs across parties, providing evidence to committees, delivering speeches at a host of events, workshops with young people across the nation and a great deal of media interest. 

And it was their words and stories that were quoted by politicians of all parties during the final debate on the bill – with both ministers and MSPs commenting that their contribution had a significant impact on their decision making.  

Max McDonald is one of those on the Trans Rights Youth Commission who helped make history: “It is a powerful feeling to be able to stand up in front of a group of people and explicitly express your opinions and argue for other’s rights, and this is all made possible through the youth commission project.” 

Although the GRA was passed by the Scottish Parliament, it is currently subject to a challenge from the UK Parliament under Section 35 of the Scotland Act. 

Alanna Burns (respectme) 

Bullying should never be seen as a normal part of growing up. For many young people it is still a trauma that is the backdrop to their young lives.  

Alanna Burns from respectme is determined to make sure that young people are in control of the solution. She is behind the establishment of the groundbreaking Youth Action Group (YAG), an outstanding example of great youth work practice with empathy and co-design at its heart.  

The group’s young activists co-designed respectme’s National Anti-Bullying Week Campaign ‘Listen Up! Respect Our Rights’, which thousands of schools and youth organisations took part in. The campaign included targeted calls to adults about the role they can play in protecting young people from bullying, and a suite of resources which are widely used across the country.  

To celebrate the record-breaking success of the group’s campaign, Alanna arranged a visit to the Scottish Parliament during Anti-Bullying Week where they enjoyed an audience with then Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley-Anne Somerville. This was a fantastic testimony to how Alanna has empowered and inspired this group of young people to have their voices heard.  

Eva Drummond, who is one of the campaigners in YAG says her experience has been life changing: “I had a negative experience previously when talking to adults about bullying and my personal experiences and Alanna has never once tried to tell me that what I experienced wasn’t bullying. She listened to me and all of the other members of the YAG and offered support when conversations got difficult.”