On Wednesday 10th of October, Beatfreeks will launch the second Brum Youth Trends Report. The first report was the first of its kind, it asked young people in Birmingham what they thought and felt about themselves and their city and received over 600 responses. 400 organisations downloaded the first report, including Birmingham City Council. This year’s report is bigger and explores the views of young people on topics such as health, education, retail and transport in further depth. The Brum Youth Trends 2018 report will be launched at the Summit at Birmingham Town Hall on the day of the release. I caught up with Zeddie Lawal, Community Developer at Free Radical and one of the key players in putting the report together and getting the project off of the ground. I asked her about the process behind Brum Youth Trends and why the report is so important.
So, Zeddie, why is Brum Youth Trends important?
If you can name me one platform that listens to young people’s needs in the city, just one, then I’ll explain to you why Brum Youth Trends isn’t important.
Okay, tell me a little bit about the process behind this year’s Brum Youth Trends report and how it's differed from last year.
We wanted to go deeper and also to expand. We’ve tripled the number of questions to get higher quality responses and we’ve doubled the number of responses to get a more well-rounded view of what young people are thinking in the city. This year we had just shy of 1300 responses. That required a lot of work but the reason we wanted to do this was to try and get the voices of young people in the report as opposed to just a snapshot of who they are.
What’s your secret behind getting young people to sit there and fill out such a long questionnaire?
Have a conversation with them, tell them what the project is and why we are doing it. I’m a complete stranger asking them what their views are and there is already a distrust behind young people and those trying to get information from them. We’ve tried to break that boundary and that barrier and get the message across that we’re here to help young people. After breaking down why we’re doing it, getting them to fill in the questionnaire was the easy bit.
And where did you find your young people?
All across the city. We went to most youth centres across the city, we surveyed at St Basils and youth hostels, we had lots of events such as Poetry Jam’s fifth birthday and HEADSPVCE, we went to schools, we went to colleges. Literally, every and any young person that we could see and get our hands on, they were filling in a Brum youth trends report. The most interesting thing for me personally was actually going into youth centres and hostels, places where young people don’t necessarily get the opportunity to be taken seriously. That’s where we really found out where the city worked and didn’t work for young people. Next year, I’d like to go into more places of work and find out how the young people who fall into the age bracket of around 20-25 interact with the city.
It’s really good to hear about what’s coming up next with the Brum Youth Trends Report, when will you start working on the third edition?
As soon as we finish the Brum Youth Trends summit on the 10th of October! We’ve already started having conversations about what 2019 will look like if we want to get the maximum amount of young people to respond that is what we have to do.
And Brum Youth Trends is definitely a recurring thing? It isn’t going to go away any time soon?
No! We will do it as long as it is needed! As long as there are young people we will track them down!
But on a more serious note, as long as there are no platforms for young people’s voices to be heard we will continue to provide and be that platform.
You talk about platforms, there have been more and more cities adopting the Brum Youth Trends model and questioning young people, does it feel good to see that happening?
It’s exciting, to see [Brum Youth Trends] go from being an idea to an independent piece of research for the community in Birmingham and to see how valuable it has been across the country, the more the merrier! These reports are bringing us closer to finding out how young people feel and they’re making sure that institutions sit down and listen and take them seriously.
What are the three main things that people should learn from this year's report?
There are so many but three headlines are…
1) This generation of young people has had so much to deal with, from the large issues like Brexit and job security to the little disruptions like transport. This is causing young people to be so much more resilient and also frustrated, unless we start listening to young people we might get a more resistant generation.
2) Young people notice when decisions are made and they’re not included and they feel it. Simple things like a space being provided for young people to feedback genuinely makes there wellbeing better. When the city responds to young people, young people will want to stay in the city and make it a better place.
3) Young people are bright and they are carving their own futures. The traditional approach of going to school, college and university might not necessarily be that beneficial. Some young people might not do the best in school but they are their own social entrepreneurs and they are making their own businesses and their own ideas. Organisations and institutions need to adapt their approach and look beyond CV’s. Our young people will be the next CEO’s and entrepreneurs of the future, we don’t want young people to get left behind because they don’t follow a traditional process.
Tell me a little about the Brum Youth Trends summit, how are the preparations going?
I’ll keep that one a surprise!
Fair enough! So, the report goes out on the 10th, there’s a big event at the Town Hall, and then organisations take it away and they action it. Put yourself in the shoes of these organisations, what do you do with this report? How do you action it?
It’s all about organisational culture change. Young people have taken the time out to answer 66 questions, giving us around 500,000 responses, [organisations] must now take the time to absorb what they have to say and take the steps to prepare for the next generation.
So, the culture change has to be more young people in positions where they can influence decisions?
Final question… Who Runs Brum?
Young people are the disrupters of change, but ultimately both young people and institutions need to work together.
There is no singular [institution] that runs Birmingham because everybody has a different perspective of what Birmingham means to them and what Birmingham is to them. We all run Brum, there needs to stop being that massive divide and people need to work together.