Following discussions with Cllr Rishi Shori, who leads on Community Cohesion and on The Greater Manchester Combined Youth Authority, and in partnership with Youth Focus North West; Janet Batsleer has launched a new stage of our work on participation and democracy with a local flavour.
The recently completed PARTISPACE project explored the spaces and styles of young people’s participation in eight European Cities. The findings focussed on the importance of recognition of young people’s own negotiations of spaces in the city and the styles they develop in which to participate. In the UK, the idea of ‘youth participation’ has become very much focussed on those under 18 who are preparing to become active citizens, on the one hand, and on the development, improvement and ‘youth proofing’ of services on the other. But this focus on services and on formal representation is only one part of democratic engagement.
One of the recommendations of PARTISPACE is the development of a living Youth Charter, to be developed on a European wide basis, but with an open process and builds up a city-to-city network. At the same time as the process of exploring the Youth Charter idea is beginning here in Greater Manchester, colleagues in Frankfurt and in Rennes are also taking it forward.
On Friday July 20th a reference group comprising key stakeholders from across Greater Manchester Youth and Arts Sectors came together to explore, critique, debate and develop the idea of the Youth Charter. Using participatory methods facilitated by Dr James Duggan, a key member of the team from MMU, we explored the current challenges facing youth participation in Greater Manchester and began a process of imagining what a Youth Charter process might be.
From the perspective of the PARTISPACE findings, Janet Batsleer emphasised the following:
- The importance of a grass roots focus, beyond the wealthier centres of the Greater Manchester conurbation.
- The importance of supporting creative and open approaches
The intention is to connect various communities and age cohorts, ranging from the 16-16 cohort on the one hand to the 26-30 cohort on the other hand. To explore the widest possible set of issues, based on a recognition of the needs and interests of the particular communities we are engaging with but to build a process that will bring people together both across Greater Manchester and potentially with other European groups.
To affiliate with the idea of the Charter, work should include the following elements:
- A commitment to identify very specific and achievable targets, within the current system.
- A commitment to enable young people (and their wider communities) to recognise and make a claim to their rights, even when these rights are not lived as a reality currently.
- A commitment to enable young people to imagine things as being lived differently, such that these claims, to rights and also to life and flourishing, become a reality.
- In terms of work with the Greater Manchester Youth Combined Authority, it is intended that these experiments in extending our understanding democracy will support the representatives on the Youth Combined Authority and also the Curriculum for Life/Greater Manchester Living Curriculum working group.
The Reference Group will gather again in December 2018.
Immediate suggestions for developing the Youth Charter will be held by Janet Batsleer (email: J.Batsleer@mmu.ac.uk) and the developments undertaken during the autumn will be shared then. So far suggestions include sharing the ‘Safer Person’ initiative led by The Proud Trust; events linked to the International Day of the Girl Child, led by Empowerment People; a Playful Charter (led by James Duggan) – there will certainly be more. Exploring the links between the inter-personal space and the online world of connection will be to fore and was a significant thread of this initial discussion, as was the question of how best to respond democratically in a life which is shaped by intense monitoring, surveillance and control.