“Through social action young people can see for themselves the powerful difference they can make to their own lives, and the people around them in their wider community”, said Mr Clegg yesterday. Mr Miliband added that “we have the chance to unlock so much potential in this country.”
For any of us to realise our potential we have to believe we can influence our own future. We have to gain the skills and confidence necessary to know we can create the changes we desire – whether for ourselves or for others. For many this ‘agency’ happens almost by osmosis, transferred from parents and friends. For others it does not happen automatically; indeed it is often hindered by feeling ‘done to’ throughout their formal education.
The razzamatazz and profile of campaigns such as this are useful. So are exciting and developmental activities such as happen when on the National Citizen’s Service programme. They both draw people in. But the magic ingredient that leads to transformation is empowerment- ensuring young people are genuinely engaged and able to influence their own ‘social action’ and development.
Empowerment is a simple but enormously important concept. And it is one that requires a high degree of skilled facilitation, careful planning, humility and patience. This is what Learn to Lead does. It exists to make it easy for schools, youth organisations and others. It provides them with the necessary structures, training, tools and on-going support – support which has been developed and honed by teachers and students working together for over ten years.