The Norfolk Youth Summit is a virtual event being hosted by Norwich School and attended by 8 schools across the county. Pupils from each school discuss important issues facing today's youth: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, the Climate Crisis and Mental Health and Wellbeing. Norwich School pupils Alice-Lily Nnene and Daniel Possener, created the event as a platform for Norfolk Youth to discuss the issues currently facing their generation. In this blog post, Alice reflects on the purpose and potential of the Youth Summit.
"We live in an ever-changing world. New ideas, discussions and concepts arise constantly. We saw this during 2020 - a catalyst year that reignited various worldwide conversations. Black Lives Matter protests took centre stage in the media; the ‘healing’ effect COVID-19 had on the environment was highlighted; the world also discussed the heavy toll of the pandemic on people’s mental health.
Looking closely at the events of last year, it was clear that the younger generation was heavily involved in the conversations. Understandably, young people were speaking out about the things that affect, or would affect, them most. This idea forms the basis of the Norfolk Youth Summit: youth speaking about issues that affect them.
Both Dan and I see the Youth Summit as a powerful mechanism in two ways: it gives the youth of Norfolk an opportunity to voice their opinions; to have their voices heard and feel valued. For us, exchanging views with people of a similar age to you, who have all had different experiences, all have varying outlooks on social issues, yet who live in the same area, is beneficial. We found that our individual experiences and opinions shape our beliefs which often lead us all to a common goal. I believe this idea was beautifully captured with the collaborative poem that was written at the first summit meeting on Equality and Diversity. We spoke out in unity about the common issue, yet each individual had a part to play in the formation of the poem and their voices were heard.
“One of the most standout moments for me was when the poem was read out at the end of the equality and diversity speech. I really enjoyed listening to the full poem because it was really nice to hear about other people’s lives and see how diverse we all really are.” – Emily, Aylsham High School
The Youth Summit also provides a means for shaping the future. In discussing important issues, people can be empowered to speak more openly about them in their own circle of influence. Equipping people with up-to-date information and opinions of their age-mates can work towards widening perspectives, changing narratives and implementing change. Some members of the Youth Summit stated, “It’s fair to say that I will now be incorporating the actions we discussed into my life” in relation to the climate change meeting, and “[the Summit] definitely broadened my perspective by helping me realise that utilising the power we hold as voters and consumers will create the biggest effect”. Another member expressed that they “have really enjoyed the experience of debating and discussing the issues of equality and climate change.” They added that they “really loved it when we discussed how [us], as individuals could help the climate because it inspired [them] to do better”.
I asked members of the Youth Summit to share what drew them to join the Youth Summit. Some responses were:
“Like many other young people, I am deeply worried about the impact of issues like climate change, inequality and mental health. This Youth Summit gives Norfolk's young people an opportunity to be part of the narrative surrounding these issues and I believe it's vital that youth aren't left out of the conversation, particularly because issues such as climate change will affect us the most.” – Rosa, Aylsham High School
“I wanted to voice my opinions on topics and hear the same and different opinions of others to diversify my ideas and thoughts on the issues that are most affecting my age group.” – Florence, Aylsham High School
The model which the Summit has followed is:
- In an introductory session for the series, an expert will provide a stimulating talk on their subject area.
- The delegates from each school will then have time to digest the information and take the ideas back to their schools, friendship circles, communities etc. They can then form opinions based off of what was delivered in the talk; think of solutions if applicable; shape conversations.
- An expert will lead a session on their subject area to give people the space to discuss their own opinions, experiences and ideas.
- The Summit moderators will summarise the meeting
- After the three instalments, a Norfolk Youth Manifesto will be produced – a collection of ideas, calls-to-action and takeaway messages from each session
At the time of writing this, we have had two out of three sessions, the first covering Equality and Diversity, and the second on the Climate Crisis. Our next meeting will be about Mental Health. One member of the summit has expressed that they “have really enjoyed the whole experience of a community such as Norfolk coming together”. They particularly appreciate being part of “a circle of people [who] openly debate the different issues we feel are most important to us.”
Some also expressed what excites them most about the future of the Youth Summit:
“This year, I am really excited to get more perspective on mental health issues from a professional and how they are affecting so many people in the world, particularly our age group and especially during the pandemic. If the Youth Summit continues into the coming years, it is exciting to know that more and more young people will be able to express themselves and discuss the matters they want to discuss and feel heard.” – Florence, Aylsham High School
We believe that the Youth Summit will be an influential vehicle, helping lay the foundations of collaboration towards change for our leaders of tomorrow."