BY: Julie Neville
24 Aug 2015
For the past year, Arts Award has been championing youth social action. This summer, Arts Award became the latest organisation to make its pledge to the #iwill campaign which aims to make social action part of life for as many 10 to 20 year olds as possible by the year 2020. Julie Neville, Arts Award associate for youth and community tells us why.
What’s social action?
Youth social action means young people raising awareness of, or tackling social issues through, fundraising, campaigning, volunteering, or other practical activities.
The principles of great youth social action are that it is reflective, challenging, youth-led, socially impactful, progressive, and embedded. Sound familiar? That’s because it shares many qualities with Arts Award, making the link between the two easy to map.
Our Creative Campaigning resources produced in partnership with UK Youth, help adults supporting creative social action to accredit young people’s activities using Arts Award. We’ve mapped all five levels of Arts Award against social action activities and provided tips for ensuring evidence is arts focussed. There is also an interactive Prezi tool for young people, guiding them from their chosen social issue through to a range of suggested arts activities.
Keeping Our Girls Safe is a charity in Oldham which works with girls to raise awareness of safe relationships, sexual exploitation and grooming, through taking part in arts projects:
Young people have not only developed their art skills but have also gained confidence and improved their self esteem. They have engaged in group and team work, been given an outlet to express their feelings, ideas and opinions and have shown an interest in their community and its arts provision.
Hayley Harewood Arts Award adviser, Keeping Our Girls Safe (read the full case study here).
As a former NCS (National Citizen Service) programme manager, I’ve seen firsthand how powerful youth social action can be when it is delivered through the arts. From a group of young people who created a drama performance to raise awareness of cyber bullying which raised over £500 for the Samaritans; to a school fashion show that raised awareness of eating disorders among teenagers. The arts enable young people to break down barriers and tackle otherwise difficult issues with confidence and voice.
NCS is the government’s flagship initiative for 15 to 17 year olds supporting them to come together and make a difference in their local communities through social action. Since 2011 more than 135,000 young people have taken part and it’s the fastest growing youth movement in the country. Arts Award has been working in partnership with the NCS Trust to provide new resources that introduce Arts Award to local NCS delivery organisations and empower young people to take ownership of collecting their Arts Award evidence whilst on the NCS programme.
The government has confirmed youth social action is a priority and continues to actively invest in it. This growing trend means that social action is far from an extra-curricular activity. Recent years have seen a significant growth in the number of schools offering social action as part of the curriculum, with Ofsted supporting the #iwill campaign from its beginning. This summer, Teach First has pledged that by 2017 all of its teachers will volunteer with NCS, further embedding social action in to the school curriculum. This provides great opportunities for schools to link their Arts Award delivery to the programme of social action.
People United is an innovative charity based in Canterbury that explores how the arts and creativity can grow kindness, empathy and a sense of common humanity.
Through the social action project the children were able to make a difference to, and gain a greater respect for, the older people they met in their local community. Pupils did this through embarking on an inter-generational project which featured a range of arts activities, achieving Discover Arts Award.
Making a difference, developing skills
Not only does social action enable young people to make a difference to their communities, it also equips them with important employability and character skills. Delivering Arts Award alongside a social action project reinforces these skills and provides a framework for evidencing learning and skill development. At Silver and Gold levels, young people can use volunteering opportunities in the arts sector to take part in social action; and they can design arts leadership projects that raise awareness and/or funds for chosen social issues. They will achieve Arts Award, create community impact, gain leadership skills and project management experience at the same time.
In Cumbria, NCS delivery partner and Arts Award centre Inspira is offering Silver Arts Award as part of its NCS graduate scheme. A team of NCS grads have returned as social media ambassadors, and are making a film all about the NCS experience to help promote the benefits of youth social action to other young people. We’ll be featuring their work on the adviser hub soon.
Alabare runs a drop in centre in Hampshire supporting young people aged between 13 and 25 who may be NEET, living in hostels, street homeless, have learning difficulties or have mental health issues. They created a music video raising awareness of domestic abuse:
The music video was taken to local schools and showcased to other young people. Participants gave a presentation to help others spot the signs of domestic abuse and controlling relationships among young people. “Many of our young people gained enormous amounts of confidence from taking part, to some it was a real life changer and the confidence derived from creating the music enabled them to gain employment, find housing and just be creative.
Charles Taylor, Arts Award adviser, Alabare e zone and Fixers
If you’d like more information about any of these themes, or to tell us about your social action Arts Award project, please contact Julie.
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