Decisions are made by those who have a seat at the table. People with a seat at the table are influenced by those who have the social capital and financial resources to gain their time, attention and favour.
Youth don’t often sit at tables where significant community decisions are made, nor do they have the social or financial capital to meaningfully access and influence decision-makers. As such, significant community decisions are made without taking into account the aspirations and values of youth. This imbalance doesn’t just exist for youth; there are many other groups who face barriers to meaningful participation in our community life and democratic institutions.
We believe at our core that it does not have to be this way.
We believe that our community will be more vibrant, kind and prosperous if youth are authentically involved in planning for, and actioning, its future.
We believe this is true not just for youth, but for all marginalized groups.
Equitable opportunity to participate will require our community and institutions to listen and engage differently. We don’t know exactly what that looks like, but we’re eager to be part of the solution and figure it out.
Equitable opportunity for engagement in community life and democratic institutions for all.
We promote equity in community spaces by facilitating opportunities for youth to co-create solutions and bring perspectives for meaningful impact in London and region.
Experimental: We find new approaches to old problems. We try new things.
Bold: We are fearless. When something doesn’t work, we learn from it and try again. Nothing is off the table.
Brave: We can discuss anything, we can challenge norms and perspectives, and we are a conduit for conflicting opinions.
Future Focused: What we do today, informs and creates our shared future.
Hopeful: We see a future where systems adapt to their participants rather than requiring that participants adapt to the system.
Real: We don’t do mock things. What we do must be useful and respectful.
Relationships: They matter.
Communities are stronger when young people are included in public policy processes.
But, in 2011, too many young people felt like their voices weren’t being heard. That’s when Matt Ross, a twenty-three year old Londoner, founded the London Youth Advisory Council (LYAC) for the purpose of bringing young people into conversations about important local decisions.
The LYAC believes that London is at its strongest when people of all ages are able to meaningfully participate in decisions about their communities.
The LYAC was founded to ensure that London’s youngest residents were taken seriously by local politicians and decision makers. The LYAC began as a training ground for young people interested in learning the tools of traditional politics. The Council met monthly, in a City Hall committee room, to debate motions about relevant local decisions. However, after two years of struggling with motions, votes, and formal committee procedures the LYAC decided to make a change.
Now in its sixth year, the LYAC is composed of 15 Youth Ward Councillors, aged 15-25. Ward Councillors are elected in yearly citywide elections, held online during the first week of May. Youth Councillors meet in roundtable format to discuss and analyze a spectrum of issues: Carding, Public Transit, Mental Health, Income Disparity, to name a few. Youth Councillors do the majority of their work between meetings by attending community events, holding focus groups, interviewing local community leaders, and facilitating community development projects.
Since its inception, the LYAC has held conversations with hundreds of young people, produced tens of reports on important topics, engaged with 10,000+ voters, contributed to numerous public processes, and founded multiple community development projects. The Council is supported by four staff members and 15+ volunteers across four unique volunteer departments (Report Writing, Research, Communications and Storytelling). The organization has recently expanded, partnering with the London Community Foundation to support Youth in Philanthropy, and with Pillar Nonprofit Network to deliver the London Life Young Leaders governance training program.
The number one priority of any Youth Councillor is to meet with as many young and older people as possible, so if you’d like to come to a meeting or to talk with your youth representative about a challenge or opportunity, you can find their contact information here.