“It was heartening to see adults in positions of power listening carefully to young peoples’ views. Each of them seemed to get that we had important things to say, that we had opinions that will affect our futures and that we can really make a difference, that our voice matters precisely because we are young. “
I set off for the University of Birmingham, excited to begin my #iwill journey – fueling myself with a pancake and a drink for what was a multi-stop journey on a wet, dark morning.
Of course, my journey really started back in July when I got the email saying I’d been selected to be an #iwill Ambassador, having worked for years in amphibian conservation and more recently with #iwill partner Groundwork Youth. Reading about previous ambassadors had given me the push to apply to be one myself.
And now back to my physical journey to Birmingham. Arriving at the University I was in awe of the sheer size of the Great Hall and the crowds of people arriving, but I quickly managed to strike up a conversation with other ambassadors, who were all eager to share stories.
I was struck by the wide-ranging remit of #iwill, with such a diverse and inclusive group of people, and there was a real buzz of anticipation as we got to know each other. We had travelled from all corners of the UK, all with the same sense of purpose and can-do attitude. I felt really privileged and honoured to be selected amongst others who had such amazing stories to tell.
It was such a warm welcome to the #iwill community. We began with an icebreaker session – arranging ourselves in order of height. I was surprised to be fifth from the beginning!
An introductory speech from Sir Nick Parker, chair of Step Up To Serve, injected a sense of possibility to what we could achieve throughout the day and beyond. Then we got down to business, splitting into discussion groups. Given my background, I was really interested in the ‘Climate and Conservation’ Workshop, where participants contributed eagerly on everything from how to coordinate environmental action groups to committing to reducing single use plastics.
I was equally taken by the next workshop I joined, on ‘Digital Activism’. We discussed how to effectively harness social media to communicate our message – I picked up lots of useful tips.
The day opened my eyes to the many areas the #iwill campaign is involved in, as I listened to ambassadors working in areas like mental health and discrimination.
After lunch, I met #iwill campaign partners, including the Eden Project, Young Manchester and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. These conversations were insightful, and it was heartening to see adults in positions of power listening carefully to young peoples’ views. And not just paying lip service but really listening to us. Each of them seemed to get that we had important things to say, that we had opinions that will affect our futures and that we can really make a difference, that our voice matters precisely because we are young.
The day ended on a high with speeches from partners, Ambassadors and #iwill co-founder Dame Julia Cleverdon, who left us energised with a sense of purpose as we set off to homes across the country.
As I sat on the train, I was determined to keep the momentum alive and eager to put into action everything we had talked about during the day. My head was – and still is – buzzing with ideas that hopefully I can translate into positive action in the next few months, starting with #iwill Week on 18 -24th November.
You can read Guy’s #iwill Ambassador profile here, or follow him on twitter @GuyWillcock.