I’m Charli and I’m a new 2019 #iwill Ambassador focusing on work in the disability, mental health and LGBTQ+ campaigning space. I’ve been a volunteer for several different organisations including being a Leader in the Scouting movement for nearly four years. As a disabled young volunteer and advocate I’ve learnt several ways in which companies can make social action more inclusive, as well as in which we can support more young people to get into social action who otherwise might not.
- Speak up for us, but do not speak over us
To me, this is the most important thing about inclusive social action – there’s a well-known phrase amongst the disabled community that says “Nothing about us, without us”, but it can be applied quite widely. It’s all about elevating voices that otherwise aren’t heard, and it being about those voices.
- Consult diverse young people
This follows up from the first tip, and it’s for a similar reason – the best way to know if your work or organisation is inclusive is simply by asking! Consult young disabled people, consult young people of colour, consult young LGBTQ+ people, consult us all. Maybe you could do this by taking on young trustees, or by bringing young people together for a meeting when you’re launching new initiatives, or maybe you just put out a few Instagram polls – it depends on what it’s for, but it’s definitely worth doing.
- Have events in accessible and varying venues
If you’re holding an event, make sure that the venue is accessible and accommodating places – not only in terms of wheelchair accessibility, but for example, for those deaf or hard of hearing is there a BSL interpreter and a hearing loop? Will there be a breakout room for autistic or anxious people? These are just a few examples, but if an event isn’t accessible, it isn’t fair – and it shouldn’t always have to be the responsibility of disabled people to ask for accommodations. On a slightly different note, consider holding events away from London – I’m from Birmingham and I’m at university in the North, so London isn’t the easiest place for me to get to.
- If a young person has concerns, don’t dismiss them
It often takes young people a lot to come to someone senior and tell them they’re having issues or worries, especially if they’re volunteers. It feels that, just as often, they still aren’t listened to. Hearing them out is the best thing you can do, asking questions and forming a proper conclusion. Those of us who face adversity due to disability, race, gender or other factors can find it even more difficult to raise our concerns – be sensitive to this.
- Celebrate the young people involved in your organisation!
This last tip is two-fold – it shows your appreciation for the young people currently involved, but it also shows those who might be interested, but have been too nervous, that they would be supported, welcome and happy in working with you. Show that you have a diverse range of young people and that volunteers, activists, helpers and trustees don’t have to be one size fits all!
This blog was produced as part of #iwill Week 2019 (18-24th November). For #iwill Week, organisations across the country are coming together to celebrate the power of youth social action, and to call for more to be done for all young people, whatever their background, to access meaningful opportunities to make a difference.