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25 November 2014

Tuesday 25 November

To celebrate #iwill week and a year of Step Up To Serve, we plan to share a different social action experience each day. Today’s highlight comes from our youth social action programme, Athan 31.

Athan 31 offers young people a framework and resources to design, lead and learn from, their own social action projects. Our model successfully engages young people previously disengaged from social action and gives them better chances in life as a result.

We take groups of young people through three progressive stages – ‘My Team’, ‘My Club’ and ‘My Community’ – starting where they are at, and challenging them to further their skills at each level.

Bobby’s story

Bobby is 14 and attends the ‘Time Out Youth Project’ at the Riverside Community Centre in Sutton. His group wanted to design a project which would help address ‘negative stereotypes’ – not just those that they feel others have of young people, but also their own of older generations. They plan to do this through their project “No Strings Attached”, which includes: working with Sutton Council to clean-up local areas; handing out 250 free ‘cake-pops’ to passersby to see if their perceptions of young people change; and working with the local ‘Forget-me-nots’ older people’s group on an intergenerational project where they can share activities they enjoy with one another.

When he first started out on Athan 31 Bobby seemed quite reserved and didn’t say too much. But through the process of having to take more ownership over their plans and full responsibility for ensuring actions were met, Bobby and two of his peers, very much came out of their shell and played a leading role amongst their group.

It soon became Bobby that was the one always on time and the ‘clock watcher’, holding the rest of his group to account when they’d be 30 minutes late to their project planning meetings. His main role in the group was pulling together the project budget – which he did pretty much by himself! Whilst others were running late to the meeting, Bobby would log on to a computer and start researching costs on the Internet.

In October when each Athan 31 group had to pitch their project ideas to a panel of professionals at City Hall in order to secure funding, Bobby was terrified, and said very little all day. On stage Bobby fumbled his words a bit, but with support from his peers he was able to carry on. In the end, because of their clear enthusiasm and effective planning, Bobby and his group received the full £1,000 award to complete their social action project, which they hope to kick off in Spring 2014.

Also at the event, Bobby was able to approach a Santander volunteer to ask for some work experience as he was interested in getting into the finance industry one day. And now he’s booked in to do a week with them next year as part of his school’s work experience scheme!