Every year, Lambeth Council holds this Takeover Challenge, which gives Lambeth’s young people the chance to be involved in real-life decision-making in the Council by ‘taking over’ key roles for a day.
After a tour of the Town Hall and Civic Centre and an icebreaker, the Year-10s were tasked with articulating the most pressing problems and worries affecting them and their peers. We heard how they felt there weren’t enough places to meet and socialise with other young people, how they were concerned over climate change, but how they also felt ignored and voiceless when it comes to politics and decision-making. Then came the harder part — how can we address these issues?
From problems to solutions
For the next part of the session, each student focussed on a particular issue and with a flurry of post-its and marker pens, they came up with some concrete solutions which included:
- Having a directly elected person to represent young people’s views, both at the Council and in central government, to give young people a voice in decision-making
- Pressuring big businesses operating locally to lower their environmental impact, through education, recycling schemes and other campaigns
- Encouraging schools to let their spaces be used after schools and during the weekend for games clubs, sports activities, careers advice and personal support, so kids can access their services in a familiar and convenient environment
They then presented these ideas to a packed room including our Strategic Director of Residents Services, Director of Digital and Residents Experience, Cabinet Member, Data Architect, Service Designer, Business Liaison Manager, and Digital Officers. The response from all of us was incredibly positive, with Cllr Mohammed Seedat seeing clear opportunities for some of their ideas to be promoted and actioned. He also encouraged our Year-10s and others to get involved with the Lambeth Youth Council, London Youth Assembly and the UK Youth Parliament, so they can use and develop their insights and skills to make an even bigger impact for young people in Lambeth.
What we learned
For us, the “challenge” part of the Takeover Challenge worked both ways. We gave the students some difficult challenges to solve and they, in turn, challenged us, on our assumptions, expectations and priorities. I reflected afterwards that young people can be left out of the Council’s thinking, because we sometimes see them only in terms of their parents, rather than unique individuals themselves with their own priorities, issues, and ambitions.
Young people are also sometimes stereotyped as uninterested, uninformed, or only interested in social media. The enthusiastic and insightful Year-10s who joined us showed that these stereotypes couldn’t be farther from the truth. Opportunities like the Takeover Challenge that include young people in Council decision-making will help inform them what we do in local government, but will also educate us on how we can provide services that will make their everyday lives better. That’s why we’re also hoping to get our group of Year-10s in next year to work with us again.
We want to make sure that young people’s voices are heard at Lambeth. Our new Lambeth Digital Team will aim to bring the voices of residents, including young people like our Year-10s, into the service design process, and help staff think about how to build their services around the people who use them. If you’re interested in finding out more about the team, feel free to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.