Last week marked a full year since ALYVE UK was founded. Although it has felt like it's been no time at all, our first anniversary on the 14th of January 2020 marked a year of hard work in setting the foundations of our organisation and our work in advocating for and supporting local youth forums across Scotland and the UK.
It's been quite a journey! From a board of three founding trustees holding their first meetings in the corner of cafes in Glasgow, to an organisation with recognition from international institutions and partners across the globe: if we manage to grow as much over the following years as we did our first, I can't wait to see where our future leads.
However, our story hasn't all been about success - the first year has marked a significant realisation in our capacity as an entirely volunteer-driven charity. Initially setting our hopes and expectations very high, our initial optimism in being able to begin directly supporting young people and their voice at a local level has sometimes been unrealistic. None of the driving team behind ALYVE UK is paid to do what we do, and all of us have commitments that come first - from education to employment. Although we would have loved to have done so much more in the past 12 months, sadly our workloads, mental health, and personal life got in the way of that.
What I'm proud of most though is our team, and the time and effort they put into our charity daily. One of the key values of ALYVE UK is to be a charity run 'for young people, by young people', and our board is entirely made up of trustees under the age of 26. Although sadly a member of our board stepped down in 2019, over that time we have also gained a number of incredible young people with a diverse range of experiences and expertise in youth participation - from arts and culture to the Scouting and Girlguiding movements.
2019 also marked the launch of 'Our Voice. Our Future.' - our flagship initiative as a charity, which approaches supporting local youth forums from three distinct avenues: research, advocacy, and funding. ALYVE UK was also awarded funding by the European Union to implement these activities, co-funding us as one of the first 'Solidarity Projects' of the European Solidarity Corps in the UK. As a charity we've always taken pride in our ties to Europe, and for the European Union to directly enable us to make a difference in Scotland is something we're thrilled about!
Our ties to Europe were also presented in the end of our term as a 'Rejuvenating Politics' initiative of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, the overarching initiative under which ALYVE UK was originally founded. The Congress is the pan-European assembly of local and regional elected representatives, and the institution's work across its 47 member states - and further afield - has a number of impacts on Scotland's young people: we are especially passionate about the 'Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life' (it's a bit of a mouthful, we know!) a document which outlines a number of key recommendations, including on local youth forums. ALYVE UK's work was even specifically cited during a speech by Aoife Molloy, the Irish Youth Delegate to the Congress, during the 37th Session!
"Something that seemed to come up time and time again was the fact that young people really do want to be heard, but we need to make spaces for them to voice their opinions... therefore, some projects focused on the implementation of a youth council within localities, or a framework for youth organisations - such as ALYVE UK - which strengthens both the individual groups and the network of youth organisations as a whole."
- Aoife Molloy
We've also been lucky to have worked with a number of amazing organisations and partners over the past calendar year. From Cllr John Ross Scott and Kristopher Leask, the researchers behind the groundbreaking 'Being Heard: Helping to Create the Next Generation of Civic Leaders in Scotland' report, to organisations like the Scottish Youth Parliament and BETA Scotland. Additionally, it was also a pleasure to meet with a number of local youth forums - such as the Aberdeen City Youth Council - already, despite only being in the plenary stage of our work!
Serving as Chair of ALYVE UK over the past calendar year has been something that I'm immensely proud of. Although we are still very much in the early stages of our organisation (anyone involved in the third sector will tell you that the first years are the hardest!) I genuinely believe that if we continue to build momentum in the way we have since January, the sky's the limit in terms of what we can achieve in advocating and supporting local youth forums as young people.
Huw Sherrard FRSA is the Chair of Action for Local Youth Voice Empowerment UK