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Home / Resources / News / Taking ownership of leadership

Taking ownership of leadership

As part of international #womensday we want to celebrate the impact young women have on helping other young people cope with making a living. That’s why we’re really chuffed to share with you the second part of our interview with Sarah Drummond @rufflemuffin Co-Founder of @wearesnook and Director of @thisisthematter.

You were talking about the different research techniques – many of which you use in your work with @wearesnook and I can see the benefits in how they can help young people find a voice. What I find particularly interesting is that it’s actually young people using these research techniques themselves to identify stories of other young people and techniques about how you produce a newspaper. Was it a surprise to experiment with those techniques? How did the young people build their confidence in taking ownership of producing a newspaper? How did that evolve?

It’s tough! The first group were a little bit more difficult. In Scotland, we have a five stage framework of how close you are of going back into the job market. The group we were working with were 3.5 stages away. They were quite switched on. Some were already involved in other youth initiatives, so you had a couple of people who took the lead in how the group went forward.

The second group didn’t really have any of that. They have no qualifications, have left school with pretty much nothing on the horizon. They took to the newspaper production quite easily. When you break it down, it’s about talking to other young people. They had their own focus groups in schools. They talked to professionals.

What I always find with @thisisthematter is that even if you fully explain what’s happening across the programme, it’s quite emergent. What happened to the first group is that they would love to do it again because they know how to do it really well. One of the girls said “oh my god, we’ve created a newspaper!”

In terms of research techniques, what we’re starting to see is we can have mixed groups of people of different abilities. In the groups that we form, that might be really useful. We’re looking at how we involve people online like developing a Matter journalism app. So if we have a question, we can open it up to a core group of young people and they can get content from other people in the area they are in.

It’s not easy, it’s hard work. We’ve recognised that it’s not just designers that should be doing it. We should be working with youth workers and local councils, as there’s a lot of behavioural stuff that needs to be dealt with. Even after two pilots, we’re still figuring this out.

It’s really interesting when you were comparing the two pilots in terms of the types of people that were involved. I imagine you need a certain level of confidence and empathy to do it. From our research, we found how important the network is to help people cope. It’s interesting how here, you have a group of emergent leaders who found it naturally easier to uncover stories and create a newspaper. Did they naturally have that leadership role in their social network or was it something that emerged through the pilot?

One of them was a natural leader in the first pilot. A couple of the girls grew more confident to step up to her. She took over quite a bit. We were quite worried in the first session about whether anyone would get a say. One girl really stepped up even though when we first met her, she just looked at the floor.

With the second group, we think we’ve got too big a group of girls. There are some who are really on it. What we find is they tend to develop a group dynamic.

When you give people the opportunity, they will step up and take ownership. For the final launch event, Joanna, Darra and myself had designed tools to help them see what they they could say…and they’d done it all themselves already. That was a surprise about how much leadership they did take to get things organised. For me, it’s like walking into something that people are passionate about and you give them a guide and they run with it.

It’s hard enough for people to look after themselves, but people have different capabilities in helping people with finding their way through life. I wonder how useful it would be to raise awareness to young people to celebrate their skills but also remind them of the responsibility they might have if they’re going into a particular role, like representing a particular neighbourhood or making sure they get different stories in. Do you think that those young people have a sense of that?

I think this applies not just to young people but to the whole of society. Across all of the work we do, young people don’t have a sense of what’s possible. There needs to be a shift in the role of schools and councils to allow them to thrive.

We did work in Muirhouse, we’re looking at the whole community to help them to take ownership – like setting up a mothers’ meeting group or a football club. Everyone just looks back at the council and say’s that’s their job. There needs to be a lot of work done. Then, asking what skills you’re good at, even people who’ve gone to university can’t talk about what their soft skills are.

We’re missing the inspiration that you can make anything happen. When you come up against bureaucracy to do things differently. We want to tell them “you need to get your community to be a start-up community, look at what assets there are in your community, see who wants to give stuff”. When you talk to people, they say they want to use this empty building, but they can’t. So we need to try to break down the barriers to these issues.