A refreshing Sunday

Rise and shine. I cannot remember the last time I saw 6am on a Sunday, but woke motivated and excited to meet our Youth Panel for the first time. On the train to Manchester, with our Programme Manager, Harris, we discussed the agenda for the day and the questions we wanted to raise.  

The Red Cross kindly agreed to lend us their building for the day. The young people arrived, from all over the UK, to take part in an afternoon of workshops and discussion. It is vital for us as an organisation that we talk to young people directly about what we can do more of, what we can do better and how to engage and empower young people in a meaningful and sustainable way.

The day started off with some pizza, as all good days do; the room was already buzzing. Richard, from the Youth Panel, works for Red Cross and he was the perfect host: herbal teas on tap and made everyone so welcome. Firstly, we went through the timeframes of the Youth Panel and what they hope to achieve. Carl Konadu chairs the Panel and led the group fantastically; he sits on our Board and is a crucial link between the Panel and our Board, ensuring their opinions and insight are fed through at the highest level.

First up, everyone updated each other about what they’d been up to. I was taken aback by how busy everyone is – engaging stakeholders at a local, regional and national level. They are clearly already outspoken and articulate Spirit spokespeople.

I took the first workshop. It was about Strategic Communications. I didn’t want to take them through a hundred PowerPoint slides telling them what they already know (they are brilliant communicators and Twitter extraordinaires). Instead, I talked to them about specific Spirit communication questions – how does a young organisation build a brand? What do we mean by brand? And some scenarios that many non-profit organisations face in the communications department. This included managing corporate partners, working with celebrity ambassadors and our responsibilities when engaging with project beneficiaries. They had plenty of well-thought out questions and opinions – how much should a charity put into marketing? Ways to engage positively and collaboratively with projects, and thoughts about our approach in developing Spirit’s brand, linking to the spirit of the London 2012 Games but ensuring it goes far beyond sport and London.

I scribbled notes furiously, thankful for such an honest and forthright discussion. Next on the agenda, we talked about our future youth programme and looked at possible focus areas for our next round of investment. We discussed the importance of local engagement, looked at themes relevant to young people, and the issues young people face. Again, much furious scribbling from Harris and me, as we listened to the Panel.  

Next up, we went through the Board papers to extend their understanding of the governance of Spirit. From executive reports to comms strategies, they soaked up the extensive papers eagerly and took them away to digest. No doubt for some bedtime reading......

The day whizzed past and I left feeling inspired and energised. Participation People have helped us put together a brilliant bunch. They have an originality and authenticity that is truly refreshing, and ask questions where others might hesitate. I cannot wait to meet them all again.