Taking the Leap: The Youth Advisory Group Pilot

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Tuesday 1 July 2014
Selina Anderson

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PART TWO: WHAT WASN'T WORKING TAUGHT ME MORE

The programme is four months in and the YES (Youth Event Squad – much better name) are flying ahead, planning exciting, accessible, participatory events for later this year. So a slightly different approach this blog – now that we are all up to speed on what this programme is, I want to share here some of the mini crises I have been having over this programme and what I have learnt from them. There are advantages to staring at the ceiling at night wondering if I am doing any irreversible damage to this programme and feeling more than a little out of my depth.

The first few meetings felt vague and flat. Not because of the members, but because I had gone in thinking ‘I don’t need structure these guys know the place!’ I was so wrong! We started to run before we could walk, I had to hold them back from branstorming events because we hadn’t even set goals, I had no ‘big picture’ to give them because this was a first for everyone involved. I was confused, so they were confused.

Looking back at how this programme has evolved, at the beginning I was worried about what was the purpose of my role in this programme, what was their purpose (were they here for them? Or for the visitors at their events?), and what was the purpose of the events? Was I to worry about the audience of these events? Was I to worry about the creative aspects of the events? Sensing the panic here? I thought so. Once I realised my sole purpose as an educator on this programme was to create a safe and creative environment where these young people can develop leadership and capability skills, I relaxed. Trust the process was my new mantra.

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I called meeting with my colleague (Community Learning Coordinator and Ultimate Frisbee Coach), motivated by a growing sense of panic of the unknown. She reassured me using an unexpectedly helpful sports metaphor. Imagine myself as the coach of these young people, they are my team and the ‘events’ are the finals. While I want them to get them to finals, I don’t want to focus on a ‘win’ (the outcome/event) because otherwise the entire season (learning’s and experiences) seem like a waste of time if we don’t make it! If I am only focusing on the outcome, then the entire process feels futile if you don’t (to use a horrid word) ‘succeed’.

So how was I going to develop leadership and capability skills? By modeling them. So acknowledging what I don’t know, and what I can do better explicitly is important. I have made the meetings more structured than I originally thought was necessary, I have taken to sending out meeting minutes between the meetings, and then a week before a ‘Hey this is what’s happening, don’t forget to come’ email.

I decided that people can’t develop leadership and capability skills in a group of 12. So I am going to split them into smaller groups, with each group managing their own event/programme. Now their strengths and skills can shine and voices can be heard. It seems obvious that twelve people cannot plan one event without some serious problems arising! Imagine 12 directors for a film. Diabolical. The added benefit is we will now potentially have four events which they have creative control over and can support each other on.


To limit the chance of any future mild panics, at the end of every meeting I reflect with colleagues. I ask myself:

  • What went well and how do I know? 
  • Were there any issues that arose? 
  • What would I do differently next time? 
  • How can I take what we’ve learnt above into the next meeting? 
  • Are we responding and respecting the goals and values of these young people? 

So onwards and upwards. Hopefully in the next post I will have some more exciting things to share that they are working hard on.

For more information about our Youth programmes:

https://www.aucklandartgallery.com/learning/youth