Young people are at the heart of everything we do at YACVic. In 2016, we reflected on the many ways we show our commitment to this promise, and the ways we could be raising the bar even more.
To keep young people connected to our policy advocacy, we asked ourselves: how can we become better at researching and developing new ideas? How can we give control to young people to lead our approaches to tackling youth issues — when it comes to both the hot topics and those which are emerging?
The answer: YACVic’s inaugural Young Thinker in Residence program.
What is it all about?
The Young Thinker in Residence (YTiR) program is a new initiative where we employ two young people (aged 18-25) to spend two days per week ‘thinking’ on a social or political topic of their choosing. A first of its kind, the program runs for up to 16 weeks and offers Young Thinkers a cosy desk at YACVic HQ to develop their projects along with the full support and guidance of the YACVic team and extended networks.
The end goal is to support our Young Thinkers to create a piece of research and/or advocacy. This might be a report, a video, a campaign, or something else entirely — any tangible outcome that positively impacts the issue they are thinking about, which YACVic can get behind as a piece of policy or practice advocacy.
What was the recruitment process like?
Much like a regular recruitment process, at least in the beginning! We prepared a position description, posted it on our website, and shared the news among our members and wider networks.
We asked applicants some basic questions about their topic and why they felt passionately about it, as well as a few questions about themselves and their capacity for the role. We made sure young people could submit applications in a few different ways, either in writing, via video, via email, and/or over the phone with our Participation and Development Coordinator, Sam.
As the range of applications began rolling in, it was clear the opportunity had caught the attention of young people across Victoria. We received 61 in total, all as diverse and passionate as they were informed and inspiring.
“To anyone out there who ever doubted the agency and engagement of young Victorians, we can confidently back up what we have been saying for years: Young people are socially and politically engaged, and well aware of what is important to society, now and in the future.”
All applications were de-identified and then assessed by young YACVic board members and a group of young members who are advising us on our youth participation opportunities. Then, the full list of applicants was considered by YACVic’s then-CEO, Georgie Ferarri, and Sam, shortlisting applicants based on project idea first, and person second.
After the gruelling process of shortlisting, we interviewed the 13 most outstanding applicants in one big day of casual chats at YACVic HQ. These applicants represented a good cross-section of the overall applications we received, and were met by Sam, Georgie, and Gabrielle Evans, a YACVic young member and important contributor to our new youth participation strategy. We asked applicants to prepare a short, informal ‘pitch’ on their topic of interest — no Powerpoint presentations, just a clear overview of their topic and what it meant to them. Our interviewers followed up with a couple of questions and suggestions in a laid-back, workshop-style setting so all applicants could walk away with some valuable support and points to continue thinking on, regardless of the outcome.
Why is youth participation important?
1. Young people are the experts in their own lives
Considering young people are the ones with the real-world knowledge and experience of issues impacting upon themselves and their communities, it makes sense to speak with them, not for them, and for them to speak for themselves, right? Well, sadly, there are limited platforms for young Victorians to be heard on issues they care about and are affected by. We know there are young people who are keen to put their hands up and contribute to conversations important to them, so we came up with a way for them to do just that.
And, the vast majority of policy and research related to young people is commissioned and undertaken by people who are, well, not necessarily ‘young’. The YTiR program stands to challenge the traditional methods of policy development and put power in the hands of those living within or with close connection to the issues they advocate for. We did not ask YTiR applicants for minimum education levels either, and so the field of policy stands to hear from underrepresented voices through the program as well.
2. Youth participation must be part of everything we do
The past two years have seen significant changes to YACVic’s approach to youth participation. The YTIR program is an important step for us to practise involving (and employing!) young people in our own work. The program is also key to YACVic’s strategic plan (2016 - 2019) and its core focus on providing meaningful opportunities for members to shape our work with us. As the peak body for young people and the sector that supports them, we’re proud to be steering these developments.
3. Sector collaboration benefits everyone
As part of the program, Young Thinkers access our networks and mentor-style opportunities from leaders in our sector. This encourages collaboration across organisations, and across issues, which offers multiple opportunities for increased visibility of services and initiatives. With young people as the drivers of this collaboration, our Young Thinkers will be actively strengthening our sector’s connectedness, which can only lead to greater outcomes for us, and for the young people we work to support.
Who are the YACVic Young Thinkers in Residence?
Meet Annika. She is thinking on the topic of family violence and its impacts on both individual young people and the broader community.
Learn all about Annika's inspiring film project.
And Brittany, who is thinking on the topic of young out-of-home care leavers and the impacts of becoming independent at 18, particularly when it comes to housing and support.
Read all about Brittany's insightful research report.
Keeping up with the program
We’ll check in with our Young Thinkers here on the blog, so stay tuned!
Announce and Signposts
Announce is YACVic’s fortnightly newsletter. Read by over 2,700 young people and youth sector professionals, Announce is the go-to for staying on top of the latest news, events, training, jobs and other opportunities in the Victorian youth sector.
Signposts is the monthly newsletter of YACVic Rural. It’s a great way to get updates on what’s going on in rural and regional locations around Victoria, as well as our rural hubs in The Great South Coast and Southern Mallee.
Sign up to our newsletters now.