Last week Foróige young people and staff presented at the international conference ‘Navigating the Future: A Compass for Youth Policy and Practice’, hosted at NUI Galway by the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre. The Conference featured two youth panels on the themes of ‘Youth Activism’ and ‘Youth Work’, with six young people from across the country speaking on their personal experiences.
In the run-up to the Conference Foróige partnered with the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre to coordinate a Youth Advisory Panel, who decided what topics they wanted to showcase at the Conference on behalf of young people. This led to the creation of two ‘Youth Voices’ sessions.
The first day of the Conference saw a panel of three young people in conversation about youth activism and youth participation, giving their insights into how youth activists are perceived by society and what adults can do to support and encourage young people’s activism. Orna O’Brien from Drinagh in West Cork said “I think it’s a great idea to have young people thinking and learning about how to advocate for things you believe in at a young age.”
She continued, “If you think about it, oftentimes young people can be the heart and soul of a movement - I believe that’s evident with climate change, which has been my driving force in youth participation.”
On day 2 of the Conference, young people chose to focus on the important role of youth work and the many benefits they get from it. The session was chaired by Senior Youth Officer Bryan Gavin, and featured a video created with the help of the Reference Panel, showcasing what youth work means to them. This was followed by inputs from three young people, each highlighting their own journey with youth work. Gráinne Reynolds spoke on the importance of her local Foróige club, particularly in the context of a rural community; Ethan Todd delved into his involvement with digital youth work through VRóige; and Sommer Nolan discussed her entry to Foróige through the NFTE Programme and the many opportunities this has opened up for her.
Throughout the two days there were also a number of presentations by Foróige staff on mentoring, wellbeing, empathy, and digital youth work. Finally, CEO Seán Campbell delivered a keynote address on the subject ‘What Next? Why Now? Reframing our Thinking on Youth Work’, where he made a rallying call for youth work to “take its rightful place as a vital part of the educational process, working hand in hand with formal education and recognised for the unique contribution that we bring to the table.”
Coverage of the Conference can be seen on Twitter through the hashtag #compassforyouth, and video recordings of the keynote speeches and Youth Voices sessions will soon be available via the Conference website.