Amidst the skyscrapers of Docklands on 3 October 2018, students from two Lambeth schools arrived at the EY offices for the Children and Families Youth Hackathon. One group wore black blazers with green stripes and the others were wearing purple blazers with multi-coloured ties.
For us, a Hackathon brings people together to generate ideas and ‘hack’ away at a social challenge (nothing to do with computers!). London Ventures is currently focussed on developing solutions to the challenges children and families face in London. This hackathon gave us the opportunity to talk to those people who actually face some of these challenges.
Spiral, an organisation that works with young people to upskill them for the future, facilitated the day. There were also representatives from local authorities to participate in the session and a panel of judges to evaluate the solutions. The day began with a session on identifying the problem:
“What are some of the biggest challenges that young people are facing in your communities?”
Neither an easy question nor a simple answer.
“Stress,” was the answer from a young person on my table.
I naively assumed this was in relation to exams or school work. The students on my table explained this stress is a result of the compounding effect of multiple individual problems. If something negative happens at school and then there are problems at home, then it is hard to find an outlet with either your family or your teachers, so you are stressed about both problems.
London Ventures, working with Local Authorities, has identified key challenge areas including care leavers, early intervention and gang and youth violence. The young people chose which challenge to focus on. My table chose early intervention and gang violence. The discussion that followed led to a potential solution around how friends can support each other if someone has got involved in gangs.
“You need to try to help them get to the realisation that what they are doing is not right.”
And so the name The Realisation was chosen. The solution focussed on using young people to talk with, and help other young people; remind them about the good things they used to do; explain their own experiences; creating a relationship and building trust. The Realisation team pitched their idea to the group and the judges. They got some great feedback and an interesting point on what to do if people don’t want help? How can you encourage change from a bad gang to a good gang, a gang of positive friends?
The other tables pitched a range of ideas. Some had also focussed on gang and youth violence and suggested a six week intense intervention period for those at risk of or already involved in gangs. Others had discussed care leavers and early intervention. One idea was to provide extra support to young people going through big changes in their life, such as leaving care, to improve mental health and resilience.
It was great to see the young people present their ideas so confidently to the group of 60. It was an inspiring day, with valuable ideas and suggestions that we will look to take forwards and develop. It was really important to incorporate the young person’s voice to shape the thinking our work on children and families.
Thank you to Spiral, our judges and our local authority officers for taking part in the Youth Hackathon. We also want to say a big thank you to the students and teachers at The Norwood School and at Ark Evelyn Grace Academy for their energy and enthusiasm. We really appreciated how open the students were to sharing their thoughts, experiences and innovative ideas.