By Jacob Ohrvik- Stott, Project Officer (Cultural Development)


Over the past century, the prospects of children in the UK have changed dramatically. Where once children were seen as assets suitable for cheap labour, young people today are treated as individuals with their own needs and rights. This commitment was enshrined by the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which added new civil, social and cultural dimensions to previous treaties that protected young people’s rights to health, freedom and development.

Whilst progress has undeniably been made since it was reasonable to send your firstborn up a chimney, being a young person today brings its own unique set of challenges. Astronomical house prices, increasingly bleak job prospects, climate change and the demands of 24-hour social media are just a few of the spectres looming over young people today. Given the scale of their potential impact, it would seem logical that the generations facing this web of issues in the future are given a say on how to address them, and given to tools to do so.

Unfortunately for our young people, this logic doesn’t yet seem to have prevailed. In November 2016, we conducted research into the views and attitudes of over three hundred and fifty 14 to 18-year-olds from across the UK. 71% of these young people feel they do not have enough opportunities to have their say on the issues that affect their lives, whilst only 58% said they had enough opportunities to develop the skills they need for their future. These results suggest there is still much work to be done in giving this generation the help they need to address the issues on society’s horizon.

On February 18, the BSA is partnering with Oxfam and Affinity Sutton to hold Future Forum: Cities, Innovation & Inequality. This new one-day event brings together sixty young people from across the UK to share their views and create new and innovative solutions to the challenges facing their communities. For the first event in the programme, participants will look at how the risks and opportunities of new and emerging technologies are shared in urban communities.

Future Forum provides a space for young people to lead conversations and focus on the issues most important to them. Throughout the day, they will work with facilitators and specialists in innovation and inequality to come up with solutions to the issues they identify. Participants will then have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to our expert panel of leaders from across industry, academia, politics and social enterprise, who will help them to put their ideas into to action.

Whilst the issues facing young people are perhaps subtler than eras gone by, the scale of them is in fact even greater. As society becomes increasingly complex and changes at an ever-increasing rate, the need to equip younger generations with the tools and belief to address these challenges can only become more urgent. This means we need to hand over the reins to young people to make decisions on the issues that affect them, and empower them to lead these conversations in the future.

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