More than 100,000 children and young people have now taken part in the Young Leaders Award (YLA),and that means there are have been thousands and thousands of social action projects led by students across the country. We’ve seen some incredibly creative social action projects over the last ten years, but sometimes it’s hard to think beyond what you did with the last Young Leaders.
Throughout the YLA, it is important to create a culture of creativity. Let the children dream big from the outset and see where their ideas and enthusiasm will take them. There are lots of points throughout each of the Awards that gives young people space to think. Of course, we adults will see a myriad of health and safety issues, and things that we have tried in the past that will need some serious tweaking to work. Ideas at the beginning are always half formed and unrealistic but that isn’t a reason to throw them out in the early stages. If we can allow that very first flush of ideas to evolve as the children and young people develop their thinking, then creativity can thrive.
Don’t squash ideas
Be mindful of the vocabulary you use, which encourages and doesn’t squash ideas, to really help your group be supportive of each other’s initial ideas. Phrases such as: ‘I wonder, what if…?’ and ‘wouldn’t it be good …?’ or ‘shall we see how that idea develops’ can enable an external processor who shares all their ideas out loud to keep distilling their idea. And it is important to remember that internal processors could have spent quite some time thinking through their idea before they have shared it and so could be easily crushed with a negative response.
The most creative ideas don’t have to be something that has never been done before, ever in the history of the world. Sometimes it just has to be new to one person in your context and then it becomes creative because of its novelty. Sometimes the old-fashioned ideas can seem more creative because it is new for some children who have not experienced it before. For example some have never received a letter addressed to them so pen pals across the generations can bring a lot of joy for everyone involved.
Think about your pupils
Enabling a wide variety of children and young people to participate fully is an opportunity to be creative. Encouraging those involved in gaming, some of whom could be the quieter students, can open up new ideas for competition and fundraising. Some students will prefer to be active and sporty and others can bring their creativity to helping them think of new challenges to make it that bit more tricky and interesting. Mixing your teams of students up will bring a creative edge to the process enabling individuals to flourish and groups to bond. Breaking down an overall task into different stages will bring an opportunity for creativity at every stage not just the grand finale.
Try to maintain a balance between the activity to raise awareness or funds and the organisation you are supporting. Perhaps a set of scales as a visual reminder for your pupils to think about where all the focus is- their outlandish fundraiser which is escalating beyond your wildest dreams or the charity they’re trying to raise the profile of?
And finally, here is a warning! Getting noticed for the right reasons is great but creating an idea that brings someone into disrepute is not good. Be wise as to how far you allow an idea to develop and rein it back in if needs be. But the most important thing is to allow creativity to build the fun and interest and to help embed social action and volunteering in everyday life.