Young Black people continue to face hurdles in society on a regular basis, with the global pandemic exacerbating this (Centre for Mental Health, 2022). However, thanks to The Diana Award’s Young Changemaker, young people have been working hard to counter these barriers.
The Diana Award Young Changemaker’s Programme has seen huge success over the last few years. Started in 2021 as a collaboration between UK Youth, Centre for Mental Health and The Diana Award, funded by players of the Postcode Lottery, the Young Changemakers Programme supports young people with Black and Black mixed-race heritage to channel their lived experiences into tackling racial injustices in mental health services in the UK. I have had the privilege to work with young people on the Programme from its founding in 2021 and I am so proud of what they have achieved. They are so inspiring, tackling every obstacle that comes their way head-on and never letting their mission out of sight.
Since the beginning, the Programme ran into challenges. As we all know, 2021 was a rough year due to the pandemic and this heavily impacted the way we were able to work and communicate with our new group of Young Changemakers. We almost had to cancel the residential we planned for them (a space we created so that they could finally meet in person and plan their social action projects) due to the constantly changing COVID restrictions!
Over the past two years, I have seen first-hand their passion, determination, and ambition as they’ve worked towards their mission: to create a society where young Black people can feel safe and be supported. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the young people working hard on this mission need time to prosper and succeed. But they continue to work closely with each other to create real, meaningful change as they deliver their social action projects across the nation. These social action projects cover a wide range of issues, including changing public policy, engaging frontline practitioners, changing public attitudes, and peer-to-peer support.
Not only have we helped young people create change in areas they believe need it, we’ve also received help from young people to ensure all our work, messaging, and projects are relevant to the community we aim to serve. Our co-producers created the branding of the programme, content for the development phase of the changemaker journey, joined focus groups and made decisions around the direction and future of the programme. They have also been invited as guest speakers across the nation, playing a vital role in promoting our work to a wider audience.
If I had to pinpoint two of my biggest lessons whilst working on the changemaker programme, it would be this:
1. There is hope - it sometimes saddens me that young people today are still facing the same racially-based obstacles that I grew up with. But, week after week, I see young people that are focused on finding the solutions to the challenges they face. This resilience is fuelled by their hope for a better future and this always warms my heart.
2. Empowerment is key - when young people are empowered and given the right tools to make change, they will. The young people have thrived in all of the social action projects, training, and opportunities and the ongoing accelerators prove this.
These two points have helped us create a programme that is benefiting not only the young people working with us but the wider community too.
As we celebrate Black History Month at The Diana Award and around the world, I am reminded just how proud I am of our amazing Young Changemakers and Co-Producers; the work they are doing is truly making history!
Learn more about The Diana Award’s Young Changemakers Programme here.