Much of the resources and research on youth volunteering has highlighted the need to meet motivations, promote the benefits and ensure recognition of young people to boost community participation. How can community engagement meet some of the big challenges of increased anxiety and depression reported amongst young people in an era of increased social media communities?
- Resources like the Youth Social Innovation programme and research findings give voice to young people’s issues.
- Can we think creatively to allow under 18s volunteering to go around barriers like insurance.
- What are the health benefits of community engagement in communities of rural Ireland in partnership with virtual social media communities.
About Lorainne Tansey:
Lorraine works at the Institute for Lifecourse and Society in NUI Galway.
Contacting Lorainne Tansey:
By Lorainne Tansey
Young People and Stress
Almost one third of young people deemed the mood of their generation as stressed. The research carried out by the Young Social Innovators (YSI) programme (2019) highlights the growing anxiety, stress and depression sixteen year old youth respondents feel in contemporary Ireland. We all have a responsibility to address this and offer opportunities to engage with young people for change. Yet many programmes are limited to youth and under 18s cannot participate due to structural barriers. Innovative solutions like family volunteering, buddy and shadowing programmes and more could include young people and their voice. Inclusivity in communities is challenging and not easily done. Yet the imperative is here to model for and with young people the communities we want to see in the future across Ireland.
Young People as Volunteers in Community
Much of the resources and research on youth volunteering has highlighted the need to meet motivations, promote the benefits and ensure recognition of young people to boost community participation. For example there is a significant emphasis on youth volunteering as a means to employment and skill development. Young volunteers are motivated for a variety of reasons, some being instrumental and yet others demonstrate their empathy for local and global concerns. Increased youth participation in community does result in benefits for all stakeholders. National programmes like Gaisce are vehicles for youth participation and provide insurance and mentorship thereby combating the structural limitations placed on youth volunteering. The overriding ‘over 18 only’ requirements for many community activities due to child protection constraints is seen in an era of increasing managerialism of the sector. This is echoed in the YSI research that indicates 4 out 5 young people feel listened to by their parents but only 2 out of 5 feel listened to by their community. There is a real opportunity to build youth voice in our communities and provide avenues for their greater participation in decision making.
Young People and Virtual Volunteering
Community engagement can meet some of the big challenges of increased anxiety and depression reported amongst young people. The Gen Z Index research by YSI highlights the significant role of social media in youth lives. The research indicates that more than half of young people aged 16 spend four or more hours on their phone. Perhaps virtual volunteering through online communities is an opportunity to connect with youth and their desire to engage. Climate change is identified as the key theme that young people want to make a positive impact on and contribute to. In particular, online activism for climate change issues can help to bridge individual local actions to macro international efforts. According to YSI research only 1 in 10 young people feel listened to by the government or politicians. Collective activism in communities that address policy change is a powerful vehicle for youth participation and to see influence in government.
Call to Action
When asked about their future, young people (40%) indicated a successful life is one that has made a difference in community. This strong call to action from youth to be part of opportunities for change and impact is one that we need to nurture and celebrate. Can we make it more natural for young people to be active volunteers and contributors to our communities and challenge structural constraints that marginalise their voice? If so, how do we combat the practical limitations and respond to the enthusiasm of youth to support them to overcome a narrative of stress and anxiety.