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A youth agency that provides youth agency

by Graham Sykes,

Posted on the 27/06/2023

In the world of social science, ‘agency’ is the capacity of individuals to have the power and resources to fulfil their potential.

It is often this lack of ‘agency’ that holds many young people back through no fault of their own. There are a number of factors that influence the ability of a young person to maximise their potential - gender, age, ethnicity, background – but more often than not it is a combination of them simultaneously.

One of the regular complaints we hear from clients is that young people don’t want to get involved with them, despite it being in their best interest. This is a great example of young people having a lack of agency – it’s not that they don’t want to engage, it’s that there are a number of factors preventing them from doing so:

1) They lack the knowledge to recognise that an activity is beneficial (perhaps no one has told them how or why its beneficial)
2) They lack the confidence to take advantage of an activity (how many of us would just turn up at an event without knowing anyone?)
3) They might lack the ability to participate (lack of money for transport, young carer, cultural commitments)

The reality is that to provide agency, you need to commit 100% to delivering it; as it doesn’t happen without regular communication and contact. Agency is fostered through trust and a continued relationship. Quite often we get very little from an initial session, but by the third or fourth, even the quietest participant has become more confident, vocal and ready to provide output-changing levels of insight and creativity.

When Fourteen19® was being set up in 2010 as a youth agency, empowering teens and young adults was a key objective of the organisation. We identified that there was a sweet spot between client outputs, our youth expertise and the involvement of young people. As a result, we worked just as hard to engage and build networks of young people as we did to encourage organisations to work with us.

From the outset we wanted to work differently to other (youth) agencies. Yes, we would offer strategic and creative marketing services, but we wanted to be more than that. So far, we supported young businesses with their first commissions, we have provided mentoring services for young entrepreneurs, we have provided paid employment for aspiring creatives and we have used our work commissions to provide unique opportunities for young people. For many, we are a stepping stone to bigger and better things. We are immensely proud of the F19 alumni and the role we have played in their development.

It is our relentless desire to provide benefits to young people and to connect them with unique skills and experiences that sets us apart from other agencies.

In summary, yes we have made it harder for ourselves by putting young people at the heart of our agency (and significantly less profitable!!!), but would we have it any other way – not a chance!

Categories for this post:

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