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Key points from the day

This page contains a list of the key learning points from the Young Voices, Young Agents for Change event held by IFN in November 2014.

Key points from the day

The following list of key points reflects comments and observations offered by individual participants during the Young Voices, Young Agents for Change event. Together with the records of the plenary presentations and video clips from the day, we hope these points will be useful to organisations and individuals working to learn from and increase involvement of young people in inter faith activity and learning.

The points are ordered by topic and not in order of importance. They are numbered for ease of reference.

    • The importance of inter faith engagement
  1. Positive inter faith engagement is vital in today’s world
  2. It is important to create space for dialogues and engagement to foster understanding
    • An increasingly diverse and interconnected world
  3. We all live in a world that is ever more interconnected – instant, free communication with any populated area of the world is possible
  4. The world has become smaller – the UK is more multicultural and global communication is easier than ever
  5. Social media and the internet are huge influences on people’s attitudes and opinions.
  6. People’s frames of reference are much wider than their traditional communities now and it can be challenging to support young people when the things that influence them are changing daily
    • Young people and inter faith engagement
  7. All faiths value young people and renewal
  8. Inter faith and inter cultural engagement is important for people of all ages
  9. Young people may have different needs and particular ways of contributing but we/they should not be thought of as totally separate and different
  10. Young people cannot be thought of just as the future we/they are both future and present bridge builders
  11. Young people have a particular contribution to make
  12. Young people often bring a passion, optimism, and sense of possibility that older people may feel they have lost along the way (whether or not they have)
  13. Young people care about big issues – climate change, poverty, injustice in the world and in their neighbourhoods - and it is important to support them in the work they aspire to in these areas
  14. Older adults have to be careful that they do not end up speaking for young people rather than speaking with and listening to them
    • Developing confidence, leadership, skills and responsibility
  15. Young people need the confidence to be themselves and to act accordingly and with openness about themselves and to others
  16. Young people also need the confidence to develop skills such as public speaking, facilitation and other leadership skills and they need support in developing these skills and to be given the responsibility to just have a go and - if necessary - to learn by mistakes with someone backing them up
  17. Young people should be involved in training older people in how to work with them - this two-way relationship of learning helps the older people, and it also helps the younger people feel they have more ownership
  18. Having young people involved in the training ensures that they are there to ask the sorts of questions they would ask in a project so that the workers can experience real engagement first-hand before they start working in the field
  19. Projects should be youth-led, but not entirely – guidance from adults and sharing of experience is important
  20. It is important to allow younger people to give feedback, direction and advice to adult workers whilst those are also giving support to the young people
  21. Striking the right balance between experienced support and youth ownership and leadership is always hard but it is important
  22. URI International has structures which are engineered to provide pathways for young people to accept and access positions on goals and to lead programmes and develop the skills as they go
  23. The uniformed organisations [eg Scouts and Guides] have built-in leadership schemes which begin at the earliest age and are staged to help young people continue to develop as leaders as they grow.
  24. Inter faith chaplaincy teams can provide a good model for inter generational inter faith - in the Christian context, this is a model of ‘walking with’ and saying “Come and see. You might be interested in this. Come and have a look”
  25. Succession planning is critical, and this begins with encouraging younger people to engage with structures and allowing them to help to shape them
  26. Faiths have within them concepts around inter-generational relationships: concepts such as transmission of faith, continuity of community, different life stages, and duties toward elders, which can be instructive when thinking about how programmes for young people can be structured.
  27. Having young people involved in decision making processes in a realistic way is critical and this means going where they are, not expecting them to come to us (for example, recognising that they prefer not to sit through long meetings)
    • Young people getting involved in non-youth-focused inter faith bodies
  28. The average age of many inter faith bodies is very high and they will benefit from allowing young people to give them more direction, feedback, and advice.
  29. People who are more experienced should support and mentor young people to empower them, delegate responsibility and enable a gradual passing on of responsibilities to them.
  30. Local inter faith bodies benefit from involving young people in their work and can provide a place for learning new skills
  31. A young person on the board/committee of an inter faith body may attract more young people to be involved.
    • Developing programmes
  32. It is always necessary to contextualise and adapt activities to fit the audience and be as creative and participatory as possible.
  33. If something is fun, people will want to do it, whatever their age.
  34. If something is fun it will engage people; social interaction and political terminology can be off-putting.
  35. Young people are not just interested in fun activities; they want to make a difference to the world.
  36. There is a need for creativity and not just reinventing the wheel.
  37. It is difficult often for young people to travel long distances and youth events need to be held in different places.
  38. Inter-generational inter faith activity may most naturally follow from youth inter faith activity for young people who come from faith contexts where they have had no prior experience of inter faith activity
  39. Arts and culture can help to bring people together because they transcend barriers such as language.
  40. Getting to know people takes time; you can’t speed up building relationships of trust
  41. Arts competitions and shows with young people can help to engage older audiences as they will often invite their family along to support them.
  42. The term ‘inter faith’ is sometimes useful but in some contexts can put people off - there seems no obvious alternative to it but it may need explaining carefully if there is the potential for misunderstanding.
  43. A SUSOMAD Project in Bradford, Stand Up: Speak Out; Make a Difference, has young people engaging with national and international political issues that are of concern to them
    • Religious Education, peer-to-peer learning and religious understanding more generally
  44. Religious Education makes a vital contribution to pupils’ ability to navigate and engage well with people of different backgrounds in an increasingly diverse world
  45. The role of RE teachers is a key one and their training is very important
  46. Concepts, Attitudes, Skills and Knowledge are absolutely essential in Religious Education and each of them is pertinent to inter faith understanding as well
  47. RE includes finding ways to enable children to say what they want to say – thus developing skills of dialogue and engagement that are so important
  48. In RE there are general skills about learning but the most important skills are about thinking and reflection and critical engagement - learning how to ask some very hard questions, learning how to challenge and be challenged without being offensive
  49. An undiscerning respect for difference is no good for anybody - we need an informed, discerning respect
  50. Openness, curiosity, engagement, and willingness to learn, are at the heart of both RE and inter faith understanding.
  51. RE can help enable pupils to become skilled inter faith and intercultural navigators
  52. SACREs make an important contribution to RE in schools and to inter faith understanding
  53. Young people of faith talking to school pupils as part of RE classes gives them a personal experience and a human face to engage with, helping break down stereotypes
  54. Pupils can relate to younger presenters in RE who are closer to them in age and speaking from their personal experiences of their own faith and are not seen as authority figures
  55. Training and support from adults – including teachers – really helps young people build up the confidence and skills to present to younger pupils about their faith and experiences
  56. People of any age can give pupils a personal story or experience about faiths, but younger people doing this perhaps removes some barriers as the pupils don’t feel like they are being tested
  57. Personal experiences are important but are not a replacement for RE
  58. There is no RE curriculum in Further Education, so young people in FE may have less access to training and knowledge in this area than young people who continue their studies in schools
  59. If you need and you want other people to understand you and your faith then you have to understand it yourself and how it affects your life and decisions and choices.
    • Further and Higher Education contexts
  60. NUS has responded to the initial anxieties on campuses around external speakers and young people being radicalised and this Government agenda and it’s progressed beyond that to looking at it more holistically about issues around hate crime and issues around identity, faith and sexuality
  61. Young people are talking about their faith, their non-religious beliefs and their spirituality in Further Education contexts, and they are often being supported by staff, including chaplains, who are prepared to go beyond their main role and facilitate those kinds of discussions - but there is no formally established place for that engagement
  62. Students have identified the importance of trusting the organisations that come in to run inter faith projects at universities, and that these will create a safe forum for expressing their views
  63. When organising face-to-face dialogue meetings it is important to go beyond issues that everyone agrees on and to look at challenging issues. In this context, the ‘safe forum’ aspect is very important
  64. Chaplaincies play a very important role in supporting inter faith learning and engagement among students
  65. A key part of chaplaincy work is ensuring all students, of whatever faith or belief, feel the chaplaincy is a safe space in which they can be open about their views and listened to.
    • Skills, confidence and personal identity
  66. Young people need the confidence to be who they are and be respected for it
  67. Being involved in inter faith projects helps you grow in your own faith as well as learning about others
  68. Young people are often operating in a broader space in terms of their self-identification
  69. A person’s faith or belief will have a profound impact on who they are as a person, and how they see themselves – even if they do not always realise the extent to which they are shaped by it
  70. Single faith youth work is important in giving young people from faith communities the confidence to be themselves, and can be a helpful stepping stone to inter faith engagement, including through single-faith groups from different faiths working together on particular initiatives
  71. It is much better to ask someone why they do or do not do certain things than to make an assumption - having the confidence to ask people questions about their faith takes practice and some prior knowledge but is an important skill to learn
  72. People of all ages can engage in inter faith activity best when they understand their own faith and their relationship to their tradition well - intra-faith dialogue has a part to play in that too
  73. Young people come from different backgrounds and places, faiths or beliefs. Supporting them involves looking through the lens of each particular young person, seeing the journey they are on, recognising their needs and requirements in taking first steps to engage with others.
  74. Presenting to others about your faith forces you to learn more about it – you don’t want to feel unprepared for questions
  75. Sometimes you will not know the answers to the questions asked, and it is okay to say that. It will also make you want to go away and find out
    • Sustainability
  76. More sources of funding need to be found for youth inter faith activity
  77. More grant giving bodies need encouraging to support this area of work
  78. Joint bids would be good – particularly for European funding programmes
  79. There are many opportunities to run one-off projects, including social action projects, with young people, but it is more challenging to find ways to sustain these throughout the year
  80. Not all events and initiatives require money – volunteers and in-kind support such as free use of venues can enable some excellent initiatives
  81. Sustaining long-term year-round programmes, particularly those with broad programmes of work involving thousands of users, which need staff and interns, needs money as the time-commitment involved makes it impossible to run purely on a voluntary basis
    • Sharing and cooperative working
  82. There is a need for better communication between youth groups and faith groups organising things
  83. We should not be afraid to ask people how they have achieved something if we see a brilliant project, and discuss how it might be replicated or altered to fit other contexts
  84. It is important to organise, to work together more, to challenge each other on the spaces we are working in and, rather than competing, thinking through strategically what will enable the most to get done in the field
  85. There is presently a lack of engagement between the faith-based youth sector and the rest of the youth sector - workers are not attending each others’ events, conferences etc. in significant numbers
  86. There is a need for more joined-up working by different types of organisations developing and supporting youth inter faith activity and learning
  87. There are many spaces for young people to have a voice and get involved in things, but often those running programmes stick within their own sector - everybody who works with young people should be sharing ideas and experiences and having a conversation
  88. A challenge to those working and volunteering on inter faith initiatives with young people is whether to invest in defining good inter faith activity with young people – are there benchmarks we need to agree on?
  89. Perhaps there could be a code of practice based on the learning of organisations such as those at today’s event and with the input of young people
  90. It is often difficult to find funding for inter faith initiatives with young people - funders of youth activity often see it as something that funders of faith activity should fund, and funders of faith activity may not be interested in funding youth inter faith activity
  91. We should work collectively to increase funders’ awareness and interest in this area
  92. It is important to provide space for conversations between young people and real engagement, but also help to develop a counter-narrative to some of the wider influences on their ideas and opinions - this requires a strategic engagement between all sectors influencing a young person’s journey.
  93. Young people go on one single journey from primary school to graduation or work and but the large number of people and organisations trying to influence that journey are not engaging with each other - greater engagement between all working with young people would enable a more cohesive, holistic approach and perhaps one more responsive to each young person’s journey.
    • Faith based bodies working in wider civil society
  94. Faith based bodies and inter faith bodies need to link up well with secular young organisations, to make common cause and work effectively together to increase young people’s involvement in inter faith activity and to help develop their skills for this
  95. When faith organisations work with civil society, with secular organisations, we should not play down the faith element of what we do: we have a set of values; a set of moral principles that are very important to society.