The Voice of a New Generation

Young poets versus MC's present ideas on drones and privacy at a ThinkNation event

Best Foot forward

By Lizzie Hodgson, founder and director of ThinkNation

When the opportunity arose for ThinkNation to work with Project Twist-It my immediate response was excitement and nervousness. Change the poverty narrative? Challenge poverty stigma? Include young people in the search for solutions to the negative stories we're told day in, day out about poverty?

Reflecting on the project's ambitious goals I concluded that it was both a compelling and necessary undertaking. In my experience, as a society, we don't tend to approach poverty as a 'conversation' in any meaningful way. Its all about policy, statistics, numbers and percentages with the nuances of human reality lost in 'policy speak' and headlines. The issue is too much; too massive; too complex.

One of the stand-out things about Project Twist-It is that people - and their experiences - are at the heart of it. What's more, it focuses on a profound part of being human: our ability and need for storytelling, which is why ThinkNation fits so well with it.

At ThinkNation we empower young people to share their stories on the most critical challenges of our time. However, we also increasingly explore how young people want to address significant societal issues and challenges - from registering to vote and the role of VR in international conflict, to how Artificial Intelligence is changing the workplace and the impact social media has on mental health.

Now we are empowering young people from across the UK to smash silos and share their ideas and stories on how we can ALL change the poverty narrative.

It all starts with stories

We understand the power of the personal experience. Through our short films, events, and workshops, young people from often excluded communities share their stories and ideas on big, important issues. 

Our work with Project Twist-It is a collaborative one focused on elevating voices. A primary example of this is a short film we produced after reaching out to young people.The film is just 15 minutes long and yet somehow it gets to the heart of how poverty and the people living in it are perceived. It especially teaches us much about how young people understand it.

I have to say, the ThinkNation team didn’t know what to expect when we embarked on the process. We were scheduled to talk to over 50 young people from diverse backgrounds across the UK in the spring of 2018. These young people each came with specific ideas, experiences, and opinions on poverty. I was confident we would get a range of different views but wasn’t expecting the overwhelmingly erudite interviews, grounded in real-life experience and broader awareness.

And, these young people were passionate about the subject.

Empathy. Hope. Inclusion

Let me be clear. Young people grasp the misinformation and shame that surrounds poverty. Of course their insight is based on personal experience, be it via homelife, school, their environment or online. Nevertheless, As a result, the young people we interviewed put forward thoughtful and exciting ways to address the stigma attached to poverty, grounded in empathy, hope, and inclusion. 

What we learned

Young people have all manner of interesting answers to the challenges we face. Sure, they may not be in a place right now to implement the ideas, but they are closer to solutions than we realise. They are also extremely savvy. Not surprising when we consider the access to information they have at their fingertips - good or bad. What is clear is that we must listen to them if we’re to alter the way society talks about and deals with poverty.

What next?

As part of Project Twist-It, ThinkNation is embarking on a really exciting range of events. The film will be a catalyst for engagement. For example we will be rolling out some UK screenings targeted at young people in the autumn to create further discussion and ignite ideas on how we can change the poverty narrative. 

We will also open up invites for young people to apply to participate in our Big Event on December 8th at the Gulbenkian Theatre, the University of Kent in Canterbury. Supported by mentors from the world of arts, tech, business, and academia, young people will share their stories and ideas on how we can tell a new story about poverty to improve public understanding and take away the stigma, all live on stage in front of a public audience. 

Why does all this matter?

It matters because poverty should not be a byword for “blame.” It matters because we need to start the momentum of change. It matters because we must emphasise the notion of empathy and offer ideas solutions that we can all relate to and embrace.

As one young carer from the film explained: “If we talked to more people about it... what we are going through, maybe it can help [other people] understand."

Recommendation of the Month

The upcoming ThinkNation / Project Twist-It event on December 8th at The Gulbenkian Theatre in Canterbury offers an unique chance for your voice to be heard. Are you a young person with something to say on poverty? Are you eager to change perceptions? Do you or your friends have a story of your own to share?

Are you someone a bit older who would like to play a part in shifting attitudes and who has some time to mentor young people and contribute to the event? If you are let us know.

Get involved.

Take the opportunity to be a part of transforming the way we talk about poverty.

Contact Lizzie Hodgson: