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Your purpose always has a way of finding you

A few weeks ago, I would never have pictured myself in the position I am today (working with MutualGain) and being part of meaningful work. As a young woman growing up in a small town all her life, the opportunity to discover what social capital is and how to build it was completely new and exciting to me.

How did this come about? A few weeks ago I attended a public meeting in Bedfordshire about youth violence, this is something I feel passionate about but I knew nothing of any consultation or meetings around the matter. A family friend, who had attended a previous session, insisted that I went along, so I decided to go and see what all this community engagement stuffwas about.

During the meeting I attended, we were told about a Participatory Budgeting scheme for Bedford, that was for young people and yet there were no young people in attendance. This fact immediately worried me and made me feel as though I had an unofficial and unspoken responsibility to not only care, but to ensure that I spoke my mind and represented more than just my personal opinion as a young person living in my community.

It became apparent to me that although there are things always occurring in the background to help people and support communities in dealing with youth violence, youth progression and community engagement alone – I never seem to know about them. Also, that even when things are advertised properly, or there is a certain scheme available, that I probably wouldn’t attend, and neither would most people in my age group. Why is that? 

This  question rang in my ears as I listened to Susan (The Director of MutualGain) and Garry (one of the associates) explaining how Participatory Budgeting works. By the time they had finished, and I was hearing from others in the group, the questions disappeared as I realised I came with all the answers! 

Young people will not listen to people who look down on them for one, we also don’t want advice from people who haven’t been in our position, but the biggest thing of all is TRUST – and that is from both parties. I asked myself “why don’t I ever share my views or thoughts about this to anyone with any authority or power to make a difference?”

The answer to that was clear, before this meeting I didn’t think anyone was interested.  Neither did I think that what I thought could really affect decisions being made, or how my local council or police, view young people as a whole. I’ll never think that again after that day. I felt my voice was listened to whether that was about the problems or the solutions. I left feeling so positive about expressing how I felt about why this lack of trust exists between the community and the authorities, and how this affects young people, and our future as well as being offered a job working with MutualGain to do similar work.

Without that day, I wouldn’t be where I am today; growing in such an impactful organisation that allows me to help others and develop their communities as well as help myself further and better my opportunities and skills in my career.

Starting work with MutualGain has been the most motivating and inspiring few weeks. I have learned that it is not just me who can see the value in myself and what I have to say and offer, but that older, experienced professional people do too.  Not only are they interested in what I have to say and input, but they wantto help me be in a position where more and more people will also listen to my lived experiences.

Within my first week working with MutualGain, I was already well aware that I had a brilliant opportunity handed to me by Susan, but it became apparent that I was being given an opportunity to progress as part of a dynamic team, and that this is the start of a long and fulfilling career. My first few weeks have consisted of a lot of commuting to the boroughs we are working with in London for public meetings and World Café Training programmes.  This has opened my eyes to how broad the services of MutualGain; all the different types of work we do and all the different groups of people that we reach and help. I was over the moon with all the discussions, getting to know different community needs and their values as well as their initial views on engagement and trust in their local authorities. This was so interesting to me as the way the community feel towards you and towards their authorities, really has a lot to do with how well a consultation or World Café goes.

In my second week I realised that it wasn’t all just community outreach and talking to people here, there and everywhere, it dawned on me that if I was going to be successful in my role, I was going to have to really knuckle down and develop my computer skills and business administration knowledge.  To this end, they have signed me up to an apprenticeship.

This is another thing that has amazed me, everyone has been supportive and  been so patient with me, and given me the opportunity to achieve a level 4 Qualification in Building Social Capital as well as obtaining skills and qualifications for business administration . This apprenticeship has given me a huge insight to the possibilities around community engagement and is teaching me so much about how we connect with people and run a successful, meaningful and inspiring organisation. 

I am ever so grateful for all the experience and knowledge I am gaining through MutualGain and the MutualiLearn online platform, and I look forward to making positive changes to the lives of others and their communities as well as ensuring peoples voices are heard.

Going back to the start of my blog, I hope that all the knowledge and connections I am gaining will help be give a voice to young people and that I will at least be able to inspire them to take more interest in what is going on in their communities, build relationships with different groups/people and most importantly to express their views in the right ways to the right people in order to make positive change or an understanding.

Watch this space for further updates

Written by Antigua Riley Corion
August 2019