voluntary arts ireland

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Don't be an elephant

It's always an interesting prospect working with young people especially in the arts. At the moment there is a growing momentum to involve more young people in decisions that affect their areas of interest and to give them platforms through which they can express themselves.

This is great but the most difficult thing seems to be getting the adults in the room to remain quiet enough for long enough to allow a young persons idea to be articulated. We spend a lot of time talking about the elephants in the room (such a popular phrase) but as adults sometimes forget that we are the elephants.

Not a very attractive image and indeed we must come across as very heavy handed. What must they be thinking, our young people? Mostly "get out of the way" I would think. And yet at all of the meetings and events I have recently attended through Voluntary Arts Ireland's youth-led project which helps set up sustainable voluntary arts groups created by young people for young people, its the young people who have been the best listeners, the most positive influencers and the most creative.

What is crucial though, and this is where the adult elephants can come in, is a facilitated environment that enables young people to participate fully. Our role as adults is to provide a starting framework and support along the way, to provide help when asked from our long memories of the pitfalls and to celebrate the work of young people.

Maybe it requires us to get excited by the "anything is possible" attitude that our young people display so readily. We are looking for new solutions to old problems. As Einstein said: "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."Maybe its time we used our big elephant ears and listened to young people a bit more.