Skip to content

Blog: City Leaders Year 1

In the academic year 2016-17, Creative Opportunities worked in partnership with London Youth to deliver City Leaders – a weekly youth leadership and social action programme with students at City and Islington College.

The project strengthened the bonds between young people and their local community, empowering them to create the changes they wanted to see in their area. In the early stages of the programme, the group met to discuss and explore community, identity and local issues. They went on to learn skills and strategies for creative campaigning and planned a highly successful community project of their own, which won an award from London Youth.

In the first stage of City Leaders, the Team Stage, the group was given a budget of £150 and chose an activity to get to know each other better. By taking responsibility for the budget and co-ordinating the activity, the City Leaders organised a fun film night, at which they ordered food and watched Damilola. Having spent several sessions discussing the issues that were important to them as a group one member – John, said “I feel like I have learnt to share my ideas as well as listen to other people’s ideas.”

It was at the next stage, the Club Stage, that the City Leaders demonstrated some of the public speaking, teamwork and planning skills they had learnt. The team decided that a DSLR camera would improve Creative Opportunities’ work as a youth organisation, and would allow the team to document their progress. They made a successful pitch for £400 to London Youth, and the camera has been extremely useful for Creative Opportunities members across all of our programmes.

Throughout their discussions, our first cohort of City Leaders shared a common concern about high levels of homelessness in the local area. Several of them spoke about regularly seeing the same homeless people on their way to and from the college over an extended period of time. As such, the group decided that homelessness was the issue that they wanted to tackle during the Community Stage, and they began planning a campaign and preparing for the next pitch to London Youth, this time for £600.The team first consulted with staff at Crisis about items that are most useful to rough sleepers and homeless people and decided to create and donate 40 waterproof rucksacks filled with essential items.

The Community Stage pitch took place at the illustrious National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, at which City Leaders from other youth groups also pitched for money to fund their campaigns. It was a nerve-wrecking evening, but the team made a strong pitch for £600 to create the rucksacks. Ultimately, their immense work paid off and they were successful once more! Afterwards Sophia said, “I have improved my public speaking skills and experience in campaigning.”With a budget of £600, the City Leaders set about sourcing socks, blankets, canned food and bottled water, waterproof ponchos, toiletries and sanitary items. In his feedback, Hasan said that his favourite part of the workshops was “knowing we can make a change.”

The bags were then distributed through Crisis Skylight. Throughout this stage the City Leaders were responsible for budgeting, organising their tasks, and conducting and verifying research.They have also built a relationship with Crisis Skylight which they still maintain, having returned in October of 2017 to drop off a second donation; this time of sleeping bags.

Two members of the programme went on to participate in the Future City Leaders programme with London Youth, and are now members of their youth advisory board, Dare London. Speaking about the experience, David said this “has opened many doors and contributed to me honing skills such as chairing a meeting, something I wouldn’t have dared doing a few years ago. In a nutshell this is what Creative Opportunities has done for me and many other youngsters. It’s opened doors and helped us to walk through these doors.”

Student Engagement Coordinator Cordelia Cembrowicz said “The City Leaders programme has been a great addition to the enrichment offer here at City and Islington College.Students have had the opportunity to choose a campaign and lead it from the front, supported by role models who make the challenge achievable. It is not always easy for young people to feel like they can make a difference, or link their ambition for change with their own skills and abilities, but the City Leaders programme has enabled them to do exactly that.”

Additional information

City Leaders year one was funded by Islington Council’s Community Chest, which funds over 60 organisations in Islington every year who work at the grassroots level. It is a partnership between Islington Council and the Cripplegate Foundation, which is a grant-giving trust that aims to improve the quality of life of people who live or work in Islington, London. You can read more about the Cripplegate Foundation on their website by clicking here.

London Youth is a youth organisation that provides opportunities for young people in London. You can find out more about them on their website by clicking here.