The Agency is a creative youth enterprise project working with young people from underserved areas across the UK to develop and create social enterprises, events, projects and businesses that will have a positive impact on their local communities. Their business plans are pitched to a panel of experts following which successful applicants are provided with professional training, support and advice needed to develop their projects along with a £2000 seed fund to help launch their projects.
This year’s panel of experts included: Adeola Adelakun, co-founder of Cultureville, Sharon Raymond, Manchester Culture Awards Independent Creative of the Year, Carl Austin Behan OBE DL, President of Contact, former politician and community activist, Faidat Ope, Agency alumni and Contact trustee, and Michelle Calame.
Michelle Calame said: “Supporting young people and those from marginalised unrepresented and unserved groups is something that I am incredibly passionate about. All of the amazing young people that took part were an inspiration, proving that sheer passion, determination, motivation and hard work can enable your thoughts, dreams and ambitions to be heard. I am immensely proud to have been part of the panel and look forward to seeing how the young people’s plans develop.”
Adeola Adelakun said: “It was absolutely fantastic being on the Agency panel and I was blown away by the innovative ideas from the Agents. From recipe books to help those struggling financially to anime clubs to relieve anxiety for young boys, the ideas they presented were clearly created with the goal of positively impacting the world around them. Each and every one of them showed why The Agency programme is important.”
The Manchester Agents of 2023 include Eliah (14) who has pioneered Food for All, a recipe booklet, meal cards and video tutorials available to users for free and tailored to meet the needs of a growing number of food bank users. Eliah said “I learned many new things through The Agency, from strategic planning to working towards timescales”. Between 1 April 2022 and 30 September 2022, food banks in the Trussell Trust’s UK-wide network distributed 1.3 million food parcels to people facing hardship – an increase of 52% compared to the same period in 2019. Half a million of these parcels were distributed to children [Source: The Trussel Trust]. Eliah’s Agency-funded project aims to celebrate and consider a variety of cultures, providing recipes for exciting meals using food available in local food banks.
The Agency has enabled Sufyaan (16) to launch Artscape, a series of creative craft workshops and luxury art packs available in accessible community spaces for free. The workshops will focus on upskilling young people interested in arts, crafts and digital arts, and the packs will offer free materials for specific craft projects designed by Sufyaan. Young people’s participation in the arts has a positive impact on their mental health and well-being [Source: Far Apart But Close at Heart, People’s Palace Projects], but not all young people are able to access the space and materials needed to experience the sense of belonging and fulfilment that the arts can bring; Sufyaan is hoping to close that gap.
Sufyaan said: “At first I wasn’t sure what my idea was going to be. Over time I trusted the process, developed my public talking skills and also met many great people along the way. It has made me aware of the confidence I have and also the creative skills which have helped me to achieve my goals”.
Finally, Nathan (15) and Blake (16) have founded Meet Your Makers; a project staging e-gaming tournaments and regular sessions for young people in North Manchester to practice and play video games they may not have access to at home, therefore creating a gaming community in the real world. Nathan said: “I learned lots of new things through The Agency that aren’t taught in school, including marketing and budgeting”. Meet Your Makers raises timely questions about in-person activities following the pandemic and creates space for young people who struggle to afford e-gaming. In encouraging young people to spend time together physically in community spaces, rather than being isolated in their homes, Nathan and Blake have generated the perfect solution to the rising costs of games and game consoles; togetherness.
Andrew Westle, The Agency National Programme Manager, said: “‘These three projects capture what The Agency is all about, young people being the solution of what our communities need. We believe young people are an untapped potential and can provide unique perspectives and passion in solving the most important social issues. Utilising a creative approach, these Agents have developed an entrepreneurial mindset that will be the foundation of these successful social interventions. They join a wide network of Agents from communities across the UK, who are creating sustainable and important change.”
All three of this year’s projects combine the best of creativity and enterprise, and Eliah, Sufyaan, Nathan and Blake will all benefit from mentoring, networking, and career development opportunities as their projects develop. The immediate impact of the pandemic has seen youth unemployment increase – approximately 11.5% of people aged 16 to 24 were unemployed in the UK in November 2022, the highest of any age group [Source: Statista] – against the backdrop of the worst economic crisis in decades. Coupled with unprecedented global disruption in education, mental health and development prospects, it is the young people from underserved areas across the UK who continue to be amongst the hardest hit.
The Agency specifically seeks out young people in some of these areas – in Manchester, Moston and Harpurhey – and supports them to take the lead to make meaningful change happen. Previous Manchester Agency projects – such as Dawn to the Light and Potential – have gone on to receive tens of thousands of pounds in support from donors as the work progresses. Agents have also progressed to senior leadership positions in Manchester; Samuel Remi-Akinwale (22) is now co-CEO of Young Manchester following participation in The Agency. Eliah, Sufyaan, Nathan and Blake’s projects are exceptional examples of what can happen when young people are considered a collective force for systematic change, and The Agency has carved out a route for a brighter future for them all.
Find out more about The Agency on social media and follow the project on Twitter & Instagram @agency_change #theagency #makersofchange. For further information about The Agency, follow this link.