On Thursday 21st of February, Young Commissioners from Youth Advisory Boards (YABs) across Norfolk gathered at the Abbey Conference Centre, Norwich, for the annual celebration ‘YABCON19’.
YABs are bodies of Young Commissioners and professionals that work to identify issues that impact on young people in their district area and play a strategic role in meeting these needs by commissioning services and activities.
Young Commissioners were present from Norwich YAB, Great Yarmouth YAB, Broadland YAB, Breckland YAB, North Norfolk YAB, and West Norfolk YAB, all of which are coordinated by youth organisation MAP, and from South Norfolk YAB, which is coordinated by MTM Youth Services.
The Young Commissioners were joined by guests from MAP, Norwich City Council, Pop Up Enterprises, Breckland Police, Meet Up Community, Norfolk County Council, NHS Norfolk Children and Young People, Leaping Hare, Norfolk Youth Offending Team, Lola Stafford, Momentum Norfolk, YMCA Norfolk, Thetford Academy Careers, and Cambridgeshire County Council.
Young Commissioners from each YAB addressed the conference. Their presentations included testimonies about the positive impact of the YAB on their lives, information about their work in the community, a breakdown of the commissioning process, short films and gifs commissioned by the YABS, interactive quizzes and games, and even a musical number, ‘YAB is the Greatest Show’. Great Yarmouth YAB described being Young Commissioners as ‘something to be proud of’, and Broadland YAB noted that projects for young people are more accessible and successful when young people are directly involved in planning and commissioning: ‘We are experts in our own field.’
The conference additionally heard from guest speakers Dan Mobbs, CEO at MAP, and Tim Eyres, Head of Integrated Commissioning for Norfolk County Council. Dan celebrated the achievements of young people in the county, saying ‘Norfolk is and has always been a centre for Young Activists’. Tim emphasised the importance of including young people in decision making: ‘If we don’t involve young people, we get things wrong.’
Multilingual young musician Salman Tolheed performed a set at the conference, playing guitar and singing, and urged young commissioners to pursue their goals and passions: ‘You can do anything!’
Throughout the day Young Commissioners and guests pinned leaves to a ‘Pledge Tree’, naming ways in which they would support young people in Norfolk. Pledges included: ‘accepting everyone is different and has different needs’, ‘encouraging other professionals to consult and involve young people in decision making for their future’, and ‘supporting young people to take up every opportunity to influence and make decisions.’