This can’t go on.
Today only 1 in 5 young Australians feel able to speak up and be heard about issues that matter to them. There’s a lot to talk about with youth mental health and youth unemployment a burning issue for the whole country. One in seven young Australians experience a mental health condition and suicide is the biggest killer of young Australians ahead of car accidents. In 2017 YMCA Australia decided to make a stand with the national Why not? campaign and tackle some of these problems.
Honesty counts for a lot.
The ‘Y’ announced a new belief in mid 2017 following many months of soul-searching and conversations with young people. ‘The power of inspired young people’ became a centrepiece for the national launch of the ‘Why not?’ campaign in mid’ 2017. The aim of the three year campaign is to drive youth-led change across the country and in areas of public life traditionally hard for young people to access. Why not! you might agree. Pretty Neat’s first task was to bring the developed campaign to life online and to focus action by young people on Canberra. A site was prototyped and quickly launched to make easy action by users possible. Letters to Canberra and content among the networks of young Australians was triggered and we were away. After the big push for launch (and the media) was over the project team gathered and considered: Have we done enough and is a mass media approach sustainable?
Just do it.
In late 2017 we sat down and looked at the options in front of us. The research showed that young people were hurting and that they felt unheard both at the level of the national conversation and in their own communities. Despite the huge win on marriage equality in December ’17 there was a lot of work to do still. We had time and a modest budget to make change but also limited creators and means of amplifying voices. We looked at the most genuine solution of handing the initiative to young people in and outside of the Y. Would stepping back as a team help? It felt scary but right.
A platform for young Australians, by young Australians.
We’re all redundant.
Drafting your own redundancy is a rare way to spend your time but the senior team at YMCA Australia took to it with gusto. Pretty Neat set to work designing a governance structure, new set of objectives and plan to sustain a youth-led program for the next 12 months. The job broadly divided in to two parts: 1. Supporting the culture change at YMCA Australia to take risks, deliver on their belief and let go of the administrative structures they relied upon. 2. Designing for easy adoption of practices and processes by young people soon to be in charge and with limited ‘hands on’ publishing experience.
Part 1 of the job involved mapping the organisation as it relates to the communication function. We looked for an understanding of how the people, teams and collaboration relate through ‘a campaign’. Over a month we were able to form a sharp-ish picture of the organisation and flesh out the systems and structures below the strategy to elevate young people. The defining moment was a meeting of senior communicators from around the country in Melbourne to discuss the charter for a new website and the governance document. A long-ish session saw a tipping point for the campaign as a passionate conversation around payments for contributors to the campaign saw the idea supported almost unanimously. We were away!
Designing for failure.
Finding the team to take over Why not? was challenging in different ways. While the entire organisation is full of talented young people, the specific skills and experience needed were hard to locate and free up. Pretty Neat found a talented young editor to set up the editorial policy and procedures for the new website and resourced regular call outs through private and public channels to secure our first content pieces in February and March of 2018. We then shifted to employing people part time from within the Y in roles with an editorial committee to support the site editor. Briefings were set up and training held face to face and remotely to skill up the team ahead of handover.
I’m not entirely sure what we’re doing here, but it sounds great! – Angus Lonergan, Why not? editorial committee
The internal launch of the new site and campaign approach took place in National Youth Week in early April 2018. The plan to create regular and reliable interactions with premium content created by young people began well. Two months into the new iteration of Why not? the website and conversation channels sees many contributions from Australians of varying backgrounds, abilities and politics. It’s a very different organisation that appears in your social media feed with a quote featuring a four letter word and passionate call for help from a young person. Structure are in place and capacity has been build to drive the change the YMCA seeks. We’ll see the difference in coming months.