When covid-19 hit, we took our youth project work online. Our project co-ordinator Daniel shares his thoughts on the impact it's had on all those involved.

The time has flown by and, at the time of writing this, it has now been nine weeks to the day that we launched our first Online Youth Session!

With the arrival of the coronavirus, all of us at the College looked on nervously to see how it would impact our work, our lives and our communities. It became apparent very quickly with the arrival of lockdown and social distancing measures that we would have to drastically change our approach to project delivery and we were set for a new normal, along with the rest of the world.

A new approach 

How would we continue our work in the community with our young people? How do you compete with Tik Tok and Instagram for young people’s time and attention? We had many questions and fears, but it was clear the digital world beckoned. So, as we temporarily waved goodbye to face to face delivery and the days of icebreakers with giant dice, we embraced the online realm of zoom.

Dealing with a new digital approach

Rewind ten weeks and I must say that personally; this was not an expedition into the digital world I was keen to embark on. Technology and me have a sketchy relationship at best, with a mutual love hate thing going on that just about worked. Sort of.

So it is with no small amount of pride I tell you now, that this technological caveman has swapped the club for a mouse. There truly is hope for us all.

With tech savvy swag covered, we needed to ensure our sessions retained all the elements that made them special in person, ensuring young people were still given new opportunities and experiences. As a projects team we went to work on putting together a line-up of guest hosts and speakers to bring messages of hope, inspiration, laughter, wellbeing, activism and learning to our young people.

New format, same great result

I am proud to say we have had one of the most diverse session schedules to date, with everything from guest filmmakers and app developers to horticultural therapists and historians. Our focus on co-operative values and social action went hand in hand with what our fantastic range of guests brought to our unique sessions.

We got fit and explored the many uses and benefits of exercise with Obinna Wray from McrActive and Man City FC. We learned how gardening and nature can improve our mental health, and our communities, as well as how to plant, pot and reuse our spare veg with Get Up and Grow. We explored the horrible histories and bright beginnings of the Co-operative movement with Kate Woodward at the Rochdale Pioneers Museum. It’s hard to pick a favourite but learning advanced online safeguarding and exploring technological effects on our mental health with Omar Latif was fascinating. Change your passwords now people.

After two inspirational and motivational sessions from Louis Howell, we focused on staying positive and productive through the crisis and planned social action in response to what our young people put forward. Following the tragic murder of George Floyd and the global protests that ensued, our group decided that sessions and social action should focus on racial inequality. We spent three sessions providing a space for listening, learning and acting on what matters most to our young people and exploring solutions to racism.

It’s safe to say we’ve done a lot! And there’s only more brilliant sessions to come. I am more than excited for our, ‘Lights Camera, Activism!’ session with award winning filmmaker Matt Kay, and we can already feel the Ripples of Hope emanating from the upcoming session with Sarah Boyle on human rights.

I strongly recommend you check out our Online Youth Sessions webpage to find out more and ensure you don’t miss out… but then I would say that, wouldn’t I. ;)

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