As recent research has shown, Gen Z have strong ethics and values, making the co-operative movement a perfect match. These values form some of the main foundations of our Youth Co-operative Action project, taking place in communities across the UK, including Lewisham in London.

It’s a programme that focuses on empowering young people to create change, however it’s fair to say that when sitting down to chat with Deborah, she wasn’t completely sure on how the scheme would go, “I wasn’t sure what to expect really. I expected it to be more work based and strict.”

It’s clear that a big motivation of Deborah’s when joining the scheme was to give back, but also develop herself and have a sense of community too, “I wanted to gain skills and have experiences. It was important to be part of something, coming from an area where I don’t really know anyone.”

Young people taking part in our Youth Co-operative Action project in London

Making an impact

All those taking part in our Youth Co-operative Action project are encouraged to develop their own solutions to the issues that matter to them. Deborah's group created an initiative called Youth Propelled Empowered (YPE) to tackle the issues that young people face as they get older, such as how to manage money and how to get a foot on the career ladder. 

The structure of the programme is flexible and led by the needs of the young people, and it was the lack of formality that gave Deborah the space and confidence to make an impact, “It gives us the opportunity to be the ones that make the difference. To be the ones to step up and make change. It’s good for our development.”

During our chat, Deborah highlights that as well as developing new skills, she’s also noticed a real change in her mindset, “When I first joined the programme, I initially looked out for own best interests. I then got used to it actually being about the collective, about everybody. I learnt to compromise, and that I can’t do everything. Everyone creates the bigger picture.”

I feel full of ideas and that this is not the end. I’m happy because there are a lot of possibilities.

Seizing the moment

The Youth Propelled Empowered logo and branding that Deborah designed

As we come to the end of our chat, we touch on the achievements of the whole cohort, and how Deborah led on the marketing of their events, “It feels great to tell people about my achievements. Responsibility and taking ownership – making content to a good standard that actually attracts people. I’m really proud I made the logo.”

Deborah is really keen for young people to grasp the opportunities that Youth Co-operative Action offers and speaks passionately about the joy of just going for it and trying something new, “Even if you don’t know what to expect, always, always go for it because you never know where the opportunity will lead you. And it’s opportunities that create – it’s that small thing that can lead to something that’s much, much bigger.”

More to come

She’s really enthusiastic about what’s to come in the future, too, “The future of YPE is something bigger than now. It’s not just about us, it’s about a community of young people. It’s going to be about uplifting young people, propelling young people, empowering young people to be the best at whatever they want to do. Giving them access to opportunities that they would never have normally had.”

It’s clear that the YPE journey is far from over, “I feel full of ideas and that this is not the end. I’m happy because there are a lot of possibilities. I’m excited to talk to other members of the team to decide where we’re going to take it from here.”

As for what she’d say to other young people thinking of taking part, “Definitely join… it’s always good for young people to be part of something that’s more of a community. To be part of something that will develop your teamwork skills. Something that involves communicating with other young people – these are skills that are essential for the future.”

Help us expand our Youth Co-operative Action project to new areas. If you're able to, please donate now and let's build a fairer world together.