Bridging the Gap: The Urgent Need for Young Voices in Decision-Making
In a world where the voices of young people are louder than ever, their absence in decision-making roles is concerning. As CEO of Youth Leads UK, I see daily how young perspectives can enrich and invigorate our institutions, yet these voices often find no echo in the halls of governance.
Statistics paint a sobering picture: young people under 30 make up a mere fraction of positions like school governors, charity trustees, or NHS governors.
This underrepresentation is more than a demographic oversight—it’s a missed opportunity for innovative and relevant decision-making.
It also means that policies and initiatives, devoid of youthful insight, often fail to address the unique challenges and aspirations of young people. Inclusive decision-making is not just about representation; it’s about harnessing diverse perspectives for more robust and effective governance. Research shows that organisations with diverse boards are better equipped to understand the people they serve.
Young people, when given a platform, can transform their passion for social issues into actionable and impactful activities.
This is where the concept of social action becomes pivotal. Social action empowers young people, giving them the platform and skills to make a difference. By engaging in community projects, advocacy, and volunteerism, they develop the confidence and competence to step into governance roles.
This #iwill week celebrates the incredible and wide-scale social action happening in communities across the UK, yet it saddens me how difficult it is for young people who have taken part in social action to progress into decision-making roles in society.
To address the disparities, we need proactive measures.
We need deliberate efforts from existing decision-makers to open doors for young people.
This can take many forms: mentorship programs, youth advisory councils, or reserving spaces for young people on boards.
We are not without hope. There are some inspiring examples around the country. South Central Ambulance Service NHS Trust has been deliberate and recruited a young governor onto the Council of Governors, The Vine School Trust is deliberate in making their governance inclusive while actively encouraging applications from young people, and The Foyer Federation has recruited a young Trustee. I’m so pleased that Youth Leads UK is practising what we preach — we’ve just appointed another two young Trustees to our 100% youth-led Board of Trustees and are about to announce the membership of our first Youth Advisory Board!
The integration of young voices in decision-making is not just beneficial—it is essential for a progressive, empathetic, and forward-thinking society.
The future success of our country depends on the success of our young people.