My name is Yazmin, and I am based in the Bath Foyer. Our Youth Power Fund project is called The Robin Hood Project. The name was inspired by the empowerment of changing distributions of power.

What has your Youth Power Fund project involved so far? 

We set up and founded The Robin Hood Project (RHP), our youth led decision making and youth voice group within the Foyer. 

The group has been so important in building the community of the Foyer between residents and between residents and staff. For example, having our free food nights brings people together over their love of food to discuss ideas about how to use the funding to empower residents. The group has been able to influence the Foyer building, we have set up our own office space and a Foyer gym which is really well used. 

The RHP has meant people are leaving their rooms and building a more trusting Foyer community. The group is a non-judgement zone, you are able to express your needs and you won’t offend staff. A big concern residents raised was security. Residents were persistently saying the fire alarms system wasn’t working, with the alarm going off for an hour at a time. We held a RHP meeting to share opinions and have a discussion, we were able to amplify the concerns of the residents. As a result the security is so much better now.

We have different types of sessions, some are more ‘soft’ activities where we get to know each other and chat. Some are more professional and structured where we discuss more serious topics. This is part of our three-step process; people individually raise an issue to a member of the RHP, we then hold a meeting to further discuss which works around their schedule, then the changes are made. Feeling like you can trust the service and that things will change helps engage people more. Actions speak louder than words! For example, we have a suggestion board in the communal area which more and more people are using.

What has been the best part for you? 

I’ve got to do lots of really cool things as part of the project. This has included opportunities to develop self-confidence and try things outside of my comfort zone. One memorable experience was a trip to Exeter to support in delivering Powering Up Youth training with the Foyer Federation, where I met other Foyers, learnt how they work and felt like a professional. The things I learnt on the training, including understanding more about empowerment, have impacted other parts of my life and made me reflect on my experience. Being part of the project has motivated me to rethink my skill set and my employment options, using my lived experience to perhaps even pursue a future career as a support worker. 

I really enjoy and feel passionate about giving a voice to others that maybe aren’t as confident to do so. People are now coming to me for advice and if they are having a problem within the Foyer. 

What have you learnt or your Foyer learnt from the project? 

We’ve learnt the importance of consistency, having meetings regularly, even though sometimes people won't be there each time. Don’t worry if it takes time, you have to build trust through consistency.

You can’t just expect everyone to always get on, sometimes your personal feelings about another member of the group may impact things. For staff working in the Foyer it is their professional environment, but for us it is our home and so it is inevitable that personal relationships may come into these meetings. Setting boundaries in the work environment is crucial, and respecting the anonymity of youth project members is essential to avoid biases. Recently, we acquired a phone for the Robin Hood Project team, enabling members to communicate with other residents anonymously. This initiative aims to establish clear and professional boundaries among residents sharing living spaces.

What’s next, for the project or for you personally? 

As for the future, I want to continue engaging in opportunities while creating more boundaries within the work environment.

The main goal for us right now is thinking about paying residents for their work and contributions, just as a staff member would be via their wages. We feel that paying residents for their time shows value. That their time is valuable and therefore how being valued as an expert builds self-confidence. We want to make sure that this is happening regularly and more formally. 

We also want to focus on how to increase the number of residents who are attending meetings and becoming part of the community. We want to think about how we can drive even more engagement, perhaps with trips. We have ideas about how to build people’s confidence to take up the opportunities and we have examples of what’s worked well so far to build on. 

Should other Foyer and young people get involved in similar power sharing projects, if so why? 

Yes, duh? Why wouldn’t you want to? Other Foyers and young people should definitely get involved in similar power-sharing projects because it fosters trust and empowers the youth to take the lead in their own lives.

Maybe for staff members it feels scary. Giving away some of your own power comes with risks when you are responsible for the Foyer. But this is actually where the power dynamic comes from. What these projects should do is bring more equal responsibility across staff and residents for how the Foyer runs. For example, before the project started the communal areas were locked over the weekend because of a lack of trust. But now residents are trusted with this space, it is used as a breakfast club and has been used as a space to hang out and build our community. 

What advice would you give to others starting out on their power sharing journey? 

My advice to others starting on their power sharing journey would be to remember that time heals, not to be too ambitious, communicate with everyone in the building, and consider offering incentives like food to encourage participation.

Do not underestimate the importance of smaller actions to build trust in the community and each other. A resident giving their opinion about what to cook for food night and seeing it happen evolved into becoming part of the group and stronger engagement. Building trust is the biggest thing. This takes time and effort. 

Discover more about the Youth Power Fund!

Learn top tips for developing youth leadership from Youth Power Fund Foyers, and hear from Kayleigh and Tori-Jade who also shared their experience of youth leadership on our blog.

The Foyer Federation is registered in England and Wales under company number 2699839 at Work.Life, Core Building, 30 Brown Street, Manchester, M2 1DH. The charity is registered under charity number 1040482.
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