Driving Change: Insights from The Big Listen – West Midlands Edition

By Steve Meadwell

The Centre for Social Justice Foundation, in collaboration with the Rigby Foundation, hosted the Big Listen event in Birmingham. Bringing together more than 60 charities, Multi-Academy Trusts, Foundations, and Local Authorities. Our mission was clear: to highlight the pressing issues facing young people in the West Midlands and develop actionable solutions.

The first session focused on the harsh realities young people face in the region. It kicked off with discussions on poverty, mental health issues, and limited access to educational and career opportunities which painted a stark picture of the challenges at hand. It was an eye-opener for many attendees, and the room was filled with a shared sense of urgency to address these problems.

The tone shifted in the second session of the event from outlining problems to exploring potential solutions. This part of the event was particularly energising as attendees exchanged ideas and discussed initiatives that have shown real promise in making a positive impact on young lives. It was incredibly inspiring to see such a diverse group of stakeholders come together, each bringing their unique perspectives and solutions to the table.

A significant milestone of the event was announcing the launch of a research paper in collaboration with the Rigby Foundation, aimed at deepening our understanding of the challenges faced by young people in the West Midlands. 

The involvement of influential figures like Dave Boden from the Grace Foundation and Sophie Maxwell from The Really NEET Project brought invaluable insights to our discussions. Dave spoke about his organisation’s holistic approach to education, emphasising the importance of journeying with schools to enhance educational experiences. Sophie passionately argued for adapting the exams process to better accommodate individual learning styles, a testament to her commitment to inclusive education.

Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, also graced us with her presence and advocacy. Her passion for the voluntary sector and her desire to see charity recognised as a standalone professional service resonated with us all. Her commendation of the grassroots organisations’ supportive nature highlighted the crucial role these entities play in our community.

The event underscored the power of collective action and the potential for community-led initiatives to foster significant change. The discussions we had, and the connections made have set a solid foundation for future collaboration.

We left the event with a renewed commitment to our cause, inspired by the collective desire and determination to uplift the lives of young people across the West Midlands. This is just the beginning, and we look forward to continuing this journey with all our partners and stakeholders. 

Together, we can turn the challenges into opportunities for our youth.

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