You can influence government decisions – here’s how
Kate tells us how she's using social media to get her voice heard by government - and other young people's too
I don’t know about you, but when I log into my social media accounts, I’m surrounded by opinions.
There’s everything from ‘12 reasons why Mulan is the best Disney princess’, to petitions on political issues. It’s really exciting that we can express ourselves in this way.
However, sometimes it can feel like no-one’s actually listening to these opinions, especially to young people. Decisions that impact our lives are made without our input. Did you have a say in the fees for university, or what is being done to protect the environment? I know I didn’t, yet I still pay those fees, and still live on this planet!
Now, that’s starting to change. You can get your views heard on government decisions from the comfort of your own home. Yes, even when you’re sitting on the sofa, watching Instagram stories. How, you ask? Through Involved, an Instagram account by young people, for young people.
How it all began
For me, it began with an opportunity advertised through Girlguiding to join the British Youth Council’s new Youth Policy Group. I put myself forward because I love to try new things - isn’t that what guiding is all about? I didn’t really know what to expect but I went to the first meeting of the Youth Policy Group full of anticipation and ready to represent the voices of girls and young women.
It was a really busy, fast-paced weekend. We learnt about policymaking and how government policy influences all of our lives. We then set out to design a digital tool to help young people share their views with the government. We came up with a few ideas, including: a website, a phone game, an Instagram account. The idea of an Instagram account was tested that day, with one of the members of the group posting a poll on her story. It quickly gained lots of responses and we were really excited about where this could lead.
From this, a few prototypes were developed by the government officials who had listened to our ideas. We wanted feedback on these prototypes, so I took them to my Guide unit. To make it more fun, I made it into a game. I had a list of questions that I wanted all of the girls to answer about the prototypes. For each question they answered, they could get an ingredient. Once they’d answered enough questions, they’d all have the ingredients to make armpit fudge. Any Guide leader knows that involving food makes any unit meeting better! It was a bit messy but we had a real laugh. I also got some useful feedback on the prototypes, which I fed back to the Youth Policy Group.
Since then, I’ve done lots of exciting things as part of this project, including meeting with the Minister for Sport and Civil Society and contributing to a report to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I worked with the British Youth Council, the Mix, and the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and a group of inspiring young people to bring Involved to life. It’s amazing that our vision is now becoming a reality.
How it works
Once you’re following the @involved.uk account, getting your voice heard by the government is as easy as 1, 2, 3. Here’s what happens:
- A government department will post a question on Involved’s story.
- You see the question on Involved’s story and use the action buttons to vote, or type in your answer.
- The answers you give will be shared with policy officials in the government department, and used to influence the decisions that they make.
You might have taken a poll on Instagram before. If you haven’t, I promise, it’s really easy. There will be options on the screen, and you just have to tap the one you agree with. Some of them will have text boxes where you can type in more detail, if you want to.
Involved is proof that the government is ready to listen to young people. We can use this opportunity to shape our story, and the future of our country. I hope that Involved will break down the barriers between the government and young people, and will become an everyday part of policymaking so that our voices are heard on all of the decisions that impact us.
This is only the start of the story - the rest is in your hands. Follow Involved @involved.uk
Kate, Guide leader and peer educator
My favourite thing about guiding is that it gives girls and women so many opportunities to try new things. This encourages us to challenge ourselves and go on exciting adventures!