Emma Dillon from UpRising on youth leadership in a pandemic

The latest instalment of interviews with Very Interesting People sees CEM chat to Emma Dillon from UpRising on young people running social action campaigns… and why our current leaders need to do more than ‘be available’. Emma has signed the petition for a seventh scrutiny committee.

Tell us a bit about yourself: where you’re from, how you came to UpRising.
My name is Emma and I am a Senior Programme Development Officer with UpRising. I have spent the majority of the last 15 years living and working in London with an international education charity, but made the decision last year to move back to Greater Manchester, where I am from, and to work for a charity that works directly with young people in GM, and the work that UpRising is doing, in terms of working with young people who are unrepresented in leadership really stood out to me.
What is UpRising all about? How is it different to other leadership programmes? And is there anything distinctive about the Manchester strand?
UpRising runs Leadership, Environmental Leadership and Employability programmes across the UK and this year will run the employability programme specifically for Greater Manchester residents. The leadership programme has run every year since UpRising began in 2008, but due to the global pandemic and the huge rise in youth unemployment, we decided to shift our focus to increase the number of young people we have on the employability programme each year. As with our leadership programmes, the employability programme will connect participants with employers, volunteers and mentors across Greater Manchester, as well as providing participants with practical skills such as CV writing and interview skills.

What are you most proud of in your time with UpRising? What has been the biggest frustration?

I am most proud of the social action campaigns produced by UpRisers in the last programme, we had over 20 projects across the UK, many of which had to be switched last minute because of the pandemic. The quality and passion from our campaign groups was really inspiring and covered topics such as knife crime, single-use plastic, food poverty and water usage. A frustration has been that funding has been a huge challenge for us in recent months – as most charities have experienced – and given that youth unemployment is only set to increase we want to help as many young people as possible through these challenging times, and so the funding challenges are a worry, but we are pushing through!
What can our current leaders do to best support the young leaders you work with, particularly around climate and environment issues?
We think that one of the most important things that leaders can do is to find ways to engage with people – especially if people cannot do this in person at the moment – and that decision-makers (such as local MPs) need to ensure they are engaging with young people in creative ways. Even before the pandemic this was something our participants were concerned with, that simply being ‘available’ isn’t enough, politicians and local leaders need to be actively seeking out young people and prioritising youth engagement.

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