The 2019 Rural Youth Project Ideas Festival held in Lanarkshire, which focussed on developing leadership, enterprise, business and advocacy skills, inspired two young delegates to host a Rural Youth Leadership Forum in Brussels on January 29.
Russ Carrington and Ffion Storer Jones met at the festival and are both passionate about the role of rural youth in the future of rural areas, and together they coordinated an event to provide a platform for individuals and organisations to discuss rural youth leadership across Europe.
Mr Carrington said:"Within our existing networks, Ffion and I could really see the benefit of bringing together conversations across the whole food and farming landscape, including perspectives from environmental and conservation organisations, and of course organisations with a policy focus.”
The event took place on January 29 at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and was hosted by Tom Jones, then a UK member of the EESC. Representatives of varied organisations, including youth parliaments, the organic movement, smart villages, protected areas and more presented successful initiatives and activities from their fields.
Ms Storer Jones said: "It was great to have diverse organisations and European regions represented at the forum, with everyone agreeing that rural youth play important roles in securing a bright future for rural areas. In a momentous week historically, it was heartening to see such enthusiasm for continued collaboration & I'm hopeful that young people in rural Wales and across the UK can remain active within these networks."
The event showed that there’s a lot of interest and enthusiasm to stay connected and drive greater collaboration - beyond political boundaries - to ensure the voices of young people are heard in decision making processes, at local and regional level.
Reflecting on the event, Tom Jones said: “I was delighted to host the first Rural Youth Leadership Forum in the EESC. I've endeavoured to give opportunities to rural youth through my role as a member of the EESC. It is vitally important to strengthen collaborations across Europe and beyond to ensure rural youth can access the services and opportunities they need to thrive in rural areas. I commend the work of all those involved with the forum."
Future events are planned to see how the forum might develop further.
Director and co-founder of the Rural Youth Project, Jane Craigie, said that she is delighted that the Rural Youth Project was a catalyst to this invaluable forum, to spur on young people to develop their leadership skills and to articulate the change needed in rural and isolated places.
“Young people have the ideas and energy to create real and lasting change in rural communities. The Rural Youth Project has proven to be the spark in inspiring young people, like Ffion and Russ, into action to play their part in making rural communities an attractive and viable place for young people to build their lives and their future.”
The Rural Youth Project will be hosting a series of three-day residential Big Ideas Workshops across Scotland with an aim to help young people kickstart a business, community or social enterprise idea. Young people can register their interest to attend the event here.