Katie Cosgrave is youth engagement officer at the Reclaim Project, a youth leadership and social change organisation. The charity works to support and amplify the voices of working class young people. One of its projects involves running leadership programmes for 12-15 year olds from working class communities and support them through an Alumni Network until they are 22. The charity also developed a range of pilot projects and campaigns on issues that affect working class communities.
Can you tell us more about the Reclaim Project? How did you get involved in this?
Reclaim Project is a charity for working class young people. We work with working class communities; we go into that community, talk with them and work out what assets are already there. We then work with them on asset building, looking at how we can make the spaces better for young people, and how we can ensure those young people are being represented in the community.
I started in 2007 on the first Moss Side project as an internship when [founder] Ruth Ibegbuna was the CEO. From there I always supported the work, and I received a paid position four years ago. I love it! It’s an absolute privilege to work with these young people.
Do you work with any co-ops?
We have worked with co-ops in the past where they have come in and spoken to our young people. Recently, Co-operatives UK’s John Atherton came to a session to speak about what co-operatives are, their values, and their importance. It was interesting as the way co-ops do things aligns with how the Reclaim Project believes communities should be run.
What would be your tips for co-ops and organisations looking at reaching your target audience through campaigning?
I would say that there needs to be an offer there. They need to make sure that they are positively representing young people. They need to make sure there is definitely something in it for the young people and provide spaces to listen. Young people need spaces. If they are in school they don’t have space – they are just there going from lesson to lesson. The only time they get is when they are home facetiming with their friends. They need a space where they can be themselves. Young people have a lot to say they are just not being asked the right questions.
Related: Katie Cosgrave presents Reclaim’s work at the Practitioners Forum
Can co-ops help to empower young people with their one member, one vote principle?
The way in which co-ops are set up is what our young people want to see. They want an equal society. They want people to do things not just for money but because they need doing. They understand that and want to take action on things that needs doing.
Recent research found that 40% of young people feel lonely. How is the Reclaim project working to address this?
Reclaim helps to address loneliness within young people by offering that space for them to meet. When they are with us, our young people are in a non-judgemental environment. They are listened to, they are treated like adults, with respect. We would never ask anything of them that they felt uncomfortable with and there’s a space for them to come and talk. A lot of young people refer to the Reclaim Project as a family. It’s a space where like-minded young people can have conversations about issues that people assume they would not want to talk about. A lot of our young people talk about politics and society and it’s a chance for them to express their views and opinions safely.
What has been the career progression of young people involved in the scheme?
We’ve got a few young people that have worked for us. We’ve given jobs to them, internships; we’ve supported young people to go to university and study law or other subjects. We can provide books for them as well. But also it’s about having someone who listens to them. A youth worker stays with the young person a long time and has conversations about how they feel, including when they feel upset or that they don’t fit in. Having that conversation with someone they can trust is what they need.
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