From rejection to collaboration

Having been caught out by the Brummie rush hour, we arrived in the middle of the informal café conversation hosted by @futureshift_cc and @uprising_brum on how young people can help “hack” the future of Birmingham and what they’d like to use the new Hub Birmingham for.

Europe’s youngest city

What was striking was how we forget that the catchphrases we use — such as “Birmingham is Europe’s youngest city” are just that…catchphrases, particularly when we haven’t created them! Just because the city has put young people at the centre of its brand doesn’t mean that the opportunities for us will naturally trickle down!

Two words kept coming back in the conversation — “rejection” to “collaboration”. Think back to what distinguishes children from adults. Children can create anything, they will also ask for anything, they’ll look for ways to turn a “no” into a “yes”. Parents will look at the best ways to avoid giving into their children.

Often, it feels like the relationship between young people and organisations, employers and even society, is a child-parent relationship. We no longer have the spontaneous optimism of children, nor do we have the assumed legitimacy of adults.

So we internalise rejection before even asking, we ask for permission rather than for forgiveness. But we shouldn’t have to knock on the door of society, we are society,

Subvert the advert

So what if young people hacked Birmingham’s brand? Amongst the people at the café conversation were many creatives, whose work is very individual but connected to the city. They suggested to hack the big screens & interactive billboards outside the Bullring and use them as a virtual blank canvas for people — young and old — to add content they’ve created that can seed ideas and spark conversations.

Avenues of collaboration

With complimentary coffee and cake offered by Brewsmiths Coffee, these sweet treats were always going to seep into people’s subconsciousness when thinking of how to move from competition between youth organisations to collaboration.

Someone talked of genuine collaboration being like a layered cake, where people can see the product of collaboration on the surface and as they nibble on each layer, see how the different ingredients are mixed and mashed up together.

Some organisations might have the base-layer (like Somewhere To with space, Uprising with its training) while young people can bring the ingredients to give the base some colour and flavour to tempt people in.

Think of a cupcake, you always need the sponge, but whether it’s lemon or red velvet, you always need that little personal touch to turn a beige base into a tempting treat!



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Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese