East London Arts and Music Academy

Young People Speak out on Difficult Topics

Rochelle Robertson works at the East London Arts and Music Academy where she is Pastoral Lead.  She is part of an initiative called ‘Start the Change’ – listening to the views of young people and finding ways to approach difficult and controversial topics around radicalisation, diversity and tolerance. Its topical and needed.

Start the Change

Students at East London Arts and Music Academy finding a space to discuss difficult issues through ‘Start the Change’ – a Think Global – HEC Global Learning Centre programme

Her latest project called ‘Think before you Speak’ was born out of the fact that a lot of young people are having heated conversations on social media, heavily fuelled by emotion but not necessarily incorporating evidence or informed thinking. She is providing a platform for young people to have informed conversations about subjects that matter to them. Members of the project research a topic, providing facts and figures to the others from a variety of challenging viewpoints, – with a wider range of facts and figures at their disposal they may learn something they did not know before which might cause them to change their opinion. They can then discuss the progression of how knowledge changed their views.

What have they achieved?

Understanding and tolerance: “After recording the ‘Can you be LGBTQ and religious’ podcast, we spoke to a young Muslim girl who subsequently changed her opinion on how much culture has to play in homophobic ideas instead of religion. Beforehand she had thought that religion was the main reason why being Gay is often not accepted, but she now includes cultural factors in it too.” Rochelle Robertson – Pastoral Lead, ELAM

Youth Leadership: “I have enjoyed the project because I have been able to see how it has turned individuals into leaders – every member of the project has a role ….it has given them the confidence to run projects by themselves!”   Rochelle Robertson – Pastoral Lead, ELAM

Finding a Voice: “It encouraged one panel member to actually speak up on student mental health. It was a male panel member and obviously more males have trouble speaking about mental health because it is highly stigmatised, with the idea that they should man-up and repress it. So when I provided information that showed statistically this is what’s happening, it encouraged him to speak up and give his insight to the rest of us”  – ‘Think before you Speak’ Project Member