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August-September 2015 | Features

Stepping up to serve

Stepping up to serve

Making a difference in their community is the essence of a Rotary member’s commitment and we spoke with the CEO of an organisation that works with young people to help to do just that.

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Step Up To Serve is a national charity aiming to inspire and motivate young people, they are also responsible for ‘#iwill’, a national campaign that aims to make social action part of life for kids in their teenage years. In 2014 Rotary pledged to generate hundreds of opportunities for young people by forming 125 Interact Clubs and 300 new Rotakids Clubs by 2020, so far over 40 Interact Clubs have been formed and there are nearly 60 new RotaKids clubs. Allan Berry spoke to Charlotte Hill, the CEO of Step Up to Serve, to understand the many issues and ideals surrounding the organisation.

Rotary Magazine 

So Charlotte, to describe the charity is it fair to use the word ‘facilitator’?

Charlotte

Yes, facilitating, we do a lot of that, as well, we convene, we try and look at where there are different people trying to solve the same problem in different sectors and bring them together, as well as the cross-party element of things, which is very important, the cross-sector element of the campaign is incredibly important too.

Rotary Magazine

It is very much cross-party isn’t it? It is A-political, as is Rotary you see.

Charlotte

Absolutely and that’s incredibly important to us as well as to the success of our campaign because one of the big barriers that came through when we were doing the review before the campaign was launched, was that each time we get a new political administration they rip up what the other has done and start all over again.

What we actually need is some continuity, regardless of whether we get a new Prime Minister or a new administration. Everyone’s got a vested interest in it; it’s now a case of how we make those who are interested work in a more collaborative, joined-up way with the hope of getting more young people involved.

Rotary Magazine

So you work with children aged 10 – 20, 10 years old is pretty young to start isn’t it?

Charlotte

Well… no! Do you know what, I was with a group of 50 head teachers yesterday talking to them about this and there were lots of primary school heads talking about kids as young as four and five who have started to really build this into their way of behaviour. They are thinking about helping others even at that age, so I think in education it is absolutely something which we can work with from when kids are really young.

So although we are focusing on kids between the ages of 10-20, we absolutely recognise that primary schools and parents and lots of others are going to be starting this probably younger. One of the aspirations of the campaign is that if we focus on the 10-20 age group then we can form a ‘habit-for-life’ for young people, so they will carry on playing an active part in their community for the rest of their lives – we don’t want people to stop at 20, we want them to carry on until they are old and grey!

Rotary Magazine

So, you say you are a ‘campaign’, how do you go about campaigning as well as talking to schools colleges and institutions – you’re marrying these together, are you?

Charlotte

We are, we use the mechanism of ‘pledges’, so what we want to do, get as many different organisations, businesses, schools and all of society to pledge what they are going to do, what they can do within their own organisation and sphere of influence to help us achieve our goal.

The question is how do we get them to pledge? How do we get them to change their behaviours, to embed this more and to work with others more? With businesses for example, we are asking them to change their recruitment practises so that they recognise the skills that young people develop through taking part in social interaction when they recruit rather than just skills gained through work experience.

Young people may not have work experience but they may well have been building resilience, communication and all of those things through projects they have done in their community, such as with the scouts or with their youth club.

Rotary Magazine

So how can we push this initiative forward?

Charlotte

Well I think it’d be brilliant if each individual Rotary member who was reading this could really help us to drive the campaign forward, and really think about how they could work in partnership with organisations in their local area to do so.

Rotary Magazine

That’s the key as far as I can see as well, working in partnership with organisations in their local area.  A lot of Rotary clubs interact with schools anyway, so it’s a case of putting across what you are doing into the schools as well, they could be ambassadors for that cause.

Charlotte

Yes, brilliant, they could be ambassadors, that would be amazing. Into schools, into local community groups, local youth organisations, local faith groups, local businesses… There is no end to the places you can implement this. I know Rotary have a really big reach so we would be extremely grateful for their support.

Rotary Magazine