Blog PostCo-designYouth Arts

‘Nothing about us, without us’

You can sum up the idea of Youth empowerment as ‘nothing about us, without us’. It sounds simple and obvious. Young people are the best informed on what is needed and what is effective and therefore their voice should be heard when it comes to decisions that will affect their lives.  It’s a simple, codified statement of intent, and one that no-one working with young people should ignore. Young people should be part of the decision making process from the outset, helping to co-design the policies that effect their lives. And it’s been at the heart of what we at Creative Scotland have done with Time to Shine.

Time to Shine is Scotland’s youth arts strategy. Launched in November 2013, it set out a vision for youth arts throughout Scotland – young people were empowered to stand up and speak up about what they wanted from an arts strategy. The strategy was structured around what we ended up calling the “Three P’s”. TTS was about helping young people participate in the arts, to progress and be able to make a career in the arts, and for arts to be something done in partnership with young people. These were the ideas at the heart of everything funded by TTS.

To help us with implementing this at a national level, we established Youth Arts Voice Scotland (or YAVS for short). This was done in partnership with Young Scot. YAVS is a national group of young people aged 12 to 25, recruited from all over Scotland to help inform the strategy and steer us in the right direction.

Over the last two years. YAVS have been involved in countless different ways with the development and implementation of the strategy. They’ve presented to Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and the Creative Scotland Board. They helped shaped funds like TTS.Digital, even sitting on the assessing panel and helping select successful projects. They’ve met with youth delegates from all over the world. But one of the projects they have been the most involved in is the Nurturing Talent Fund.

The NT Fund aims to support talented young artists and remove the financial barriers to accessing arts so that no young person misses out on an opportunity simply because they or their family cannot afford to pay for it. Since December 2014, funding of nearly £60,000 has been awarded to groups or individuals aged 25 and under across Scotland. YAVS sit on the assessing panel, reading applications and contributing significantly to the management of the fund. Involving young people in the process has enabled both Young Scot and Creative Scotland to better understand applications from a youth perspective.

As well as the NT fund, over the last two years, we have funded nine youth arts hubs, four national projects, three strategic art form programmes and sixteen digital arts projects.  Each and every project has been encouraged to engage with the spirit and visions of TTS, and in particular the mantra ‘nothing about us, without us’.

Joan Parr,Head of Creative Learning, Creative Scotland

YAVS have helped illustrate how effective having young people at the heart of decision making can be, even for a large national arts strategy. Throughout TTS, we have seen example after example of how good youth empowerment practices have helped shape, direct and sustain youth arts for the better all over the country, far too many to fit into a 500 word blog. If you want to learn more about TTS and Youth Arts Voice Scotland, please visit or follow us on Twitter: @TTSYoutharts