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Space Unlimited

07 April 2017

How can young people play an active role in reducing alcohol-related harm in Port Glasgow?

This was the question posed by Space Unlimited, whose innovative project, Port Glasgow Youth-led Solutions, aimed to incorporate the ideas and views of young people, helping combat the detrimental effects of alcohol misuse in the Inverclyde area.

Space Unlimited was formed in 2006 to build resilience and capacity for change in individuals, within groups and organisations, and across communities throughout Scotland.

A grant of £3,222 from the Scotch Whisky Action Fund, with additional funding from The Robertson Trust, provided Space Unlimited with funds to contribute to project running costs, travel and employment of a part-time project manager to undertake a youth led enquiry.

With alcohol related harm being a key issue in the local community Port Glasgow High School was identified as the key partner in the project. The school’s senior management team were keen to use the project to develop student leadership and build stronger links between the school and the community.

To avoid creating a stigma around involvement in the project, Space Unlimited recruited twenty S1 and S2 pupils without gaining any knowledge of their involvement, or lack of, in alcohol use.

The project was split into three steps: setup; the youth-led enquiry; and a collaborative dialogue between parents and community stakeholders.

With support, the twenty students explored their thoughts on alcohol related harm both in school and in the wider community and to develop their own insights and ideas in response to the project question.

Their ideas were initially shared with a small group of teachers. They then designed workshops to consult on these ideas with an additional 80 pupils.

A collaborative event, was then held at Port Glasgow High School – involving 35 educators, parents and community stakeholders – who were invited to listen to the young people’s ideas. They added their own knowledge, offering support in putting some of the ideas into action.

The project was a great success with students providing a variety of creative ideas on how to communicate the dangers of alcohol to young people and how alcohol misuse can be prevented.

Suggestions included: running educational alcohol-themed weeks in school raising awareness among pupils; provision of peer support; designing a website/and or YouTube Channel with helpful information and advice for both pupils and parents; and diversionary activities such as a youth club.

The young people viewed the experience positively and enjoyed the opportunity to develop their own ideas. They also learned a great deal themselves too. One pupil said: “I didn’t think young people could do anything about alcohol harm, but because we got involved in this project, we now know that we can”.

Another added: “I now realise that young people can make a difference because the adults at the event listened to us and valued our ideas instead of trying to take over and tell us our ideas wouldn’t work”.

Following the project’s success, Space Unlimited applied for more funding and offered to support the young people to continue their work – the young people’s confidence carrying through into them implementing their ideas in the school and community.

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