Two thirds of my time as a Team v Leader have gone by already. Wow. I can’t believe it. Time goes by so fast when you are having fun! I still remember when I applied to the program last summer and when I went to the interview last September. I was so happy I got chosen and now I don’t regret it at all. I have run two social campaigns in my community since then, one that involved street collections (Beyond a Tin of Food) and one that involved awareness workshops (Do You Care), and I’m so proud of myself.
Now it is time to run my third and last Team v campaign… And, how are Team v campaigns kicked off? With residential weekends of training of course! Hence that’s why I spent last weekend in the Starverton hotel in Rugby (Northamptonshire) again, for two intensive days of campaign preparation and training.
I woke up early on Saturday morning to get to Rugby around 11 am. I had to take one bus, two trains and two tubes to get there. Quite a long journey, from East England to the Midlands! Still, I arrived without any problem, and I met some Team v leaders in the final train I took, so the journey wasn’t boring at all. I had plenty of time to catch up with them and talk about our campaigns and life in general! That’s one of my favourite aspects of Team v residential weekends: the lack of shyness I have when socialising with other Team v leaders. I rarely run out of things to say and I don’t feel frighten of being misunderstood or ignored!
After arriving and checking in the hotel, we had lunch and then we had a session on campaign evaluation, which was basically reflecting on what we did well and what we didn’t do so well in our last campaign, “Do You Care”. Personally I did fine, as I explained in my previous Team v journal post. I just wish I could have done more and I would have tried to achieve more targets, such as getting my MP involved and getting the campaign on my local press. When comes to the rest of leaders, there was a variety, as usual: people who did a lot, people who did what they could, people who went extra miles, people who stuck to the targets, people who loved the campaign, people who didn’t like it so much… But at the end of the day, we all made it to the residential, which means we did (or at least tried to do) something, and even if small, it probably had an impact in our communities.
Following the evaluation session, we had a small award ceremony to highlight the achievements of various leaders during the campaign. First we were shown a video of the overall results, which you can watch here:
89 team v leaders ran the “Do You Care” campaign in their community, with a total of 184 volunteers recruited between all of us. We ran 106 events, including workshops, information stalls and community events. We made 6295 people aware about young carers and the services in place to help them. And we reached 1.1 million people on Twitter throughout the campaign! So much success, it makes me happy being part of it!
When comes to the awards, my team didn’t win best homegroup award like last time, but as an individual, I received a special certificate for my creativity during the campaign: for using my passion (creative writing) to deliver a workshop and inspire others! I didn’t expect it at all, as I didn’t think my idea was that amazing, nonetheless I don’t complain, because it is nice having your efforts recognised by others; it reminds you that what you do matters and is noticed in some way. Even though, as I said in another Team v journal post, awards and special certificates aren’t everything. I believe all the leaders who ran the “Do You Care” campaign did amazingly well and managed to do great things, as seen in the results video. Social activism is about making an impact, and whether that impact is small or big, it counts. This quote in my house says it better:
Once the awards ceremony was done, we had a small break before the our next campaign was revealed…. And as with the others campaigns, we found it out through a video, which you can watch below:
So yes, “Swing The Vote” is our third and last campaign! You may have heard about it before, because the charity “Do Something UK” has been running it online for quite a long time already, involving young people between 18 and 25 years old in politics, voting and issues that affect them. Now, Team v leaders we have to get the campaign into our local communities, running workshops to encourage others to register to vote, and holding activities, events and parties on Election day, 7th of May, to get young people to the polling stations! You can learn more about the campaign here:
After the big reveal it was time for specialised campaign training. However, before the session started, we had another revelation (I actually don’t remember if this happened before or after the reveal, so sorry if I’m wrong) which didn’t make us very happy, unlike the first one: Team v, the program, won’t run anymore after this year. This means that “Swing The Vote” is the last Team v campaign EVER, and my Team v mates and I are the last Team v Leaders EVER. This revelation shocked me and others a lot, since Team v is a unique program that combines volunteering, social action and leadership to raise awareness and tackle issues that affect the nation, and it has such as a positive impact on local communities!
I still don’t understand why they decided to end the program…. Well, I understand the reason (the program didn’t manage to meet all the criteria to keep running), but I’m surprised such a good idea is going to disappear soon just because of that! I’m benefiting so much from my time as a Team v leader, both personally and professionally, that it makes me sad thinking that others won’t have the opportunity to experience what I’m experiencing… Very sad. But apparently, nothing can’t be done: the decision has been made, and all we can do is put as much effort as possible for the last campaign. It sucks a lot, but when comes to thinking about the positives, I’m glad I had the opportunity to take part before it was too late.
After getting to know this and with a bitter taste in our mouth, we moved on to the specialised campaign training session, which lasted the rest of afternoon and was delivered by UK Youth, a national charity that works with young people, youth clubs and youth project. The session was about getting young people involved in politics, and it was helpful to understand the reasons why young people should vote, why democracy is important, and how voting makes an impact on the laws and policies that are passed by parliament. I enjoyed it, particularly and activity in which we had to create our own law on pairs and get other people to vote for it!
The session with UK Youth was the only campaign training we had on Saturday. After finishing it, we had a small break to go and settle in our rooms. Following the break was dinner time, and then we had our entertainment activity for the night: Team v Got Talent! It was so much fun, and I enjoyed it so much. From comedians, to singers, including dancers and speakers, Team v does have a lot of talent, and leaders and mentors were not afraid to show it. Obviously I didn’t participate in the competition, since I don’t have any sort of talent that could have been shown, but others did and I loved their performances. Though I must admit when the competition ended, I stayed in the room where it was hosted, and I ended up dancing for a while with others on stage, totally carefree. I had a great time. And that’s how Saturday concluded: dancing!
Sunday was a much more intensive day, with three training sessions in the morning and a guest speaker in the afternoon.
The first training session was about campaign planning. We talked about the aims of the campaign, which are increasing the number of young voters and increasing understanding of the political system to influence decision makers, and we started thinking about the activations for the campaign, which are registering to vote and enable others to do so, delivering a workshop on youth political power to a group of young people, sharing your views as a young voter online with a blog post or video, and bringing young voters to the polls.
The second training session was “Life’s a Pitch” and it was about how to incorporate our volunteering as Team v Leaders in our CV and how to “sell” our Team v experiences in interviews. The session had a motivational aspect too: bringing out the best ourselves, recognising our achievements, accepting our weaknesses and understanding which our strengths are. This was my favourite session of the weekend, because I learnt that my strengths are not what I’m good at and my weakness are not what I’m bad at. My strengths are things I feel passionate and motivated about, while my weakness are things I feel indifferent and unmotivated about. That’s because sometimes we are good at things but we hate doing them, hence we wouldn’t call them our strengths.
The third training session was “Influencing: Use The Force” , and it was basically about influencing others following three rules:
1) Being open-minded: sometimes we construct our own reality, which is not real and is not how things are. What we see is not always what happens, and when we look at something specific, we only focus on that. The way we perceive info depends in our point of view, and we have to learn to understand other’s opinions and positions too. To influence others, we have to step back and accept their thoughts too.
2) Being curious: we have to be more curious about others’ lives if we want to influence them. We should ask them questions, ask them about themselves, and be active listeners. Basically “seek first to understand, then be understood”. And also, we have to be careful about our body language, as it says a lot about how you are listening to a person and how you agree or disagree with what that person is saying.
3) Rapport (building relationships quickly): three elements affect our communication: body language, tone of voice and content. When we communicate with others, body language affects our interaction the most, 55% of our communication, followed by tone of voice, 38%, and content, 7%. We need to keep in mind these three things when trying to communicative effectively with others and influence them.
At the end of the session we were shown a video on emotional correctness and political correctness, which affect how others perceive us. We tend to focus a lot on political correctness, and we should focus more in emotional correctness, if we really want to have an impact on other people’s opinions and minds.
Next it was lunch time, and later on the afternoon we had the last session of the weekend: a guest speaker. Now, before this session, I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the topic of the campaign. I’m very passionate about politics and issues affecting citizens, but I hate politicians and the system so much! Not only in UK, but in general. I always said I’m never going to vote because I don’t trust any party, even if some represent my interests more than others. I had never seen voting important, because in my mind, whichever party ruled, everything would still be bad and the decisions made by politicians would still affect my life negatively.
However, after Femi Oyeniran, the guest speaker, came and talked to us about the importance of voting and democracy, I felt different. I started to think that maybe voting is important, and maybe my voice counts. Oyeniran made me realise that politicians make decisions that affect us directly, so if we don’t vote, our opinions are not counted. Moreover, policies and laws can only occur if they receive support enough. If we don’t vote for ideas we like, they may not be taken into account or considered. While social activism and social action and online petitions are great ways of getting involved, the government has the last word. So it is important to vote to make sure you like that last word.
And with this session, the third and last Team v residential week ended! Now, it is my time to run the third and last Team v campaign, “Swing The Vote”. So wish me luck!
Sharing my experiences,
Emilie H. Featherington 🙂