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Councils APPointing our youth to lead projects

Think Local

It was a simple correction but it showed exactly why councils need to tap into one of their most precious resources - their youth.

After receiving a government grant and recruiting the services of 20 young people, the three Northern Beaches councils set about creating a project that would not only improve the connection between council and teens but provide a service that promotes local events, job opportunities and groups.

And almost immediately, the councils were counting their blessings for involving the younger generation.

"The first meetings were about what we needed and what we wanted," Warringah Council project manager Danni Petkovic says.

"Our idea was to create a website for youth, but the young people we spoke with were like 'No, it needs to be an app, we only use apps, we don't use websites on our phones'," she smiles.

As a result, the Keep A Look Out For (KALOF) app was born, and 12 months on, it is really starting to take hold on the peninsula.

"The team that signed up to do this has been amazing. Not just their skills, but the dedication, the initiative and the commitment," Ms Petkovic continues.

"They talked about whether it needed to be for android and/ or an iPhone app, they decided what needed to be on it, they workshopped all the requirements and even did the user testing," she enthuses.

"On top of that, they brought in other people to give feedback on the first architecture of the app and then went back and modified it. They did everything right down to the branding and logo."

Media and content manager at Warringah Council, Belinda Noble, says the project has alleviated some of the concerns raised in the council's recent Youth Strategy, which saw more than 1,200 people aged 12 to 24 have their say.

"We did a youth strategy, which found that young people thought there was a lack of connectedness in the community, so I guess that was part of the brief as well to give the people in this area a way to connect with council and have more of a say,” she tells Peninsula Living.

"We're also looking at possibly expanding this out, turning it into more of a digital-based mentorship or traineeship in the future and helping develop those skills."

One of the younger members of the KALOF steering committee, 16-year-old Blake Harrold, says the biggest surprise was the age of council staff.

"They're not as old as I thought they'd be.” he laughs.

"That's why none of us would go to the council website. Because we didn’t think they understood young people.”

As for that comment Ms Petkovic smiles. "It’s funny that came across so often, I asked, ’Why wouldn't you visit the website?’ and they’d say, 'Because it's stuff from old people'.”

Manly Council, which has had a youth council since 1968, is proud to be a part of such initiatives as KALOF.

"Innovative ideas like our regional KALOF app were created specifically in response to feedback - comments like ’There was nothing fun to do on the beaches’," Manly mayor Jean Hay tells Peninsula Living.

"Over the years, council has developed a number of youth programs and strategies, and if there's one thing we know from this experience, it’s that getting input and advice from younger members of the community is essential. They’re the ones with their fingers on the pulse. They know what’s going to take off and what will flop.”

Pittwater Council is developing its own app called Enliven Pittwater, which is about cultural and economic improvement. Realising the importance of youth representation, council included two young, local women in the leadership group.

One of the representatives, 25-yearold Claire Munroe from Mona Vale, says clearer communication between the community’s youth and council has long been overdue.

“For me, I have so many different ideas... I’ve got networks of artists and musicians and I can make things happen but I just don't know where to start,” she explains.

"If I need that support from some businesses and I want to collaborate, how do I go about that? How do I address people? How do I approach people? Enliven is about developing those partnerships,” she continues.

"So just starting those little conversations about the different elements of community is so important because the young people do care but they don’t feel like they have a voice.”

Enliven project manager at Pittwater Council, Liz Cassis, is excited about their youth-inspired future.

"I'm thrilled with what they've brought to the table, and I’ve got to say, their input is absolutely essential,” Ms Cassis says.

"As much as my colleagues and I think that we're hip and groovy, it’s just not the same as being a young person.

"Sometimes our thinking will be just slightly off the mark, so it's really important to hear from them. We might have some great ideas but it's not about our great ideas - it’s about what the community and the young people want to see happen, and how can we make that work."

The Enliven and KALOF apps are both available through Google Play.

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