My reflections on a magical week, surrounded by inspirational youth from across the globe.
So, what is the Rural Youth Project?
Initiated and managed by Jane Craigie Marketing, the Rural Youth Project (RYP) was created to find out more about young people living regionally and their challenges, aspirations, and needs, in order to support future rural youth.
Data harvesting was, at first, the main objective of the project. The Rural Youth Project survey ran for 6 months and received over 750 responses. This data will aid policy makers and stakeholders understand how youth living and working in regional areas can be supported
The project also follows the lives of a handful rural youth from across the globe. From the Orkneys to Ontario, young people are highlighting their personal challenges and opportunities through a series of vlogs.
Honestly, I had no idea what to expect when I arrived in rural Kinross. I booked flights on a gut feeling. I knew this event was going to be special and I had to be a part of it.
RYP’s Ideas Festival is a two-day event designed to empower rural youth. Provided with a platform to celebrate the diverse stories we have living and working in regional communities; we had the opportunity to craft solutions to the challenges we face. I was one of 80 delegates, from 9 countries, who attended the event.
A large marquee sat in a beautiful field across from the Hilton of Aldie homestead was to be the hub for the Ideas Festival and even though we were met with cool weather, a warm reception awaited us in the main marquee. To the left were Instagram worthy tee-pees ready for "glamping" with a posh-wash close by. It was certainly a step up from my old swag I use when camping at home (for those unsure what a swag is, click here)!
To say I was nervous is an understatement. I knew nobody outside of the JCM team, but as delegates streamed in, strangers soon became friends over a glass (or two!) of Scotland’s finest gin.
Delegates came from a wide range of backgrounds; from farmers to social workers, the diversity of youth in our regional communities was accurately represented. Common ground was established easily when discussing the biggest issues facing regional youth in our communities. Broadband access, transport and the urban/rural divide were hot topics throughout the festival.
It wouldn’t be a festival in Scotland without rain! We woke on the first morning to the sound of rain on our tents, and even though the summer showers persisted they didn’t dampen the spirit of delegates.
Hungry for what was to come, we were also treated to some of the finest local produce in Scotland. Local dairy products, meat and fruits were on offer and a true highlight of the festival for me! After a bit of convincing from my new Scottish friends Sally and Daisy, I begrudgingly tried tablet for the first time. The description of ingredients put me off, but it's safe to say I’m now a fan. Is it possible to ship Mrs Ferguson’s tablet to Aus?!
With full bellies, and a few sore heads from the night before, we were given a warm welcome by Jane Craigie who revealed the results of RYP’s survey. Below is a small snapshot:
- 76% of respondents stated love and obligation are why they live in a rural community;
- 78% use their vehicle as the main form of transport to and from work;
- 98% said digital connectivity is essential to their future;
- Only 13% of respondents felt they had a say in their local community; and
- 72% of respondents are optimistic about the future.
Rural Youth Project’s Survey Results can be downloaded, in full, here.
Along with providing regional youth a platform to create change, an impressive line-up of speakers took to the stage to inspire and motivate delegates. Kendra Lancaster, Matthew Naylor, and Christy McFarlane set the bar high in the first session sharing their life-stories with lessons on overcoming adversity, not being afraid to “rock the boat”, and the importance of mentors in business, and in life.
We are innovators. We are leaders. We are the future.
I could write for paragraphs about the people I met, the stories I heard, and about the food I ate - but I wouldn't be able to do it justice.
The Rural Youth Project demonstrates that we need to foster the next generation of rural leaders.
We need to provide more opportunities. Opportunities to develop the skills needed to allow young people to take the lead in shaping their future. We cannot do it alone.
A Fond Farewell
On Saturday we packed up and said our good-byes.
I was a little tired, in need of a proper shower, but brimming with new ideas, and re-energised for the next step. Most importantly, in three short days I walked away with fantastic new friends from across the globe.
Big thanks to the Colin, Di, Rebecca and Stu for sharing their farm and home, the team at Jane Craigie Marketing for creating such a special initiative, and finally amazing partners such as LANTRA Scotland, Scottish Association of Young Farmers, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Rural Action, Scottish Rural Network, YouthLink Scotland and Rural Perth and Kinross Leader who supported the event.