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In Your Network - Owen Cook

Owen Cook works with, a youth-led consultancy that works with young people from schools and colleges to deliver strategic consultancy to private and public sector clients. Find out about his new project New Urban Voices and what inspires him:   

1) Please give a brief explanation of what it is you do and why?
I run projects for that aim to support people to work collaboratively in designing and making change happen. These projects use a youth-led approach as a catalyst for new ideas, new thinking and new relationships; and builds the skills, confidence and capacity of the participants to bring about the changes that they believe are important.

I love the way our projects work because: you get to see how the participants relish the chance to take control of something that impacts on them; what they achieve when not being directed/guided towards a goal always exceeds expectations; and, the way the participants, and the relationships between them change over time.

2) Why did you join the Fellowship? 

I’ve joined the RSA Fellowship because I've had first-hand experience of the kind of support that the Fellows offer each other, and the support from the RSA itself. I've found myself inspired and excited by the work that's being undertaken and invested in, and the similarities between the vision and aims of the RSA and my own (both personally and at work).

I've already learnt so much from the RSA Fellows and staff I’ve worked with on our New Urban Voices project. New Urban Voices is a project based in Dundee and Forfar. It's focused on supporting young people to develop a new role and voice in changing the places where they live. It’s about helping them to build their skills, confidence and capacity around ‘design’ and ‘place-making’ through a youth-led process. Then enabling them to take the lead in developing new ideas for change and then collaborating with those ‘in power’ to enhance those ideas and to implement them – wherever possible. It’s been supported by Creative Scotland, Architecture and Design Scotland, Angus Council, Dundee City Council, and now, the RSA. 

3) In what capacity do you think you could contribute to society?
I think I’ve got the skills, attitude and beliefs that are needed to be able to help people realise their own potential, get more confident taking risks, believe in themselves and their ability to make things happen – and in doing so, to make positive change happen in their lives and those of others.

4) What would you change in society given the chance? 
If I could, I would try and stop what seems to be a growing/spreading perception that ‘happiness’ is the most important thing in life and that you should do whatever you have to, impact on others be dammed, to preserve and grow your happiness. I believe that other emotions and states of being have as much, if not more, value that happiness at certain times, and that we don’t value and accept them enough.

5) What recent bit of news have you heard which inspires you?
The top selling Basketball Jersey in the USA this month is that of the first openly gay, active player in the United States’ four big sports leagues, and the NBA league will donate all proceeds from the jersey’s sales to LGBT causes.

6) What did you learn last week?  
That no matter how hard you work at it, you can’t stop people from ‘triggering’ you to feel angry/frustrated, but what you can do is get better at recognising that emotion, dealing with it and ‘bouncing back’ more quickly into a place where you can perform well.

7) Tell us about another interesting Fellow you have spoken to.
I was lucky enough to be introduced to Antonia Mochan while working on our RSA Kickstarter campaign for the New Urban Voices project. Antonia lived in London at the time, but has recently relocated to Australia to do a Masters Degree (something I find interesting in and of itself). In less than 30 minutes Antonia offered me so many great pieces of advice – in terms of targeting your marketing and communications, delivery strong messages and stories and being purposeful about the people you engage to spread the word – that I think I got cramp in both my writing hand and my brain. A great example of the Skills Bank in action.

8) What would you like to connect with Fellows about? Please tell us if there is anything you would like from other Fellows

There are several things I’d like to connect with other Fellows on. The two most prominent right now are: 

  • The roles and inclusion of young people in any and all work that is taking place right now – they are oft overlooked despite being potentially the most valuable resources and the greatest beneficiaries – if anyone wants to talk about this, I’d love to hear from them.

  • Our New Urban Voices project that I’ve mentioned a few times – it’s taking place in Dundee and Forfar, involves young people’s ideas for real change in their local communities and will be featured as an RSA Kickstarter project shortly. I want to connect with anyone in the area (or outwith if still appropriate) who can offer support, knowledge or skills that will help these young people to set-up and run their exhibitions, or to engage with people that might be able to help make their ideas become reality…and of course, if anyone wanted to ‘back’ the project at the same time, that would be lovely! 
Owen Cook

Owen Cook



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