HELENSBURGH Community Council (HCC) could be set for its own ‘youth revolution’ after members discussed how best to involve more young people in local projects.

At the latest monthly meeting of the group, held online, member of the Scottish Youth Parliament for Helensburgh and Lomond, Rosie Sumsion, told members of the urgent need for HCC to better reflect the views of wider sections of the community.

Youth participation in community council decision making has long been a missing link, with Rosie more often than not being the sole representative for her age group in the area.

Having broached the subject regularly in recent months, Rosie said she was keen for action to be taken to get more young people talking about the issues that matter most to them.

She told the meeting: “Young people don’t see us as worth their time and they don’t stick around.

“People don’t really know that we exist, so potentially what we need to do to make our engagement easier is put together a presentation that we can take into schools that highlights who we are, what we do, and gives evidence of work that’s gone really well.

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“Crucially, we should also highlight the limitations of our power so that we’re not coming in and saying ‘we are the almighty community council and we are here to grant all your wishes’, because that’s not the truth. That can set us up for failure.”

Rosie’s pleas also sparked a wider debate around community engagement in general, with HCC members agreeing that better communication is key to reaching more people in the town.

Stewart Steel said: “Rosie touched on some interesting points: firstly, the general message around what the community council is. The challenge with a community council is that it’s multi-issue, and that’s both the joy and the curse.

“The first stage is going out and explaining the message around what the community council is, then asking the people we’re talking to ‘does this respond well to you, what issues do you think we should be working towards?’”

Sarah Davies said: “What we’re talking about in terms of engaging the youth is actually about engaging the whole community.

“Life has been pretty difficult for anyone to get out and talk to people over the last year or so, but as a community council we need to become more visible.

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“Take the new road signs for example, they became quite contentious because some people felt they didn’t know anything about them, other people wanted them to happen, but there hadn’t been that ongoing discussion.

“We’ve got noticeboards but they don’t say who the community council are, and it’s also complicated by the fact people think we’re Argyll and Bute Council and we have control over things we don’t have control over.

“If we could start by educating young people on how the system works, maybe we can get a little further on with the rest of the community as well.”

Stewart Noble pointed to community council-organised beach cleans and flower bed weeding, as well as the footpath network initiative as some examples of HCC “success stories”, which Irina Agostinelli argued young people “want to see”.

However, fellow member Roger Ferdinand, who claimed the organisation is “faceless”, said: “Whilst I appreciate war stories and all the rest of it, it’s about what we are going to do.

“We need to identify something that young people can identify with and that, for me, is the environment.

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“Action is something that will attract media, it will attract comments whether it’s right or wrong, but at least it will get things moving and we’re not doing that.

“We’re talking about it yet again but we really need out of this conversation to set a target, a timeline, and say how long have we got to do this and what are we going to do.”

Rosie responded: “If we say to young people ‘we’re trying to do these things but people aren’t listening to us as much as we want them to’, strangely enough that’s something that young people really get because a lot of them aren’t even at an age where they can vote yet and there’s not the systems in place for them to have their voice heard.

“So, actually they’ll be quite understanding if you say ‘we’re trying our best, we’re fighting a bigger organisation on this but we believe in what we’re doing and when you come along and share your voice it gives our voice more power to make changes’.

“Young people will understand and respect you far more if you’re open and honest about what isn’t working.

“I recently put a thing out on Twitter asking people what their red flags for youth participation were and one of the main answers was young people being involved once at the beginning of a process or being dragged in right at the end when clearly all the decisions have been made. It’s that continuous engagement that they’re looking for.

“Communication is huge but communication without impact and without action is useless. Young people will see through it in minutes.

“We need to be clear on what our capacity is to respond to what young people tell us.”

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