WIMPS: Making politics more relevant to young people

Finalist category: Community Impact Award 2014

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Community Impact Award, Winner, 2014

WIMPS are young journalists, film makers, presenters and campaigners who show that young people’s opinions matter. WIMPS stands for “Where Is My Public Servant?” – a project based on Northern Ireland that is run by and for young people. Started in 2004 it has grown into a space for young people to discuss and debate issues, to get organised, to campaign, to bring their views directly to politicians and others, and to influence the decisions that affect their lives.

Public servants are – most often – politicians.  People who the public vote for to represent them work for the public good.  They can also be other figures – like the Chief Constable – who heads the police, or the Children’s Commissioner – who protects young people’s rights.  But too often these people don’t hear the voices of young people. WIMPS makes sure they hear what they have to say in a number of ways:

The WIMPS project started with a simple idea – make it easier for young people to identify and contact their elected representatives at Council, Northern Ireland Assembly, Westminster and European Parliament levels through a simple web search. Over a 10 year period the initiative has evolved into Northern Ireland’s premium youth-led advocacy programme.

Young people are trained in media skills, campaigning and group work, and they then identify and work on issues in their community. They also make films about issues they care about, including interviews with politicians and other public servants. Issues range from the everyday, such as improving rural transport, to very hard hitting issues – such as the brutalising of young people by paramilitary groups in so-called ‘punishment attacks’.

The WIMPS.tv website is a very unique product. It supports the active civic engagement and self-advocacy of young people. The bespoke political search function allows young people to identify and email their elected representatives either by using their postcode, or simply by typing the name – or part of the name – of the politician they want to contact. The campaigns section provides intuitive tools to help young people set up a campaign; set milestones and goals, write a letter, select which politicians they want the letter to go to, and invite others to send or amend the letter.

The project employs a full-time film maker who works with the young people to build not only their technical ability, but their social and political skills. The project’s role is to build the commitment of young people to making Northern Ireland work as a post-conflict vibrant democracy.

Visit the WIMPS website find out more about they do.

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