Sheffield150 – A Reflection

A new initiative run by Common Purpose, Sheffield150, presented Sheffield’s next generation with a unique opportunity to shape their city’s future. Part of Common Purpose’s global Legacy campaign, the scheme sought to tackle real social challenges and allow our young people to develop their leadership skills – all presented virtually.

In 2043, it will be 150 years since Sheffield was formally granted city status. The Common Purpose programme challenged a diverse group of around 100 young people from across Sheffield to consider what their generation’s legacy will be by the time Sheffield reaches 150.

The candidates were selected based on their passion for Sheffield from a diverse range of backgrounds. Through sponsoring the event, the S-PA was allocated a number of spaces for young people from our member organisations.

The S-PA managed to ensure that every direct applicant got a place on the programme. This included: Kate McKenzie, Graduate Building Surveyor at Rider Levett Bucknall; Christie Smith, Paralegal at CMS; Lauren Barnes, Structural Engineer and Hannah Frost, Building Services Apprentice (both at Arup); and Tegan Johnson, Solicitor Apprentice at Kennedys Law.

The participants came together with various established local leaders to work on the challenge “How do we work together to create a fair, inclusive and healthy Sheffield?”. Lauren Barnes notes: “I am encouraged that the S-PA are practically supporting the next generation through courses like this. To know there are really passionate, innovative, caring and inspiring people also active in Sheffield has helped get through some pretty grey days here!”

They heard from speakers such as Mayor Dan Jarvis MP, taking inspiration and asking pressing questions. Splitting into seven working groups, the young people each developed ideas which they thought would create a better city and a generational legacy. These ideas included Kate McKenzie’s group: “Our idea was Community Green Pockets – the idea of re-purposing current unused green/brown sites and lending them to people to use for activities such as growing vegetables.”

Christie Smith’s group focused on education – “My team’s idea was called Steel Futures and was a one stop shop for educational and vocation support for young people in Sheffield. The panel were really helpful in getting us to answer more difficult and complex questions and we’re really excited for our idea to gain traction and momentum.”

The groups then worked to create a presentation, where they could show the leaders of the city their ideas and potentially have a tangible influence on Sheffield’s future. The groups presented to a panel of 9 influential figures including Edward Highfield of Sheffield City Council and Louisa Harrison-Walker, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce Interim Director.

Given the short timescale, the presentations were impressive across the board. Martin McKervey, Chair of the Sheffield Property Association, both presented to the young people and sat on the panel for the presentations. He said of the experience: “The work of the young people was fantastic and a reminder of the vitality, energy and enthusiasm that they have and what it is they can offer to our city. They care passionately about Sheffield and they have through this programme established that they are both relevant and important. They have established a platform and we must all now work with them so they can build on what they have achieved. We must congratulate them all.”

One group aiming to improve access to mental health education, “Sheffield Cares”, managed to get video messages of support from Billy Sharp, Sheffield United striker, Jon McClure of Reverend and the Makers and Robert Dowd, Sheffield Steelers and GB Ice Hockey player.

Each group is now working on putting their plans into action. Even the lockdowns won’t stop this connected generation, who are utilising group chats and video calls to put their plans in place in much the same way that we’ve been working for the last few months. Most of the groups haven’t even met in person, but that won’t stop them from making the changes they want to see in the city.

Part of the Sheffield Cares group, Tegan Johnson said: “The value we all got from the course was unparalleled. To pull together an idea, which will change Sheffield, in less than 2 days and then to present it, is an experience in itself. To have that group reconvene after the programme and continue the work is something else entirely!”

The S-PA are now playing an ongoing role in supporting the Sheffield150 graduates. One group, aptly named “I Love Sheffield”, have been invited to present to the S-PA executive board to discuss young peoples’ perceptions of the city and its selling points.

Our next generation are already working to improve our city and city region, and we have no doubt that will continue. If you’re in a position to, consider listening to the young people around you. They just might surprise us all.