As the regional development battle cry goes, listen to what people want and then do that. However, too often a disconnect emerges between listening and doing what people want. So, in 1999, when MoHow was given an opportunity to listen and act to improve regional youth outcomes it was a chance worth taking. Made possible by the Mid-West Development Commission, it has proven to be a game-changer in the history of the region.
The first and most important thing to do was to talk to the regional youths whose outcomes “needed improving”. Because how can you improve someone’s outcomes if you don’t know what an improved outcome looks like for them? The second step was to step back and consider ‘how’ to ask young people. This is when MoHow was invited to host a forum for 19-30 year old’s on regional development. Mo designed a vision process that resulted in a shared and aspirational Midwest dream. The vision process involved asking young people what excites them, what makes them proud and what their future looks like if it enabled them to do more of what makes them proud.
The shared youth vision was one where young people could gain a higher education without having to leave the Midwest region. The remote location of the region meant that when individuals sought out higher education, they were forced to leave the region, and would often find it difficult to return or they would lose connection with the region whilst they were away. To implement this youth vision was challenging, as the region was asking for access to a wide variety of theoretical and practical courses across many disciplines. To make this happen a University centre was established in Geraldton, where students could take courses from many of Australia’s top universities all from the same campus in Geraldton.
Currently, Geraldton University Centre is in its 20th year. Since establishing its campus in 2006, 424 students have graduated. This means that regional students can achieve their goal of attaining higher education whilst building the capacity of the region . The centre allows the community to continue to develop economic potential whilst also retaining the people and culture which make the region so special. The purpose-built facility and accompanying program represent the kind of direct investment that youth consultation can bring, especially when the funding comes from the region itself.
At MoHow, it is important to remember that empowering young people is not about asking them what they want. It is about extending an invitation from key community stakeholders, to young people, asking them to share what they value. We find that clarity about the question being posed to young people, a focus on how to ask the question, and a commitment to partner with young people in delivering on the answers produces meaningful, long term impact.
1. Geraldton Universities Centre. (2021). Retrieved 9 May 2021, from https://www.guc.edu.au/
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