I’ve just spent six weeks working as a Media Practitioner for NCS (the National Citizen Service) powered by The Challenge, which is the NCS provider in London, the West Midlands and the North West. NCS is a government-funded initiative that supports community engagement and social integration among young people.
Participants are aged 15-17 and over 18,000 young people were offered the opportunity to take part in the project this year. The summer programme had three aspects; week one is the ‘Personal Challenge’ in which participants challenge themselves and take part in outdoor activities like kayaking and abseiling. Week two is the ‘Team Challenge’ where the young people learn new skills in one of their chosen subjects (this year the choices were Media, Drama, Photography, Sport and Enterprise) and meet people in their local community whom they may not normally interact with, then in week three they have the ‘Campaign Design & Action’ where the team works together to create and manage a project or campaign in the community and pitch it to some business “dragons” to secure funding.
My role was to lead sessions for the Team Challenge section of the programme, working with groups selected to learn Media skills. Each week I worked with a new group of young people and a new community partner (partners included day centres for people with learning difficulties, recovering addicts and others who are isolated or in need of support) for three days to create a film or several short films to demonstrate what these local organisations do and to promote their services. On the third day of each week the finished films were screened in front of the whole ‘wave’ of NCS participants along with their friends, relatives and community partners.
Most of the participants had no previous media experience so on the first day each group split into smaller teams and assigned crew roles, and in the morning before the first of two community visits we would go over the basics of what those roles involved and practise using the sound and camera equipment; we would then have until the afternoon of the third day to shoot and edit our film(s). Each week we were given information about our community partner and an outline of the project brief and aims, which were usually flexible and allowing plenty of room for the participants’ own ideas.
Covering sensitive topics and meeting vulnerable members of the community really took the young people out of their comfort zones but I was really impressed at how sensitive and respectful they were to both staff and service users, and also at how quickly they got to grips with using both the filming equipment and the editing software (Final Cut Pro X). My role as Media Practitioner was only to teach and facilitate; the participants conceived, planned and produced both the films and their showcase presentation all themselves. I found the project really enjoyable and rewarding, it was great to meet so many different people in the community and take part in something that was beneficial both to them and the young people taking part. There was also a great team of staff and volunteers who were really helpful, friendly and supportive.
10/10, would do again!