Since it began in 2002 Funky Dragon has gone out of its way to listen to and gather the views and opinions of as many young people as possible from a wide range of backgrounds and circumstances all across Wales.
Funky Dragon ceased operation in 2014 and became the Campaign for the Children and Young People’s Assembly for Wales
Led by young people
A part of what makes Funky Dragon unique is our structure which is specifically designed to encompass those voices that can sometimes be left out. The other big part of Funky Dragon’s uniqueness is that it is predominantly a young people-led organisation.
The existing structure has evolved and changed over time as different young people have come through the organisation, changing it and molding it as they have seen fit. We are proud of the fact that in 2002 we became the first charity in British history to appoint Trustees who were aged 17 or under – the subject of a legal ruling that still represents an important step forward for children’s rights in the UK.
Working to influence the Welsh Government
Young people from Funky Dragon work to influence the Welsh Government’s policy making in a variety of ways. Not only do young people regularly respond to government consultations, they also debate their issues and concerns (and possible solutions) directly with Ministers and Officials. Policy has sometimes been initiated in this way; for example the pupil complaints procedure. Policies have been revised; for example the sexual health strategy and the anti-bullying strategy. Dialogue with young people has also encouraged the Welsh Government to introduce new legislation; for example regulations requiring all schools in Wales to establish school councils.
Our Rights, Our Story
In 2005 Funky Dragon began a project that would eventually be called Our Rights, Our Story (OROS). Young people from Funky Dragon set themselves a challenge: to represent as wide a range of young people’s views as possible when reporting to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Supported by the European Social Fund the project canvassed the views of over 12,000 young people in Wales and submitted a report to the UN Committee with recommendations covering areas such as health, education, the environment and play. In July 2008 members of Funky Dragon presented their OROS report to the United Nations to great acclaim both at home and abroad. The UN Committee’s Concluding Observations (on the U.K. state party) that were pertinent to Wales reflected many of the recommendations Funky Dragon had presented in OROS. The UN Committee subsequently invited Funky Dragon back to meet with them and advise them on how they should be listening to children.
Welsh Government core funding has supported Funky Dragon’s work with 11 to 25 year olds across Wales for nearly a decade. An additional Welsh Government grant over 2007-2010 supported Funky Dragon to undertake innovative activity to gather and present the views of younger children (aged 7 – 11). Initially the focus was on a sister report to OROS for the UN Committee, incorporating the views of 2,500 children aged 7 to 10 on their matters of concern. Subsequently, the additional grant was used to support the Children as Researchers project (which saw local activity across eight projects in Wales and an event culminating with 70 children discussing their issues with Welsh Government Ministers in Cardiff Bay) and the start of the next reporting process to the United Nations. When this additional funding was drawing to a close, Funky Dragon sought other funding sources to support its work with children. In August 2011 we expect to hear the outcome of a bid to the Big Lottery Fund which would resource a model for involving children in decision-making that we plan to roll out to all 22 local authorities across Wales and once again bring children’s views to the attention of the Welsh Government.
Our online presence
In today’s society an online presence is an essential component of an organisation’s delivery mechanisms. This is especially true for a young people led organisation such as Funky Dragon which is working to engage as many children and young people as possible in the national policy making processes of Wales. We run our website in-house and gets upwards of 10,000 hits in a typical month. Our current website designer came to us originally on an apprenticeship scheme and our dedicated children’s website is run entirely by young people on work placements. The website includes: videos describing Funky Dragon and its activities; interviews with Assembly Members; information about the UNCRC and a range of downloadable resources. Funky Dragon also maintains a safe but welcoming presence on Youtube, Facebook and Twitter.
Engaging with the UK Government
As well as maintaining a strong relationship with the Welsh Government, Funky Dragon has sought a direct relationship with the UK Government with regard to the participation of children and young people from Wales in policy development on non-devolved issues such as youth justice, policing; tax and benefits; and immigration and asylum. Owing to resources and other constraints, this has been something of a ‘rocky road’ but we are currently in discussion with the British Youth Council to explore renewed and effective mechanisms for young people from Wales to engage with both the UK Government and the European political institutions. Funky Dragon has an international reputation for excellence receiving many visitors each year. Most recently we have hosted visits from young people, professionals and politicians from France, Spain, Palestine, Jordan, Peru, Thailand and South Africa.
The principle of listening to children has been adopted and backed with legislation and policy. We now all need to focus on delivery and begin to ask ourselves what this will mean in practical terms. How will Wales listen to its children and young people?