#iwill Ambassador

Alvin Owusu-Fordwuo

If you’d told me three years ago that I’d be doing what I’m doing today, I’d never have thought it was possible.

Over lockdown I was on the BBC’s Politics England show, speaking to 1.5m people from my balcony in Hackney about the effect of the virus on young people, challenging Rishi Sunak’s approach. It still feels surreal.

And I’ve just been asked to support the development of a £10m partnership between BBC Children In Need, Radio1Xtra and Stormzy, largely because of the work that #iwill has supported me to undertake.

My time with #iwill has been completely transformative. It’s put me into rooms where decisions are made - places where I didn’t think I belonged. #iwill has given me the strength to believe in myself and what I have to offer the world.

Before #iwill, I was already volunteering with Debate Mate, teaching debating skills to students who were at high risk of being expelled from school.

When I joined #iwill, it gave me the confidence to launch my own social enterprise, The Advantage Group. We work with young people from diverse backgrounds, delivering workshops on essential skills such as empathy, negotiation, creativity and teamwork, to help them raise their ambitions and become more employable. So far, we’ve supported over 2,000 young people.

Youth social action is important because it means we can tell our own stories and create our own solutions, rather than other people telling us what problems we face and how to solve them.

However, there have definitely been challenges along the way in my youth social action journey. As a young Black man from the inner city, in board meetings I was often the only person in the room who looked like me.

But the #iwill team gave me a lot of support and encouragement, which made me realise that my experiences mattered and that my opinions were valuable. They also helped me to look out for my own wellbeing. They’ve recently set up a steering group for Black #iwill Ambassadors, which is a safe space where we can discuss how to fight for a more equitable world while looking after ourselves.

When you care about people and their problems, sometimes you can end up taking on the weight of the world. However, I believe that when you’re working with a marginalised community, as they receive healing, you receive healing too.

Despite everything that’s going on, I’m hopeful for the future. Our generation wants to make a difference, whether that’s shopping more sustainably, learning people’s pronouns or amplifying the voices of Black women.

When the world returns to near-normal, we must remind ourselves to continue to tackle inequality and social injustice, amplifying young people’s stories and voices so they can be part of the solution.

Alvin Owusu-Fordwuo, #iwill Ambassador