Atlantic Youth Creative Hub has big impact on creative business and entrepreneurship
After 44 months of work connecting young people, creative and social business leaders, with experts in emerging and disruptive technologies and creative industries, the Atlantic Youth Creative Hub (AYCH) is drawing to a close at Plymouth College of Art and partner organisations among 36 Atlantic regions in five European countries.
The project, which was dedicated to generating training, support and business opportunities for 16 to 30 year olds who are seeking a career or self employment in the creative industries, also focussed on promoting transnational cooperation between young people during a period when the UK was reevaluating its relationship with Europe.
Supporting young people to develop new ideas, products and services, AYCH took place across a network of “Atlantic Horizon Hubs”, creating interventions within existing youth settings, as well as in both formal and non-formal education settings. AYCH was co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Interreg Atlantic Area Programme.
With over 50 young people participating in the AYCH Creative Entrepreneurs Business Incubation Programme, the project has supported the development of 18 new products, services and business ideas. The free nine-month-long programme offered expert support for ambitious young people interested in social or ethical businesses, who want to make the world a better place through innovation, creative thinking, digital design and collaboration.
Designed to give individuals access to the kinds of specialist business knowledge, guidance and support needed to develop their business places and take their business ideas to market, the Incubation Programme also included opportunities to attend international residencies, with the costs covered by the AYCH.
Plymouth College of Art MA Textiles Design student Kay Nicholls was one of the participants of the Incubation Programme, later becoming an ambassador for the AYCH.
Kay said, “I think the AYCH programme is invaluable, because of the different elements brought by different counties. That connection between countries, through creative jams and visiting workshops, was not only an opportunity to share experiences between individuals, but also offered a network of contacts that we can build from. You learn so much about other cultures and get such a variety of interesting experiences.”
“Through the Incubation Programme, I proposed my idea for a social enterprise company, K’s New from Old, predominantly recycling household textiles. I’ve been holding workshops in the UK for hard to reach communities; people on low incomes, low-wage families, single parents or those without a good disposable income. Working with the local council, we discuss the possibility of further workshops to encourage recycling and promote the circular economy.”
“The idea is for each person to learn skills which can help them save money. Using my own experience, I can show them how to prolong the lives of their clothes, starting from the basics. I teach them how to use a sewing machine and how to move forward within projects. From there, it’s an open dialog. It gives them the opportunity to ask questions and give me positive or negative feedback. It’s so important to have that communication.”
“Since being part of AYCH I have felt empowered, enlightened to the processes and most of all, my confidence and idea of myself has improved. AYCH has helped ignite my passions.”
Hosted at Plymouth College of Art, the first AYCH Creative Jam took place in August 2018, offering young people from Plymouth, Bideford, Tiverton, Exmouth and Exeter as well as students from Plymouth College of Art and University of Plymouth an opportunity to come together over two days to develop their design thinking, digital making and enterprise skills. Using tools ranging from 3D printers to laser cutters, the participants learned skills in coding, filmmaking and even virtual reality.
AYCH Creative Jams have taken place across Europe, with the support of expert mentorship from sectors including the creative, technology and digital, startup and enterprise, on hand to teach young people the creative, design and enterprise skills to help turn ideas into reality.
Plymouth College of Art MA 3D Design Crafts graduate and AYCH ambassador Laura Quinn was given the opportunity to travel to the town of Gijón in Northern Spain in 2019 to take part in an AYCH Creative Jam.
Laura said, “I had answered a call for young designers to take part in a Creative Jam, bringing together young people, partners, agencies and decision makers, focused on addressing societal issues through sustainable design. My own research revolves around the use of digital design and hand blown glass to make a sustainable artisanal practice, so naturally this call out caught my attention!”
“The AYCH Creative Jam that I attended took place on the university campus of Gijón over three days with attendees from Portugal, Spain, France, England and Northern Ireland, with a series of workshops on subjects ranging from anthropology to eco-design to electronics. On the final day, with our new knowledge and skills, we were split into teams with mentors and had to come up with a prototype and presentation of an idea, during a six-hour intense ‘hackathon’.”
“Greatly influenced by the idea of co-designing and sustainable cities and communities, my team developed an online platform to allow team members and local authorities a place to design the shared spaces within their community together. We then had to pitch our idea in front of a panel, with six selected to present in front of the full audience of attendees, mentors and staff - over 70 people! I was blown away to see how each team reacted to the challenge, and to see such creative responses.”
“The three days spent in Gijón were truly wonderful and path changing for me. I’m so glad to have been offered the opportunity. As a result, I met and talked to others engaging in exciting sustainable manufacturing research, and I even managed to sell one of my products. I later became an AYCH ambassador, helping to facilitate online international sessions during the pandemic. My experience and the support that I received from the AYCH leaders and partners have been tremendous for building my confidence in design thinking and teaching, communications and team leadership.”
“Taking part in this project has reassured me that there is an energetic and supportive network concerned with sustainable and innovative design. The platform provided by AYCH, and the opportunity to meet a variety of people all working towards a more sustainably designed future was my main reason for getting involved in this programme. My time so far with AYCH has given me the confidence to apply for, and take part in opportunities that are not specific to my material background in glass, and as a result has deeply enriched my design solutions.”
As this almost four-year long project draws to an end, it has shown the importance of implementing creativity at different stages of decision-making, as well as revealing the possibilities of change for people.
In March 2021, AYCH hosted a Youth Summit Event, inviting and encouraging reflections around three challenges at the core of AYCH’s actions: Social Entrepreneurship, Creative Education and Workforce of Tomorrow. Young people were given the opportunity to think, to present and to share their vision to their peers and a wider audience, committing to bringing the Agenda 2030 to the European Parliament in the name of European young people.
The event was also the chance to celebrate the amazing work that has been produced by young people involved in AYCH; their products, accomplishments, hopes and dreams. Importantly, the Youth Summit is not the end of AYCH, but the beginning of the AYCH Legacy; where the mission continues to share learning and tools freely.
AYCH’s Legacy accepts the responsibility to accompany young people in the design of an official Agenda 2030: 30 Recommendations for a Creative Europe. AYCH partners in France, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, including Plymouth College of Art, are setting the framework for young people to think, to share and to design collectively actionable and aspirational recommendations for a creative Europe.
Recommendations follow the three themes of social entrepreneurship, by encouraging sustainable and ethical business practice, working collaboratively and embracing technology; creative education, by recognising the need for creative problem solving, soft skills and big thinking; and creating a diverse workforce for tomorrow, by radically changing workspaces, reinforcing communities and encouraging real innovation.
Representatives from AYCH partner organisations are privileged to have co-signed this declaration along with the young people who proposed and supported it. As signatories, AYCH and partners continue to commit to working towards the propositions in the declaration and remembering the spirit in which they were conceived.