How a student used her power in local politics

Liv holding a sign which says Changemaker

For anyone who feels like their voice doesn’t matter in the public square, Liv Clark has a story to share. The 18-year-old’s choice to speak up in her hometown of Manchester, England resulted in thousands of young people across the city now enjoying free public bus rides.

It was during the 2017 Greater Manchester mayoral campaign that Liv noticed how adults spent time talking about things that affected young people but rarely asked young people themselves for their ideas. She joined a public meeting with then-candidate Andy Burnham — and found herself the only young person in attendance.

At the meeting, Liv told Burnham about a problem she and her peers experienced: travel costs created a barrier to attending events outside of school. Liv’s own experience at RECLAIM project — a Manchester-based youth leadership organisation founded by Ashoka Fellow Ruth Ibegbuna — had taught Liv the importance of speaking up and speaking out. Young people like her needed affordable travel options to move around the city, Liv explained to Burnham, in order to participate in meetings like his.

Burnham listened. Not long after his election, the newly established Greater Manchester Youth Combined Authority designed what would become the “Our Pass” scheme. Liv joined these efforts, using her voice to speak at events with potential funders to express the importance of and need for free public transport. Not long after, changes went into effect: young people aged 16–18 could, for a one-off £10 fee, enjoy free bus travel for up to two years. They could also access half-priced Metrolink tickets and get promotional passes to local events, swimming and leisure centres, and much more. This successful Our Pass pilot continues through next summer.

Liv credits role models at RECLAIM with helping her to develop self-confidence.

“I’m proud of my working-class roots,” she says. “I have a voice. I want young people like me to know that they have a voice, too. They can make change.”

Liv continues to focus on activating other young people to be changemakers. She spoke for two years running at the Northern Rocks Education Conference in Leeds, discussing with teachers and her peers why education reform was important to ensure that all students, regardless of background, have the opportunity to succeed. In October 2019, she worked with four other young people to lead the #IfWeDidThis campaign, which called on leaders in Parliament to acknowledge the body’s lack of diversity and use more inclusive language — all to better represent their constituents. Liv met with then-Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow and sparked media appearances on national television and radio. She has also stayed active in RECLAIM, mentoring younger changemakers.

Liv was once a girl who followed the crowd. But over time, and through trial and error, she learned how to make change. Her work with Team Future, an unsuccessful campaign she helped to found following the Brexit vote, wasn’t for nothing — the experience helped her to design more effective efforts.

She adds that often the most powerful change might seem small at first.

“You’ve got to start somewhere. Speaking up and learning the power of your voice is the first step.”

Liv’s next step is to continue her changemaking as a teacher trainee. Her hope is to make classroom learning more inclusive for everyone.

 

Have you embraced your power to make change? Want to learn how?

Learn about our changemaking work in Manchester by joining our virtual Ashoka Changemaker Summit on Tuesday, 17 November. Register for free here.

Read about other young changemakers from around the world who have impacted their communities to discover and develop your skills as a changemaker.