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QCT in Conversation with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex: Where did that come from? Where do we go from here?

By Nicola Brentnall, CEO of The Queen's Commonwealth Trust

Who are we?

The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust is an independent organisation that exists to champion, fund and connect young people who are driving positive change from where they are. Our work is outward looking, it is driven by young people and we respect their experience, their leadership and their insight.

We work alongside young people from around the Commonwealth, drawing on our great strength as a family of people together looking towards a brighter future. As the Commonwealth Charter suggests, our special strength is in our diversity, in our shared history and tradition. We are proud to be a part of it and privileged to work with the rising generation of leaders who will shape the global future.

The Queen is our Patron, herself a lifelong champion of the Commonwealth of nations and its diverse people. Her life-long belief in young people as the drivers of meaningful change remains undimmed.

QCT in Conversation with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Broadcast July 6th 2020

We have received messages of support from young people and across communities in the UK and in Africa for the conversation with our President and Vice-President that we shared on July 6th. The Duke and Duchess joined us as they are genuine champions of young people, wanting to give them an opportunity to be seen, heard and respected.

They have been in touch with me to say how much they welcomed the opportunity to be part of the conversation and the enormous respect they have for the young people of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth itself as a force for good. They see their work with us as a way to help highlight the work that young people do every day, all around the world, to help others and to bring hope, opportunity, positivity and compassion to the communities they serve.

This conversation is part of a series of discussions that have been taking place for a while now. These have been about our shared history and about injustice, broadly defined. We have been looking at our history in order to learn from it and to inform our future direction as an organisation – how we prioritise, how we engage with young people across our work in future in a way that allows diverse voices and ideas to be included.

During the conversation with the Duke and Duchess, we looked at fairness, humility, equity and forgiveness. The conversation did not shy away from topics that some find uncomfortable. We were reflecting the lived experience of young people from around the world and we know young people care deeply about these things. As QCT is a place where they gather to talk, learn, share and inspire, we felt it right to talk about it. We wanted to share advice and actions that everyone can take to make things better.

In doing this, we need to look to the lessons of the past and consider what works and what does not – from the perspective of everyone. We wanted to raise the issues that people, young and old alike, experience, that they know to be true, and to respect this in the context of finding solutions, hope and optimism. We talked about issues of injustice that have been woven into the fabric of life over generations and what we might start to do differently, to change this for those who come after us.

Reaction

There was surprise we would look at the Black Lives Matter movement, at racial and historic injustice. For many, it was unexpected – but in a very good way. People felt this moment marked a difference, an acknowledgement of their voice and their experience in a way that has never happened before. The feedback was not all good – some felt it to be insincere or an attack on the Commonwealth itself. It was not an attack – the modern Commonwealth has so much to commend it and so many people within it are working together for good right across the world. Ours was a genuine attempt to engage on topics that matter to young people and their experience, in a positive way. Others have told us we have done this in a way that young people respect. It is our responsibility now to build and retain that trust.

What now?

We will continue to give young people the platform they deserve, given the calibre of their work, their thinking and their drive for a better world. We hope that in time, more people will know of us and our work. We will continue to strive to be authentic, true to our word – with nothing but commitment to, and respect for all young people at heart.

Our work continues – with young people fully involved. We will continue funding and supporting young founders and promoting their work so they can achieve the impact they want. We will post more digital content to champion young people and we will be developing new ways for them to network and collaborate. We will be continuing our conversations on history to enhance our governance and in particular, we will be looking at what impact means for us. We will be looking for support to help us continue.

My door is always open for comment, for response, for ideas. You can reach me via Nicola.Brentnall@qct.org.uk

Article published: July 2020

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