Opinion: ‘Activate’ – Liberal Youth’s annual renewal

This weekend was Liberal Youth’s Activate event which, as the new chair of Liberal Youth, meant a weekend of hard work and no sleep; but one stuffed full of inspiration.

Although on paper Activate is our simply our annual training event for young Lib Dems in actuality it’s much more than that.

I see Activate as the annual renewal of our movement, firstly because it’s when our newly elected executive will meet face-to-face and begin setting priorities for the year ahead, and secondly (and most importantly) because this is when we welcome all our newly recruited members to the organisation and give them the skills to become real activists for the party.

This year’s Activate was a great success with a great bunch of young Lib Dems from around the country each bringing a wealth of enthusiasm and new ideas to the party.

I was really inspired by talking to our new members about what brought them to the Lib Dems and hearing that even in these challenging times for the party they are still determined to get out into their constituencies and make a difference.

Also inspiring (and hilarious) was Tim Farron’s keynote speech to delegates in which he regaled us with tales of his days as a young (sorry Tim, I should say, ‘slightly younger’) Lib Dem.

Hopefully the enthusiasm and skills shown at Activate will set the tone for my term of office. I intend to focus on building ever strong links between Liberal Youth and the rest of the party, and empowering our membership to make a contribution not just to the campaigning but also to the policy of our party. Whether from our executive and our grassroots members, Liberal activism will be coming soon from a young person near you.

This was also my first chance to sit down with our new executive; and some fantastic ideas came out for what Liberal Youth should be working on, including: improving voter participation amongst young people, employment rights, body-image pressure, and education policy at all levels.

Inevitably we will be addressing the disappointment of young people over the broken tuition fees policy- showing the reasoning behind the position, acknowledging the betrayal felt and reaffirming the party’s position against fees.

Liberal Youth will never forget about presenting the good work that the Lib Dems have done for young people in government, and encouraging engagement with the party. However though we will no doubt have many vigorous debates with the leadership over the year ahead.

As I take office as Liberal Youth Chair I couldn’t be more optimistic about our future. We have some fantastically talented members, are building an exciting vision of the future for our organisation, and – with Lib Dems in government – have a real opportunity to turn ideas into a tangible improvements to the lives of British young people.

Tom Wood is Chair of Liberal Youth.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Richard Gadsden Richard Gadsden 7th Jul '11 - 11:26pm

    This seems like an opportunity to pay credit to the tremendous talent and imagination of the then vice-president of LDYS who came to an Executive I sat on to ask us let her run a residential training event about 15 years ago.

    Nikki Thomson, young liberals of the last couple of generations owe you an immense tribute for inventing Activate and working so hard to deliver the first one all those years ago.

  • Seconded! – and then made it happen – which is perhaps even harder than having a good idea 🙂

    We did say in the press release following that event that it was possible that we had just trained the future leader of the party. Now if only I’d put a bet on that at the time!

  • Liberal Neil 8th Jul '11 - 9:14am

    Ah – it was Nikki’s idea was it?

    Anyway it was great fun, very fulfilling and I’m delighted that it is still going strong 🙂

  • She also filled that key role of keeping the chair sane over the year – though that position isn’t mentioned in the constitution 🙂

    Should also mention the work Neil and Paul Gentry did on the first Activate. Paul especially as he had been beaten two years in a row in elections for LDYS chair and worked with both the people who defeated him to help the organisation develop and grow. Perhaps a big lesson there for some of the people who have been involved in Liberal Youth over recent years?

  • Nikki Thomson 15th Jul '11 - 6:03pm

    Why thank you for the tributes! I’m delighted that Activate! is still going strong after all these years.

    The first one was amazing fun though extremely hard work, but I think at times there were doubts that enough people would be interested in coming along. To my surprise we were overbooked.

    From what I saw from reports of Activate a few years back, the format’s not changed much, which is testament to the quality of the training programme Neil, Paul and Hywel helped me to put together and deliver. I see you now get big names along – that’s new – though in future years you should perhaps invite Jo Swinson, as one of the first graduates of Activate! And I’d love to come along sometime, for old time’s sake.

    Thanks again – feeling all nostalgic now!

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