The Self Leadership Initiative was set up by Gemma Perkins in 2014, as a training organisation that helps young people develop the skills they need to be effective changemakers in society. Using discussion spaces, team games and play techniques, they are supported to develop soft skills and leadership techniques.
It all started in 2006 when Krish Raval, who was recently awarded an OBE, came to her college to speak about the Learn to Lead residential leadership training course. After taking part on the course Gemma was offered the chance to come back and mentor other people, and every year that she did so she learned more and developed her skills in the process.
Gemma then attended the School for Changemakers programme in 2011, as part of the scheme’s second cohort. She had been volunteering since the age of 16, but found that many of her peer group didn’t always understand what she was doing and why. School for Changemakers provided her with an opportunity to meet with other young people passionate about changing their local communities.
It was when Krish moved to London from Sheffield and seemed to leave a space in the offering for young people in Sheffield that the Self Leadership Initiative was born. His counselling background and Gemma’s facilitation skills had meant they had been developing the materials and resources needed. She now had the opportunity to start something new, and the scheme continues to get stronger.
2018 was the fifth year that Gemma attended the Children as Actors for Transforming Society conference at Caux. She has gone from being a participant to facilitator and member of the core team organising the conference. She also runs sessions on the Refugees as Rebuilders course.
Gemma really believes in the importance of giving young people the skills they need to lead and facilitate discussion. ‘I am moved by how much of a difference it made to me personally. At school I was academic, and didn’t really have my horizons set more widely than that. Learn to Lead gave me a lot of confidence and helped me live in a more well rounded way as well as have the resilience to cope with challenging family situations. I’m passionate about giving other young people this opportunity, and offering them skills to not only lead, but deal with what life throws at them.’