By: Filip Jurzyk
When it comes to the actions taken by local authorities to encourage young people to become entrepreneurs, the Somerset region in the United Kingdom is simply the best of the best. And it’s not an advertisement for students sponsored by politicians. The title of ‘Most Youth Friendly European Region’ of 2009 was given to Somerset by the Assembly of European Regions.
“The main topic of this year’s competition was innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship”, says Mikheil Ananidze, jury member and a representative of the Adjarian Autonomous Republic in Georgia. The award was granted as a result of projects and initiatives focused on youth issues and led by teams within the Somerset County Council.
“Why Somerset? The region provided the widest range of activities supporting young businesspeople and that was this year’s most crucial criterion”, Mikheil explains. The AER judging panel emphasized projects such as the Youth Parliament, Somerset Children’s Parliament, the Youth Opportunity Fund (YOF), Youth Capital Funding (YCF) and many others.
There were twelve applications for the award, so the jury had its work cut out choosing the most youth-friendly region. If we get into details, the points were for example given for the amount of money allocated from the regional budget to youth programs, the number of regulations supporting youth implemented in the local law and mentions about youth entrepreneurship in the regional education curriculum. The award was handed over to the region’s representatives at the AER General Assembly on the 27th of November.
The jury consisted of the secretary generals of the AER founding organisations, a personal representative of the president, the AER secretary general, a representative of the president of the committee responsible for youth and the president of the sub-committee on youth. Mikheil was one of three people representing the AER Youth Regional Network.
The award has been handed out each two years since 2001. The prize is rather symbolic and prestigious – each region applying for the award receives a certificate and the winner is awarded with the AER Cup as well as a flag with inscription: “Most youth-friendly European Region”.
One can think that if there’s no financial prize, such a competition is simply pointless. If so, he should listen to Mikheil’s opinion. “After our last meeting in Krzyżowa, I told about the award to my regional council and officials decided to apply for the competition”, he says. “But soon they realized there are not enough activities and programs for youth to fulfil the minimum requirements. We agreed that our application would be really poor”, Mikheil admits. But the council didn’t give up and concluded that the Adjarian region has two years to improve the situation of youth policy and they are planning to apply for the next title in 2011.