#ItsOurFuture – inspiring young voters
by Harris Nageswaran
Harris Nageswaran is a 2nd year medical student at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry. He worked with peers to produce #ItsOurFuture – a campaign to encourage more young people to register to vote.
As part of the medical degree at Barts and The London, students undertake a 2-week student selected component. I decided to undertake a Medical Leadership course where we were tasked with something that I thought was unreasonably difficult; to make a change. After some deliberation, an issue that had been frustrating us for a while, namely the low turnout of young people to vote, started to develop into an idea and the beginnings of a plan, which became the focus of the #ItsOurFuture campaign.
While I was excited by the project, I was seriously sceptical of how much we could achieve, especially when we had to identify the problems, devise a strategy, execute a plan and gain traction, all in just two weeks. Prior to this project, I had been involved in a number of campaigns, but this was the first one in which I was involved that aimed to run on larger scale, outside of the university bubble, and this was something that I found daunting.
I found myself checking every detail with multiple sources, intent on not making a mistake which could have the possibility of spreading out of my control, and creating most of our resources from scratch to ensure there were no copyright issues. It was work-intensive but it resulted in us creating a product that I was proud of, and was good enough to share widely. This isn’t the first instance where I’ve been nervous in what I would call “the public sphere”. The first time I can clearly recall these feelings was during my school’s Visitation Day, on what was essentially the last day of the school calendar for us. I was asked to deliver the student address. During the address I could feel my anxiety levels increasing; my heart rate quickened, my mouth dried up and I could feel my leg twitch behind the lectern.
Personally, I believe that a comfortable public presence is one of the most important skills a leader needs; it’s how a leader connects with their colleagues, supporters or members, without whom a person cannot be a sustainable leader. It is also the feature which I believe is my weakest, and requires the most work. I much prefer having time to carefully formulate what I’m going to say, rather than thinking quickly to say something off the cuff. I’d attempted to improve this by trying to force myself into public speaking opportunities such as in plays or interviews for radio. For the #ItsOurFuture project for example, we filmed an interview to raise the profile of what we were trying to do, and make clearer the aims of the project. I found this terrifying, and on replay, the delivery was somewhat wooden, but I feel that the answers themselves were an improvement on what I could have managed a few years ago.
Ultimately, I chose this student selected component to develop my skills in leadership and become better equipped to achieve my aims, and I’ve learnt a lot in those respects. I’ve been able to recognise my flaws more clearly than ever, and that’s okay, because a leader will never be flawless. It’s easy to create the perfect image of a leader in your mind, and to see leaders as people out of reach of your ability, with no flaws or mistakes. To chase this image is a folly, and will bring you no progress. I’d like to think I’ve taken some step towards progress by identifying my flaws; for, in my opinion, a good leader works around their flaws, but a great leader works with them.
Lessons I’ll take forward:
- Flexibility is key to adapt to the changing needs of a campaign
When we started gaining traction and actors wanted to get onboard, we altered our strategy to maximise engagement from their followers and fellow actors
- The power of social media to induce change
Social media allows collaboration and provides an ideal platform to voice ideas
For more information about #ItsOurFuture, visit the campaign’s webpage.