Interview with Asher Jacobsberg

TEDxTottenham is not far around the corner, and so we caught up with Asher Jacobsberg, another one of our speakers to see what he had to say.

Asher has co-founded three Tottenham-based organisations: Involver, a social enterprise working on youth participation; the Smart School Councils Community, a charity helping schools to teach about democracy; and the Lordship Hub Co-op, a community co-operative that is running the EcoHub cafe and community centre in Lordship Rec.

We asked Asher, how (and why) he does it.

I try and get things done, I see that things need doing and try to do them, I guess.

I’m very interesting in community action, in people doing things but the most important thing is to lead by example and so if I’m interested in getting people to do more things then I need to do more things myself.

If there something you’re dissatisfied with, so if a building isn’t being used, take it over, organise some people to take it over, so that/s what we’ve done [with the Lordship Hub Co-op].

Asher’s main work involves promoting the participation of young people in their schools and in their communities. We asked Asher what was important when it comes to working with young people.

The main thing is opportunity, giving people the chance to do it and really importantly, the chance to fail. There’s only really a sense of achievement if there is a possibility of failure.

So let’s say you’ve set up a youth project and you say ‘you’re gonna run this’ and when the young people don’t organise things in the way that needs to happen somebody steps in does it for them and makes sure that everything runs smoothly in the end. And then they pat the young people on the back and say ‘didn’t you do well’. Most of us are self-aware enough to know actually we didn’t do this, this was somebody else

Asher works closely with school councils, do they work in this way?

The vast majority of school councils work in a way that are quite tokenistic, they involve a very small group of young people. They’re there as a source of pride for the school in terms of what have they done, not what they have learnt.

So no, most school councils I work with don’t work in that way, they don’t really have wide open opportunities for young people and they don’t have much opportunity for failure.

That’s not to say that young people shouldn’t be supported to succeed, it’s not a matter of throwing them in the deep end, sink or swim, but there is a danger within that that’s overstepped greatly.

We asked Asher about his background and how his view of youth participation developed.

[When I was growing up] I was very involved in a Jewish youth organisation. It seems perfectly natural to me, as somebody who was 12 or 13, that the leaders of the organisation were 18 or 19, and when grew up I became a peer leader within the organisation and eventually I ended up running the whole organisation.

I had assumed the way all organisations that work with young people were ran by young people for young people. That turned out to be completely not the case at all and it seemed very odd to me that it should be anything other than that really.

And what does Asher think about TEDx coming to Tottenham and being asked to speak?

I’ve watched loads of TED videos. I recommend quite a few to different people. There’s some fantastic stuff about education particularly.

The Ken Robinson and Sugata Mitra ones particularly are both good and the hand washing one. There was one I watched recently from TEDx in Brooklyn on education.

I was honoured to be asked to participate and it took me a long time to figure out what I was going talk about, so I just came up with the title and started there.

It’s great that it’s happening at the Bernie Grants Centre.

The theme for TEDxTottenham is ‘Beneath the Surface’, and Asher talked about what that means to him.

I live in Tottenham, I work in Tottenham, my family works in Tottenham and my daughter goes to school here, my wife teaches at a school here.

For all kinds of reasons people in Tottenham have less opportunity than people from some other areas. There are great and interesting things happening all over the place, in certain places it’s easier maybe to see those great and interesting things because of the advantages of those places have. But Tottenham has some great advantages.

I think my favourite thing about living in Tottenham is the parks. I’ve lived near Downhills Park and Lordship Rec and when we move we didn’t look further than ¼ mile away and now we live in between Bruce Castle Park and Lordship Rec.

The other thing, sounds very corny to say, the diversity is something I miss when I go somewhere else. It’s a genuine mix.

The other thing is it’s a real community. Getting to know all these different people through the Co-op. I walk down my road and I know far more people walking my down my road in Tottenham than I ever did in Rugby.

Book tickets to TEDxTottenham on 1 November and hear Asher’s talk.


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