About Politics in Action

About PiA

Making a difference and holding those in power to account

PiA believes in a world where children and young people are involved and engaged in decisions that impact their lives, the lives of their communities, and the wider world.

We want to support young people to have a real impact on issues they care about.

PiA acts as a platform and conduit to amplify the voices of young people through active collaboration with politicians, activists, and high-profile partners.

Through learning, knowledge sharing, and nurturing the skills required to discuss important issues constructively, PiA supports young people to be actively engaged citizens, creating a more equitable, inclusive political landscape.

Projects

Six things that are present in everything we do

From supporting youth led campaigns to growing our team, 6 values underpin every action we take.

Equity

Not everyone starts from the same point or has the same resources or access. At Politics in Action we want young people to be able to take the issues they care about to those in power regardless of their background or identity.

Partnership

We love to collaborate. We are a small organisation and the impact of our work is amplified by working with others who share our values. We work with some amazing schools, youth work partners and youth led initiatives.

Respect

We believe that everyone should be treated with kindness and respect. It's fine to disagree and debate, but we want to do so in a way that is respectful and that encourages listening and growth.

We expect young people to treat politicians and others they meet with respect, but we also expect those people to reciprocate and value the work the young people are doing to bring about change.

Young Person Centred

At the heart of our work are young people, their ideas and passions. We are committed to involving young people in every aspect of our work including governance, evaluation and communicating the benefits of what we do. They set the agenda. They decide what matters and what they want to change. Our role is to support and guide them, helping them to be the change they want to see in the world.

Inclusion

Our work is based on human rights values. We work to make sure that everyone can get involved and stay involved and that everyone feels valued for who they are.

We recognise that some groups and in some settings young people need more time and more support. We work to ensure that everyone can benefit equally from our work together.

Fun

We think learning is better when we are enjoying working together and having fun. We work hard to ensure that young people are working on issues that matter to them and that they are enjoying working with others to achieve shared goals.

Through workshops, events and residentials, we want to ensure that young people have high quality, enjoyable experiences and that what they do together makes a difference.

Projects

Our Story

The idea

Politics in Action was founded by former BBC and Discovery Executive, Peter Weil. Peter hails from Northern Ireland but spent most of his career working as Head of Youth Programmes, BBC Northern Ireland, Head of Topical Features, BBC Network and General Manager, Animal Planet International. He was also CEO of  CTVC, which is part of the Rank Foundation. He established PiA on an entirely voluntary basis and ran and developed the organisation for four years. The organisation was developed to support his belief that young people should have their voices heard at the heart of Government.

The First Partnership

In 2018, ​​the first school partnership between St Dominic' Grammar School for Girls in Belfast and Friends’ School Lisburn was established. Peter invited some incredible people to form our first board and allow Politics in Action to apply for funding. Early support from the Rank Foundation and the David Cross Young People's Fund allowed us to grow our network of schools. Our accountant John Magee provided fantastic support to Peter's voluntary commitment.

The Pandemic

In Spring 2020, PiA had to adapt fast to the challenges of an unfolding pandemic – working with our funders and school partners, we ensured that we could continue to work with young people in clusters of schools virtually, whether they were in school or at home.

A series of ‘Town Hall’ sessions allowed us to bring high-profile speakers to a greater number of young people and schools, including; Deputy First Minister Michele O’Neill, DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, Education Minister Peter Weir (now Lord Weir), UUP Leader Doug Beattie, Alliance Party Leader and Justice Minister Naomi Long, SDLP leader Colm Eastwood MP and (then) Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

The Investment

Funding from the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs (Reconciliation Fund) and then the National Lottery Community Fund in 2021 allowed us to continue and develop our work in local cross community clusters involving over 25 schools. In partnership with Start 360, we worked with Castle Tower School in Ballymena, supporting students with additional learning needs.

The First Employee

We hired our first Executive Director – Dr. Patricia O’Lynn - in November 2021, and Peter retired at the end of December 2021. Patricia worked on developing our practice model and plans for the future. She left in May 2022 to pursue her political career, and was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Charity

In February 2022 the organisation became a charity registered with the Northern Ireland Charity Commission.

The Consolidation

Paul Smyth became our second Executive Director in June 2022, bringing his extensive experience of active citizenship and good relations work in schools and youth work settings to help us think about the next stages of our development. He has been building a more robust organisation, managing a rebrand with young people, and working with the Board to clarify our vision and values for the years ahead.

Our Treasurer Antoinette Burke and freelance Finance Manager, Colleen Thompson have worked hard to get our finances into top shape as we work with our funders and identify new sources of support

The New Home

In September 2022, we moved into our first office at Mediation House in Belfast. Funding from the International Fund for Ireland allowed us to establish a cross-border partnership between Portadown College in Co. Armagh with Loreto College in Milford, Donegal.

This allowed us to hire our second staff member Dr. Thérèse Cullen who had previously worked as one of our freelance facilitators. In December, we also hired Catherine Kilgallen as Office Administrator.

The Future

In January 2023, Ireland Funds, Heart of the Community grant supports a young person-centred evaluation project, where young people are trained as evaluators and will be actively involved in collecting information to demonstrate the impact of our work.

On 18 April 2023 we were part of the incredible events at Queen's University to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement - bringing 250 young people to share their ideas for the future.

In June 2023 new funding from IFI has ensured the extension of our cross-border 'Poreto' project. The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Ireland Funds have awarded new grants that help to secure our core costs for the year ahead.

We have exciting plans for the next few years, with details to follow. If we have missed something important on this timeline, please tell us as we are keen to continue developing it as our story unfolds. Check back too - there are many exciting things in our future!

Teams

Our Teams

Richard Ross

Richard Ross

Chairperson
Ryan Feeney

Ryan Feeney

David McCann

David McCann

Alan Meban

Alan Meban

Paul Smyth

Paul Smyth

Executive Director
Aoife Mallon

Aoife Mallon

Danny McQuillan

Danny McQuillan

Antoinette Burke

Antoinette Burke

Catherine Kilgallen

Catherine Kilgallen

Office Administrator
Dr Thérèse Cullen

Dr Thérèse Cullen

Project Manager
Darren Scott

Darren Scott

Laureen Cuckson

Laureen Cuckson

Finance Manager
Professor Monica McWilliams

Professor Monica McWilliams

Patron and former Trustee
Emily Crudden McIlhatton

Emily Crudden McIlhatton

Time to Shine Leader: Communications
Paul Smyth

Paul Smyth

Executive Director
Catherine Kilgallen

Catherine Kilgallen

Office Administrator
Dr Thérèse Cullen

Dr Thérèse Cullen

Project Manager
Laureen Cuckson

Laureen Cuckson

Finance Manager
Emily Crudden McIlhatton

Emily Crudden McIlhatton

Time to Shine Leader: Communications
David McCann

David McCann

Alan Meban

Alan Meban

Richard Ross

Richard Ross

Chairperson
Ryan Feeney

Ryan Feeney

Aoife Mallon

Aoife Mallon

Danny McQuillan

Danny McQuillan

Antoinette Burke

Antoinette Burke

Darren Scott

Darren Scott

Professor Monica McWilliams

Professor Monica McWilliams

Patron and former Trustee
Join Us

Make Change Happen Today

Get Started Now