When people ask me what I enjoyed most about running for Mayor of London earlier this year my answer is always the same. It was meeting so many amazing Londoners who are doing brilliant work in their communities all across the capital. Nowhere was that more true than when I met Gary Trowsdale and the dedicated team of people he works with to support, highlight and award young talent across London.

Gary, who is the Managing Director of the Damilola Taylor Trust, founded the Spirit of London Awards (SOLA) in 2009 as a legacy to Damilola who was killed in Peckham 12 years ago last week – aged just 10 years old. Gary and the other members of the trust wanted to start a project that would move the focus away from negative images of youth that we often read about and instead recognise the positive contribution that so many young people make to their communities. With the full support of Damilola’s family, Gary wanted to ensure that the talents and hard work of young Londoners get the acknowledgement they deserve. The more I got to know about Gary and SOLA the more impressed I was.

Each year SOLA invites nominations from young people up to the age of 24 in a range of categories – everything from the Arts and Fashion to Business or Campaigner. Three finalists in each category are chosen by a panel of expert judges and winners are announced at a star-studded ceremony in December. In testimony to the strength of the SOLA, the awards event has grown in stature each year and major celebrities like Leona Lewis, Rio Ferdinand and many others have attended or performed at the ceremonies, endorsing the sentiment behind the event and praising the positive focus on London’s youth.

But that’s not where SOLA stops. To ensure that the project really does make a positive difference across London, all the young finalist are invited to become SOLA ambassadors. They can then take part, along with their celebrity or industry mentors, in a roadshow which delivers inspirational workshops to schools in some of the most challenged areas of London. I’ve been to one of the SOLA roadshows. It was funny, entertaining and honest. Most of all, it got the school children asking all the right questions about their own aspirations and opportunities. I am sure that the roadshows will have a long-term, positive effect on many of the young people who both deliver and attend them.

This year, I am honoured to have been asked to help judge one of categories and I am really looking forward to taking my own daughters to the ceremony at the 02 on 10 December. In the midst of my adult world, frequently full of economic gloom, global instability and, this year in particular, shocking revelations about institutional child abuse, the Spirit of London Awards is a welcome beacon of optimism. As is often the way, it is our children that remind us of more virtuous things. It’s in their efforts, energy and enthusiasm that we see a brighter future and I, for one, would love to see more of that.