Developing a Youth Participation Strategy

UK Youth member OnSide provide young people in deprived areas with state-of-the-art custom-built, facilities that offer a wide range of sport, art and enterprise activities. Youth Zones are designed to give young people aged 8–19 years old (up to 25 if a young person has an additional need) somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to in their leisure time.

In November 2017, UK Youth were approached by OnSide to support them in developing their Youth Participation Strategy based on our expertise of engaging young people in decision making. UK Youth worked with key stakeholders across the network to develop the approach which culminated in a Strategy Away Day, bringing together senior staff from OnSide, young people, senior staff and youth workers from each of the Youth Zones.

The project was delivered alongside members of UK Youth Voice, the national youth steering group for UK Youth and explored different approaches to youth participation, identifying current strengths and gaps and exploring the organisation’s values in relation to hearing young people’s voices. Involving UK Youth Voice in this work enabled young people who are part of the OnSide Network to understand the benefits of them being involved in decision making and what the potential could be.

As a result of this project OnSide have made a formal commitment to putting young people at the heart of their network, this has also been supported by the investment of staff time and resource for this work to develop and continue. The first step of the project was to create a youth voice group, representative of each of the Youth Zones. Three young people from each youth zone have since been recruited and have met to develop this work further. They have named the group ‘Voice for all’ and are currently running a project to identify the key issues for young people in their youth zones which they will take forward to the OnSide Board and develop ideas to address the issues.

Gavin Evans, CEO of Future Youth Zone and lead for Youth Participation across the OnSide Network says;

‘UK Youth has supported us to really think about how we involve young people in decision making, both within our individual Youth Zones and with OnSide. It has also helped us to think about how we can support young people to have an external influence and make positive changes in their local communities. The project has enabled our staff to learn about how we can build a culture of involving young people at every step, from encouraging a culture of listening and co-creating with young people, through to more formal structures such as our new youth voice group and the future involvement in our governance structures. Their expertise in this area have been invaluable, helping us to bring together young people, youth workers and senior staff from across the network to develop a long term plan that has commitment at every level of the organization.’

UK Youth regularly run Youth Engagement Forums designed to explore good practices of youth engagement and discuss how we can further empower young people to have their voices heard across the network. For more bespoke engagement and strategic work, read this blog by Policy & Youth Engagement Manager Hannah Graham and get in touch to see how we can help.

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