Monday, 29 April 2013

Youth Participation

Youth participation means recognising that young people have important contributions to make in decisions that impact their lives. When done effectively, it ensures that young people have the skills, knowledge and confidence to get involved with decision making; and enabling a culture within which young people's opinions and contributions are recognised, valued and acted upon by the wider society.

An interesting conference on Youth Participation took place at the London School of Economics on the 18th of April. The conference was organised by the National Council for VoluntaryYouth Services (NCVYS), who had done a great job presenting nearly all National Charity organisations who work with youth as partners. Established in 1936, the NCVYS is a diverse and growing network of over 280 national organisations and regional and local networks that work with and for young people. Their mission is to work with the members from voluntary and community organisations to build thriving communities and sustainable networks that help all young people achieve their potential.

The conference was focused on exploring meaningful and practical ways to engage young people in the decision-making processes of an organisation’s work. The seminars were held by the winners of young Partners Award 2012: The Rural Youth Voice ProjectLeapConfronting Conflict training provider and the Fun Youth Involvement board. Experts (E.Mtungwazi, Head of recruitment at City Year) John Laughton, founder of Dare2Lead, and   Ross Hendry, director of policy from the office of the Children’s Commissioner) gave interesting talks about young people’s recruitment and retention, investing in leaders and in young people as partners. The most valuable part of the conference however was networking with the young participants themselves. It was so interesting to meet so many confident youngsters who knew what they wanted to do with their lives; they look so optimistically towards the future believing that they can change the world.

As we have already posted on our website and blog, we involve young people as co-researchers in HBSC study, which give the study another dimension: young people watching and observing other young people of nearly the same age!  We have held workshops with young people, established connections with local schools, through which we have formed Research Advisory Groups. These young researchers help our research by sharing their own experiences. For instance, taking on board young researchers’ feedback can ensure questions are easy to understand and reflect topics highly relevant to them. Young people can help us identify new research areas, evaluate the questions used in the HBSC questionnaire and helping to explain current HBSC findings. Organisations like the NCVYS help bring together people doing this kind of work in different arenas, ensuring we can learn from each other and spread the culture of youth participation even further.

                                                                                                        Ellen Klemera

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