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Young people and Big Local

July 2014

This case study looks at some of the ways Big Local areas are engaging and involving young people, so that young people can contribute to Big Local and have a role in helping to shape the future of their area.

Why children and young people’s involvement in Big Local is important

Young people can be a huge resource for Big Local. The perspective they offer provides a way of thinking differently, with fresh ideas helping to create solutions to local issues. Children and young people represent the future population of a place, so their participation in Big Local and shaping where they live is an essential part of making the area an even better place to live:

"The young people now will be the adults of the future so they need to feel they are part of the development of their area.

Brenda Lines, DY10 Big Local chair (Horsefair, Broadwaters and Greenhill)

If young people are involved, they can bring a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm to Big Local. They’re also often social media experts and can play an important role in reaching out to new people and networks. Big Local areas have said that in order to benefit from this opportunity, young people must feel that they’re being listened to and have a platform for their views to be heard and responded to.

Some Big Local areas are finding creating such platforms a challenge, because the way young people may engage well with Big Local may be different to some of the more traditional methods of getting people involved. Young people might also need more support to put across their point of view. 

Different ways of involving young people in Big Local

At the recent ‘young people and Big Local’ event, both young people and groups who work with young people came up with a range of ideas about how to involve young people in Big Local. These included creating events and activities aimed at getting young people out and doing things; to promote Big Local and talk informally about what they might like to see happen in their area. Other ideas included setting up more formal groups of young people such as youth forums and parliaments to represent a youth voice on issues. 

Bill Badham, Big Local rep for Kirk Hallam Big Local which is working with young people says:

"Why be interested in a Big Local partnership if young people’s issues have been ignored in the profile and plan? Instead, our experience suggests building engagement through listening and doing stuff, then moving toward running things as confidence and relevance increase’.

The ideas people came up with are listed below. It is likely that a range of approaches will be required to suit different people’s needs and interests.
Things that might attract young people to participate in a Big Local funded activity

  • something fun, such as a picnic in the park or a climbing wall
  • youth clubs / activity centres
  • DJ academy
  • music/dance workshops
  • other youth events involving music
  • parades/carnivals.

Creative ways of engaging and involving young people in Big Local

  • using video - young people holding the camera and taking shots of the area, maybe working with a media academy
  • local artists working with young people to explore their vision for the area
  • encouraging young entrepreneurs.

Meeting young people where they spend time

  • working with schools
  • attending local festivals and finding other opportunities to talk to young people.

More formal ways of ensuring young people are heard

  • Youth forums – serve as a way for young people to have a voice on issues of importance. However, it can be hard to find people to participate in these. An example of a youth forum in action was a safety group, which included the police and others working with young people on issues like what they can do about threatening behaviour.
  • Youth parliaments – provide a formal representation of young people to work with other agencies. However, there are issues about whether they are truly representative of young people in general.

Involving young people meaningfully

Some of the issues people highlighted about the challenges of getting young people involved in Big Local concerned the journey from participating for fun, to providing meaningful input in decision-making. For this to happen, young people need to know that they can put across their views about what matters to them on their own terms and that this will be listened to:

"One of the things I feel strongly about in community development especially with involving young people, is the risk of seeking to establish involvement in representational democracy - (you speak for me), rather than building first a sense of participative democracy (we speak for ourselves)".

Bill Badham, Big Local rep

Ways of creating an environment in which young people can thrive

In order to support young people to be able to speak for themselves, the following tips can be a helpful starting point:

  • meet where people feel comfortable
  • create a friendly, supportive environment so young people feel confident to speak out
  • encourage young people to set the agenda
  • support an environment in which young people feel listened to and are responded to.

Young people involved in Big Local in Kirk Hallam

We asked some of the young people involved in Big Local in Kirk Hallam - how would you describe Big Local to one of your friends to help get them interested?

"I would tell them that they have £1m to spend over 10 years, so why don't they get involved and voice their opinion on how the money should be spent. If you don't get involved now, then there is no point moaning in 10 years’ time that the money was never spent how you thought would be best."

Young person, Kirk Hallam

"It’s a solution to change the place you live to make it better."

Victor Hartshorn (young person), Kirk Hallam

In Kirk Hallam, they have had a number of successes in involving young people in Big Local, from young people developing and taking a lead with their own consultation for young people, to taking part in important participatory budgeting decisions. Some of the young people first got interested in Big Local through a competition at their local school. Competitions are one example of a way to make getting involved fun and interesting. 

Now some of the young people in Kirk Hallam have become more involved in Big Local over time, they find their participation a rewarding experience. Oliver Cox, a young person in Kirk Hallam says:

"Helping to make the area better makes you feel good. Kirk Hallam is quiet and there’s not much to do so we want to make it better."

And Victor Hartshorn, also a young people in Kirk Hallam says:

"The thing I find most rewarding is the results. You know then you’ve made a change."

Since becoming involved, Oliver has also become an informal spokesperson for other young people. Because his friends and acquaintances know that he is involved with Big Local, they will sometimes approach him with things they are interested in, or would like to see in Kirk Hallam and ask him if he can help to make it happen through Big Local. 

The wider Kirk Hallam Big Local group value the young people’s input. Some of the young people are on the panel that make decisions on the community chest awards. The Big Local partnership has now reserved two places for young people if they want to attend meetings on a regular basis. By ensuring that young people’s involvement in Big Local is meaningful in Kirk Hallam, it has made the experience of being involved rewarding:

"Although I am not a resident of Kirk Hallam, I feel that I have been able to do my bit for the community. It pleases me to see that the work we have done is being published on the website and sent out to other schools and community areas in Kirk Hallam. Most rewarding are the comments and credit that we have been given for all of our hard work."

Young person, Kirk Hallam

Youth parliament in DY10 Big Local

DY10 Big Local (Horsefair, Broadwaters and Greenhill in Kidderminster), has involved young people in a few different ways. Brenda Lines, chair of DY10 Big Local is keen to emphasise that engaging and involving young people is a learning curve and they have needed to try different things to find out what works. 

One of the things they have been very keen to promote with young people, are the benefits of participating in democratic processes. To get some of the children interested in this, they prepared a school trip involving children from two local schools to go to London to visit the Houses of Parliament. For many of the 12 children, they had never been to London before so it was a real adventure, as well as an interesting experience to meet their local MP and ask him questions. Since the visit, pupils with their school’s support have become much more likely to campaign on issues they care about such as the local bus service and this has had some positive results.

At the ‘young people and Big Local’ event, DY10 Big Local hosted a discussion with the whole group to talk about some of the things they feel are important in engaging young people:

  • To get young people involved, you need to create excitement in some way – it needs to be a rewarding experience for them.
  • Music, a climbing wall and dance studios were highlighted by young people as things that had attracted them to participate in local activity.
  • The key element was that young people felt that what was offered should be something that they couldn’t just do at home – it had to be something that would motivate them to get out of the house:
"It has to be something out of the ordinary, a hook, something which you have to do then or you miss the opportunity."

Young person, Slade Green Big Local

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