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News & Media, Young People

Giving Young People a Voice

Posted on: 26 January, 2021

Luke O’Neil, Development Manager:

I regularly come across a received wisdom that achieving involvement, participation or co-production with young people is more difficult than facilitating the same with adults. This notion is often accompanied by the idea that they are more reluctant to play an active role in shaping the very services that they access. In my fifteen years of involvement with young people’s services, whether it be as a practitioner, manager or trustee I have come to learn that this just isn’t true.

Here at Cranstoun, we work with nearly one thousand children and young people each year. Co-production is crucial to establishing an equal and reciprocal relationship between young people and our staff team. It provides a platform from which we can work in an asset-based way to harness the insights and ideas that young people can offer. This strengthens our service by ensuring that our offer evolves and adapts to remain relevant to the priorities and interests of young people.

In 2018 staff from our Dudley service completed several consultations with groups of local young people to discover more about what they desired from our service. They provided young people with a number of options for sharing their thoughts and ideas with us, including working groups, one to one discussions, written submissions and peer to peer discussions. As a result of this work, our Dudley co production group ‘YOUthink’ was born.

By giving licence to go right back to basics and to begin again with a blank canvas, young people were able to define some key operating principles which in turn enabled an ambitious local vision to take shape. This vision proposed to us by young people necessitated a complete re-design of our service. Rather than focusing only on the specifics of what we should offer, they worked with us to identify fundamental building blocks against which to relaunch our service:

  1. Safe Spaces: All venues should be age appropriate, accessible on a drop-in basis and be a space that young people could own by choosing and designing colour schemes, art work and furniture.
  2. Togetherness: We must work with young people, their families and community agencies towards a shared purpose.
  3. Choice: We must offer a range of activities to young people, including delivery and/or access to universal, social prescribing, and specialist provision.
  4. Inspiring: We must provide opportunities for young people to pursue their potential and their ambitions.
  5. Bespoke: All staff must take the time to consider the individual young people that they work with, providing offers which are unique to the needs and aspirations of each person.

Taking some time to reflect on the approach applied locally by our team in Dudley, I realised that often when organisations attempt to apply co-production, they do so through the lens of already established services and accepted operating habits. Since we embarked upon this journey in Dudley, the service has a new name; Here4Youth (a name chosen by young people, along with the logo), new staff roles, new revitalised service spaces and a greater depth to the range of support and opportunities that we offer. We are now working with young people across our services to take up the Here4Youth brand across the organisation, representing a broader and more flexible offer which remains rooted in the priorities that young people themselves identify for our services.  Meanwhile, the input of young people has also driven the design of a soon to be launched young people’s website.

The ideas and insights offered by young people have encouraged and inspired us to shake ourselves free of our day to day working norms. We have been able to imagine afresh the potential of our services in Dudley and beyond, achieving a step change in our ability to deliver a rounded offer which supports the wellbeing of young people, helping them to be healthy, safe and happy.

“Here4YOUth is a great service because it focuses on you and your own needs. If I had to sum it up in a few words, it would be modest, heart-warming and perfectly splendid.”
Sam, a member of the YOUthink co-production group.

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