What helps and what gets in the way?
We found a great break down on how to successfully engage with young people from the SA Government’s BetterTogether program here.
Success is likely when activities have a clear purpose, are things that matter to young people (not just ‘youth specific’), are what young people want to do, and is something they believe in.
Ensure that you are engaging with young people for the right reasons and at the heart of your engagement is a partnership approach and an adherence to the values and contributions of young people.
The content of the consultation should be something that matters to young people, something they can believe in and a process that they can actually influence and see an outcome from.
Provide young people with skills
Ensuring young people have the skills to undertake the activity or will be trained in the required skills is crucial; otherwise they may feel overwhelmed and disconnected.
Developing good relationships between young people and adults is vital and there should be opportunities to get to know each other in both formal and informal ways. Factor in time for a bit of fun too.
Any engagement should have the resources required to complete the activity; this includes financial resources, people, and in kind support. Young people are more likely to participate if they are not out of pocket and have access to transport, child care, etc. You will also need to factor in training and meeting costs.
Timing and Location
To ensure young people participate in the engagement process the location of the (physical) engagement is crucial. While some consultations will work better in school hours it might also be necessary to undertake the engagement after hours or on the weekend.
Ensure that for physical engagement (such as workshops, focus groups and forums) that the venue is accessible to young people. The venue should be close to public transport and be wheelchair accessible.
If possible, ensure young people are reimbursed for any out-of-pocket expenses to attend engagement processes. Some young people may have either a low income or no income and may only be able to engage
if suitably compensated. Consider offering an honorarium to participants to cover expenses.
Ensure that you keep participants informed about the process including what happens subsequent to the engagement. Young people will be more likely to engage in the future if they know that their contribution has made a difference and led to tangible change.
Lack of support can lead to a lack of connection to the activity, this can occur at different levels – if young people are not supported as individuals and members of the group they will be less likely to connect to the activity or spend time investing in follow-up activities. If young people are not supported to undertake activities they may not be enabled to participate. It is also important to support facilitators to undertake youth engagement activities, to ensure activities are appropriate and successful.
Assumptions can have a negative impact on participation and on the relationships within it. It is best to avoid making assumptions about how much time young people have to commit or that they are heterosexual or have a mum and a dad or live with their parents. They may be caring for adults or siblings or have their own children or be working three jobs and attending TAFE part time. It is better to get to know young people and find out who they are and what’s important to them.
Avoid jargon and acronyms (unless you provide a list of what they mean). Good communication includes checking that you understand and that you have been understood by your participants.
Adults taking over
Support and welcome the initiatives and contributions of young people. Accept that mistakes might be made and engagement may bring mixed results. We need to ensure that to inspire leadership, ownership and participation by young people; we support, train, and assist them to understand the process, their level of influence and their responsibilities. If this is not in place the process may lead to frustration, confusion, possible failure, and humiliation.
Adultism is prejudice and discrimination against someone simply because they are young. Society often paints children and young people as ‘adults in the making’ and that they are somehow less capable, less intelligent, less insightful, less valuable and less able to participate in decisions that impact upon them. Recognising and valuing the contributions of young people as members of our community is integral in developing respectful and insightful engagement with young people.