It can feel daunting to get started with youth voice in your organisation. However, even little steps can make a huge difference to your organisation as well as the young people involved.
This short guide will be updated throughout the Summer of 2022 and is designed to help you take your next steps with youth voice once you’ve been inspired by all the organisations we have featured on the Amplify website.
Step 1 - Understand why you want to engage with youth voice
All engagement of young people must be purposeful and meaningful. This might mean that you start out with an advisory group, or involving young people in certain project decisions. Supporting them to become ambassadors or young trustees might be the goal but doesn’t have to be the starting point.
Ask yourself, why is youth voice important to your organisation? What are the outcomes you’re hoping to achieve for both the organisation and the young people who get involved?
Have you really thought about what youth voice means to you and your organisation? You could explore this through a free introduction to youth voice interactive presentation by Upstart Projects, or delve deeper by attending one of their Youth Voice Training courses. Attend the July 21st 2022 course and get 30% off with the discount code ‘AMPLIFY’.
Step 2 - Get inspired and consult
We have a huge number of inspirational stories here on Amplify. Simply watch the episodes we have to get inspiration for the projects you could be running, and you could try reading this ‘Youth Voice Zine’ created by young people who were commissioned by Southampton Cultural Education Partnership.
Once you’re inspired, ensure that other people are inspired to join your journey too. You can share our videos and your ideas with them, and be sure to ask them how they see youth voice working in your organisation. Both colleagues and young people will have valuable insights and might help you formulate your ideas - involving people early is a great way to get their buy in too.
Step 3 - Build your organisational capacity
Going it alone is a maverick approach but not one that tends to work well when embedding youth voice in an organisation. It’s important that your colleagues are on board, but so too are senior leaders and potentially your board. If you can get project champions who can allocate the appropriate resource (even if that’s mainly staff time), the chances of developing a sustainable project with real influence is greatly increased.
As well as getting these champions bought in, think about developing awareness and strategy alignment. Help colleagues to understand what you’re doing youth voice work and how it supports the organisation’s mission, strategic objectives or any other metrics and plans that you’re working towards. Demonstrating value, and bringing youth voice work as close to the core delivery of an organisation as possible helps young people to have real influence and for their views to be taken seriously - as part of your work, not in addition to.
You might find it helpful here to review the Young Cultural Leaders’ Handbook from ROH Bridge, especially pages 21-22 on ‘The Drivers for Your School/ Organization’ in determining what arguments you make to get the buy-in from a senior leader as a champion.
Step 4 - Make a start
Test and trial approaches that work for you, the young people you get involved, and your organisation as a whole.
Enable young people to help formulate plans, to set direction and to take action to deliver youth voice projects. They can help you mould your plans and are very adaptable. Don’t worry about planning the perfect project every step of the way, concern yourself more with ensuring young people get real value from being involved and that your organisation can see the benefits of their involvement too.
Even small projects, small steps, can echo in to greater impact. Something which makes a difference but grows in a sustainable way is much better than a one-off ‘big bang’ project where young people’s views get lost in future.
By this step, you may find our Top tips for supporting youth-led projects by Kelly Allen at Curious Minds really helpful.
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This guide has been written by Emrys Green from Upstart Projects who has over 15 years experience engaging young people. He’s worked for the Participation Works Partnership as a senior consultant and delivered directly for the National Children’s Bureau, UK Youth, Save the Children UK and many other organisations over the years. He started in arts participation thanks to his Arts Award journey and becoming a national youth council member for Arts Council England’s Young People’s Participatory Theatre Project. Upstart design training and support for youth voice programmes and have managed the production of our episodes here on Amplify.