Movement to Work inspires employers to help young people change their lives through positive encounters with work. Their Head of Regional Development, Nicola Read, kindly shared her thoughts on why youth participation is so important – and how Participation People’s training and development of their Young Champions has enhanced their Stand Out Steering Group.

Why is youth participation important?

Millenials and Gen Z are unlike any generation that has gone before and they are blazing a trail for the generations who are next to come. Generally speaking, young people of today are intentional; ethically and environmentally conscious; curious; innovative and unwilling to sit back and accept status quo. Whilst this can be unsettling for some, ‘risky’ for others and can lead to periods of restlessness these are also key attributes for evolution, growth and improvement. Without youth participation questions such as “why?” and “why not?” may not be asked, or so clearly articulated, and the wider populous otherwise not encouraged to reflect and respond.

What benefits/solutions has improving youth participation brought to your organisation?

Youth participation has enhanced our Stand Out Steering Group by challenging and suggesting improvement not only to the core project under review, but the way in which we conduct ourselves as professionals, how we undertake ‘business like meetings’ and how we present information or data. Our youth steering group have encouraged us to think, in detail, about these elements from an truly inclusive stand point, and work through to solution rather than merely reflecting on a ‘take away’ point made. Our youth steering group have also reminded us to keep things light hearted, to not get too bogged down in timeslots and agenda items and to remember above all, communication is key.

What was your biggest learning on engaging with young people? Do you feel you would have known this without youth participation? 

That despite my experience in the social mobility sector these past 7 years or more, the corporate world has sheltered me from many challenges that exist day to day in other people’s lives and jobs and that not everything can be managed like a project! Working with the Youth Steering Group has reminded me of the grey that exists within life, between the black and the white, and has reignited my ‘solutioneering’ mindset for thinking about alternative ways in which we can progress and ‘get the job done’. Everyone can tick a box, but to include and observe the feedback of young people does indeed bring meaning to that task. 

Why Stand Out Programme and if so inclined, why Participation People?

National Lottery funding is (thankfully) quite a common occurrence in the UK, but what is less common is including the intended demographic in a live feedback loop, during the lifespan of the project. With the Stand Out Programme, West Midlands Combined Authority, The National Lottery and Movement to Work were keen to facilitate this collaborative mechanism for ‘real time’ feedback, analysis and improvement rather than reflecting much later and potentially missing the boat on opportunities to make changes for the better. Participation People are experts in their field, well versed in youth mobility, youth empowerment and youth advocacy. Without Participation People and the support, training and development they enable for our Young Champions, quite frankly our Youth Steering Group could not exist.

What’s next?

We (movement to work/business professionals) are continually reflecting and learning in this process too, however we do feel we have reached a point of relative stability and confidence these past 3 months or so. We look forward to progressing the Stand Out project until December 2022 and to celebrating our collaborative achievements at the end of the year. By that point we will have produced two recommendation reports, facilitated hours’ worth of personal development for young people and be able to reflect on the opportunity that The Commonwealth Games has brought to the local area of Birmingham. At that point we will be in a good place to consider our collective legacy, and how that plays forward in future projects and years. 


Want to know more about how youth participation can transform your organisation? Get started by talking to one of our youth experts. 


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