I’ve worked with Participation People for nearly two and a half years now, and as you can imagine I have witnessed many ups and downs in my time! Over the past couple of years, I have worked primarily on the Youth Council and as a Young Inspector. Currently I’m working as a #YouthVoice Pioneer. This means that I have come across a wide range of decision makers in the different opportunities I have taken part in, as each project I’ve worked on has had a different purpose, urgency and response.
The word ‘response’ is important when it comes to working with young people, and it is the main basis of what I will be talking about today. One of the key features of being a young person, is the feeling that no one quite understands you and is there ready to listen. This is a shame as many young people have valuable insight and some great ideas to offer, but we can support decision makers in helping us to overcome these barriers with that key word, response.
Ultimately, it all comes down to communication, and in this blog post I’m going to discuss how you can keep communication with young people and response going in the long term. I will also be covering the importance of these two essential factors.The last thing I would like to say, before you continue on, is that if you are here reading this and are ready to listen to what I have to say, then the chances are you’re already doing great at recognising the importance of #youthvoice. But this also means that you can share what I have to say.
Our main aim at PPHQ (currently positioned across ‘duvetville’ and ‘home office’ town), is to get our #youthvoice heard directly. Hence why a young person is sitting down today writing this for you to read, and why you’ll want to pass my blog on to others to read too!
One of the most interesting experiences that I have had, while trying to get my voice, and other young people’s voices heard, was a trip I took up to London in 2018. This trip took place to present the data collected from that year’s Young Researchers project on social isolation. The representatives of the business that we presented this to were really enthusiastic about changing their approach to young people, we didn’t quite feel we could say the same about the two MPs that we met that same day! Perhaps, this was because we were asking the MPs directly for their support. They were under a lot of pressure, and I do understand that trying to please an entire room of young people while still trying to hold true to your values can be difficult, especially when we have a lot to ask of you.
When I look at this experience retrospectively, it makes me think about the idea of a growth mindset. Carol Dweck theorised this, defining it as a theory centred around the belief that intelligence and learning can be developed and improved. For businesses this growth mindset will come easier, as the point of industry and business is to improve and expand. In other words, businesses believe that they can always be better.
I think it is important to note, that having a growth mindset doesn’t mean you have to change everything. It simply means you’re willing to accept that times have changed, and they always will. The needs of different people across the country are constantly changing; it’s one of the few constants of life and politics. If you can accept that times are changing, and that you need to adapt, then congratulations! You’re already halfway there!
‘So, why exactly have I put so much emphasis on this fantastic theory?’ I hear you all ask. Well, a growth mindset is important when we, as young people, present decision makers with feedback on their services. If they have a growth mindset they are much more likely to respect our observations and take action in improving their services. This is important to us, as young people, because it is rewarding to see that our work is making a difference and having an impact on the decision makers that we are reaching out to. This benefits you (I’m looking at all our wonderful decision makers) because it means we are more likely to trust what you say, and we know that you want to hear what we have to say too!
But this isn’t just my opinion. In order to draw these conclusions, I have worked with a wide range of fellow young people who have all had similar experiences of their own and asked them for their experiences on sharing their views and findings with decision makers. Their comments are highlighted in the graphics supporting this blog.
I understand that the few opinions given in this blog are not wholly representative of all young people. But I think it gives a good insight into what young people, who work closely with decision makers, think about the issues that arise when communicating (or attempting to communicate!) with decision makers. It also should serve as a reminder, that just as I have been careful to explain when I have made assumptions, assumptions made by decision makers about what young people want or need can be damaging and destroy the trust you are looking to gain from the young people. Young people should always be consulted about decisions that concern them in order for successful communication to work.
When I spoke to young people, I noticed that promises are really important to them. Promises create a strong, continuous line of communication. Making and keeping promises is a key step in improving youth services and building relationships between young people and decision makers. If you keep a promise, we are more likely to trust you in the future.
Promises also give us a basis to work on. If you make a promise that you will get something done by a certain date, we will know when to catch up with you, meaning that our targets become measurable and a timeline can be formed for us to work with. It also, simply, lets us know that you are actively working on improving your services following our advice, this is encouraging.
And to close, I’d like to share the message that I began at the start of this blog post: ‘response’. One of the worst things you can put a young person through is isolation; the feeling of not being understood or listened to hanging over a young person’s head is frustrating and, unfortunately, not unusual. But you can help us! You can help us be the change we know, often deep down, we can be.
To find out more about how Participation People can help you to talk to young people and develop your growth mindset, sign up for our #YouthVoice Training Programme.