INTERVIEW: with the ‘Young People in the Lead’ advisory panel at the National Lottery Community Fund. This group interview is the final one in our Power of Youth series with youth voice champions. Nine members of the Young People in the Lead (YPIL) Advisory Panel at The National Lottery Community Fund talk about their role, experience and recommendations on good practice for youth participation [Slides Below]. Thank you to the supporting team at The National Lottery (TNL) and panel members: Kim (24), Keanna (22), Jemimah (22), Danny (24) , Rachel (18), Loren (21), Amelia (19) Ruhina (25) and Tiny “in the house” Dotty (Cain 20) interviewed by James (Very Old!) Cathcart.
“They have spoken from the heart and are a credit to those they represent” Joe Rich, Head of Youth Voice @TNLCF
The 12 member YPIL panel was recruited in 2019, aged 18-25 with lived experience of youth participation across a range of organisations in England. Its aim is ‘to meet the issues young people and their communities are facing, head on…. and steer significant and positive change in communities. It meets at least monthly with the Head of Youth Voice (Joe Rich) and decides as a team what work to focus on and how it should be achieved. Consequently, its representatives now sit on a number of influential positions across the Fund including on England Committee and as a Board Shadow. They give regular presentations to external audiences as well as to young people, including their 2020 model of 10 top tips for youth participation in organisations, which I call ‘Ways2Be -Things2Do’ (after the titles of the presentation slides) and YVH now includes in its top ten list of recommended resources. Note: Most answers are on behalf of the group, unless quoted in the first person). There is also a YPIL group for Wales.
Q1. YPIL – What’s your purpose?
“Our purpose is to push the message that it is important to give young people the space to have their views and opinions heard, and that they need to have the opportunity to facilitate change. It’s our job to make sure that this message is spread widely amongst groups and individuals, such as project leaders and funders not just at the National Lottery, because there’s space for young people at all stages of a project/program or organisation.”
Q2 Who is your target audience?
“We have three audiences we want to reach and influence:1. Internal at the National Lottery, advising on meaningful youth participation within its grant programmes; 2. External Influential People in organisations and public life at large; and 3. Other young people, empowering them to be heard and to know what good practice looks like. We do this by sharing our own experience and stories.”
Q3. What does this look like in practice?
“We have representatives on various Lottery/partnership funding panels, ranging from the England Committee to themed initiatives such as the Phoenix Fund (for projects promoting racial justice at the heart of COVID-19 pandemic response). We also have a shadow youth representative on the main Board of the National Lottery. We all work to ensure young people’s values and priorities are considered in decision-making, such as taking account of a programme or project’s impact on the environment/climate. Our aim is to bring and share a ‘youth perspective’ from our lived experiences to these forums and their decisions.”
“We have been given an equal voice at the table, which includes taking part fully in making grant decisions.”
“We also reach out to other organisations through events and online conferences, giving advice and promoting our participation model such as doing a presentation as part of International Youth Day or during Youth Work Week. You can see learn more by reading our latest blog or view our YouTube playlist.”
Q4. What age do you have in mind for youth participation (e.g. children, 18+, up to 30?)
“When I think of young people and youth-voice I think of children too. This is because it’s important for everyone to get used to having their voices heard from an early age. Children have valid opinions, but their views often ignored due to paternalistic attitudes, but encouraging their participation in discussions is vital.”
“We are aged between 18-25 but we believe it’s important to listen to younger children too and to ask how they being included and listened too? We think ‘face to face’ conversations are the first step, but this is harder during Covid and many children do not have easy access to the internet exclusively.”
“I believe the cut off age for young people/ youth voice is around 25. This is because I think around this age you are less likely to be stigmatised due to your age.”
Q5. What advice would you give organisations wanting to embrace youth participation?
Q6. What will success look like for YPIL?
“Seeing the impact, youth participation being more visible, and their involved from start to finish – to see them in everything that an organisation does.”
“Success would also be tangible changes to practice – such as funders actively looking to see that projects are involving young people, or projects and organisations ‘saving spaces’ on boards for a young person, and giving them the support to do these roles well.”
“The feedback I would most like to hear at YPIL is from the young people who our work has impacted so that our work can be continually updated. It would also be good to hear from projects that have made changes, just so we can see the wider impact.”
“Greater reach – When young people are involved, projects become more vibrant and attract other young people.”
“Young people running a project – young people for young people.”
“When we address the disconnect between those ‘who run’ something and ‘those it’s for’. A disconnect – young people not being listened – is not healthy. Listening is good for an organisations health.”
Q7. Is there a role for the media in getting messages across?
Yes, there is! The media needs to highlight the great work young people are doing in all spaces.
Q8. What advice would you give to young people starting their youth voice journey?
“Find out what you care about and become part of any conversations going on in that space. Lots of the work I have been able to get involved in has been due to the connections that I have made in other projects. Once your name is out there, then you’ll then be able to make great changes.”
“When you are in a meeting having your say, remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question, for example ask about acronyms to be explained. Everyone assumes people know what they mean but there will be someone else in the room thinking, ‘actually Ive no idea either’, so ask.”
“Do not be scared to ask an awkward question. If you want to be involved in making change you can’t be scared ask about something that you are passionate about”.
“Don’t be afraid to speak up – I can’t be shy all the time because there a reason they wanted you to sit on that panel or group. Just being there and able to disagree can be enough to make a huge difference”.
“There is a huge difference between youth engagement and participation. Engaging young people doesn’t mean they are actually going to be heard. Young people might be engaged but still silent. Participation, if it is meaningful, is lot more about their involvement, being heard and acted upon. Young people need to be more than just being in the room – that’s tokenistic”.
Q9. Who have you been inspired by?
Each other – “Older young people can play a role is empowering those younger, such as children’s voice through mentorship, which is something YPIL recommends. I started my journey inspired by seeing older young people (18+) leading and organising.
Q10. What are the priorities for young people in a new normal world?
“I think the main priority is making sure young people are consulted before any policies are implemented. Just like everyone else – young people have competing priorities.”
“I would say employment is a huge priority though. The job market has always been particularly competitive but due to COVID it has been especially so. The Government need to push employers to recruit more young people during these challenging times.”
“Unrestricted funding please – giving it to orgs without set outcomes so that workers can focus and support a youthled [responsive] agenda include their needs e.g. mental health. Fund their hobbies too – because these have secondary outcomes like better health and well-being.”
“I hope that over the next few months we, as a society, review what works, what doesn’t, what’s helpful, what isn’t. We should work together and find a new normal that works for everyone, that is more inclusive of those with disabilities, minorities, the lonely, the elderly and the young. Because the new normal is an opportunity.”
“Believe that you can break through the barrier to speak to influential people [and be heard]. Just do it”
Q11. Last word or favourite quotes
“Your passion will guide you to your path” – Jemima
“We can’t solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them” – Kim
“Show me your friends and Ill show you your future” – Cain
“Youthvoice is so powerful yet so desirable,
In the actions of leaders, followers become believers
Become achievers, truth-seekers …
New decision-makers, rule-makers …
Creators, adventure makers, youth-leaders …
We are the next generation – make our voices be heard” These quotes are extracts from a poem by Dan
“People are so quick to dismiss young people, to say they are immature, or addicted to technology, but I want people to know that society is moving so fast, everything is changing, becoming modern and young people are the people of the future. We are so ready to learn and adapt to this new society. We are the voice you need, to be able to make this work, we are voice of the future – Rachel
“Our Voice is our Power”
Interviewer: James Cathcart Director Young Voices Heard
YVH works to promote greater youth voice in public life through mentoring, project development and interim management and support services to young people. Please get in touch to explore how to get started – we might be able to help. James