The Quality Mark project was launched in early 2020 as part of Young Voices Heard (YVH) response to the #iwill campaigns PowerofYouth challenge – seeing, hearing, signposting and sharing quality “youthvoice and leadership” starting with research and ending with a new Quality Mark scheme [See Article on YVH Quality Mark] 2/20

The thinking around this started in 2017 when YVH was established to promote and support quality youth participation. Although there are some good practice guides and self-assessment tools, they are not widely used, or applicable to all sectors, or available in all parts of the UK, and there was not one signpost and pathway for young people and stakeholders to follow that would identify what level of participation is taking place, at what level, and what the impact is.

The challenges: How can organisations be more transparent about what they are doing to empower young people’s participation that also shows what they have achieved? How can a quality mark be independent and credible, involving a degree of scrutiny, not just self-assessment? How can young people be at the heart of that verification process? How can a quality mark instantly show young people and stakeholders the level of participation, signposting of opportunities and report impact? When an organisation claims it is “youth-led” or “young people are at the heart of everything we do” or “we have young people on our board” – what do these statements actually mean or are they ‘window-dressing’ that no one checks? (Harts Ladder)

Whilst we are developing and sharing these ideas, Young Voices Heard will continue to offer an audit and assessment process that benchmarks good practice to our own framework of quality standards which is benchmarked to existing good practice, bespoke to the individual organisations needs but references this projects work.

This project is in three parts: Research and Development, Rollout and Sustainability. The project has started with researching the views of young people (with the support of the #iwill ambassadors programme but is currently (May – July 2020) talking with other groups and potential supporters.

    • Research and Open Space: Inviting and providing space for young people to propose and prioritise standards for meaningful youth voice and participation, and to share examples good practice.
  1. 1. Consultation Notes from Workshop 25/3/20

2.  Quotes from One2 One interviews with young leaders:

“If you were visiting or assessing an organisations youth voice friendliness – what would you be looking for, for example, to rate them a five star service?

“Whether or not Projects/Programmes were co-designed with young people. H.T. May 2020

That Young people aren’t just asked their views, but that young people shape what the programme is from day one”. H.T.

“There is a clear ‘Feedback loop’. If young people provide a service/advice to an organisation, they should find out what happens as a result of them giving their time.” H.T. 

“The first thing I always look for is – how many young people are involved in the management of the organisation. Are there young people on the team? Is there a youth advisory board? Are there young trustees? If not, why not. For an organisation to be trulyyouth friendly’, young people should be having an influence within it its internal structures. The only way you can ensure that the interests of young people are being addressed, is if you invite them into the boardroom and ask them first-hand. Don’t see them as a problem, see them as a solution”. D.L. June 2020

I think that the key to successful youth engagement is that young people are engaged throughout the entire process. For example, young people should not just be brought in at the end of a piece of work done internally to give it a ‘youth approved’ stamp, but instead should be involved in designing it from the beginning, have equal sign-off, and clearly know what the next steps are. Co-creation and the handover of power is absolutely essential. K.L. June 2020

3.  Draft model emerging for consultation – questions?

1/ Should organisations have: a QM logo which is also a link to its policy and practice / or: a star rating system reflecting a set of five basic levels of participation?

2/ Could and should organisations be included in a Directory that lists participation levels (like 1.) – e.g. number of young trustees, impact report, policy, participation in decision-making, design, recruitment? It would read like a directory of hotels – with symbols matching each of a set of levels – eg : “Has Trustees on Board”

3/ How can young people participate in the process of determining quality – e.g. either by setting and reviewing the national standards in 1. and 2. ; setting which are a priority.

4/ Should young people be the inspectors/visitors to assess organisations? Is this tokenism? How would we ensure consistency? Would they not be better overseeing the standards and sitting on the national panel that verifies the awards/signs off.?

5/ Could young people’s participation be the young people IN the organisation? For example – they sign off the evidence, they give first hand accounts. Could and should they be the ones that nominate the organisation to be entered in the registry?

6/ How can the “national signing off” be Independent? A panel – Who would sit on it?

7/ How can we ensure that a Quality Mark assessment system is sustainable, funded should it be and free to organisations to make sure the smallest are included? Who would pay the costs ?

If you would like to take part in the project either by contributing ideas or backing (we need research and development funding!) – please get in touch.

4. Rolling Draft Framework – for reference and ongoing update – send us your amends, comments..

This table is a provisional set of standards based on type and roles

We welcome young people’s input and older people’s questions, feedback and suggestions. If you would like to take part or offer your support (we need backers too!) please get in touch – email or complete the contact form.

5. Blog – Youth Participation in Organisations – 10 Steps to Good Practice Aug 2020

As part of our research at Young Voices Heard we are are making space for young people to inform and influence good practice standards and suggest their top tips to organisations planning, or improving their levels of youth voice and participation. In this post, James Cathcart reviews some of his favourites…  If you have more suggestions please either send us a ‘message’ or post as a  ‘reply’ through the links at the end of the article.

#YouthVoice in organisations: 10 steps to good practice

6. Youth Participation – Route Planner 2nd DRAFT July 2020

Youth Voice and Empowerment model

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