Final Reflections on Just One Question
In May 2020, the Centre for Youth Impact (now part of YMCA George Williams College) launched the #justonequestion survey as a mechanism to learn more about the challenges and needs of those supporting young people through the pandemic. Practitioners were invited to respond to one multiple-choice question each week, with themes initially focused on the impact of Covid-19 – for example, digital adaptation, reach and inclusion, and worker training and support. These themes expanded over time to cover a much broader range of topics, garnering 50 – 100 responses each week, and with 500 users registered to the platform since the survey launched.
In May 2021, one year after launch, the Centre joined with UK Youth to pilot the survey as a partnership, initially for three months before extending further, to deepen our learning and develop our shared approach to insight gathering.
At the end of May 2022 after two years and 100 questions, we hit pause on the pilot to do a review into what might be motivating and preventing practitioners from taking part. Whilst we had seen sustained engagement in the survey, our reach had not grown significantly over time. With reflection and continuous quality improvement at the heart of our work in the youth sector, it was and continues to be imperative that we model this in our own projects.
What have we learnt about sector-wide insight gathering?
Between 14 July and 9 August 2022, 84 respondents shared their views on Just One Question through a dedicated consultation survey. 46% of those respondents already participated in the weekly Just One Question survey, whilst 54% did not.
‘Learning more about the views of others’ and ‘being part of collaborative efforts to advocate for the sector’ were identified as key motivators across both groups. Being ‘supported with critical thinking and reflection’ was also a top motivator for those who already participated in the survey.
“[It is an] interesting opportunity to give a considered view on a current topic relating to my youth organisation - and see how my view compares.”
“I like the fact we can see the results. It's good to know I'm on the same wavelength as others in the sector.”
“It prompts me to consciously think about my practice at least once during the week.”
“It gives me a great moment of clear thought in an otherwise hectic week. I find it a helpful "pause."
However, ‘seeing no change’ was a top demotivator for both user groups, followed by ‘I'm too busy’ - two issues that we had already been reflecting on over the past year. There is a bit of a catch-22 situation with Just One Question, where limited reach means limited insights, which then makes it difficult to use those insights in any substantial way; for example, using data from insights to advocate for more support and resources, or generating stronger or more confident messages about findings. It is then tricky to demonstrate any change (as a result of the survey) that might further encourage more people to take part.
Both the Centre for Youth Impact and UK Youth have used the weekly insights to inform our own work, but the potential for change beyond that will continue to be limited whilst engagement remains relatively low. In addition, with the sector representing such a broad array of activities and provision for young people, it can be difficult to pose questions that feel relevant to everyone, again making ‘actionable insights’ a challenge.
“During a busy week, it isn't always easy to find the time to complete the questions and give myself the head space to reflect on the question. Then to really examine the answers from others.”
“Interesting, at times the questions are very relevant to my work...at other times less so.”
“Thanks for your work. It might be useful to focus more of the questions on the issues that we're supporting young people with - to evidence that we're working with young people on critical issues such as safeguarding, mental health issues, self-harm/suicidal ideation etc etc.”
“It would be great if you provided the answers in a format that is easy to copy across to newsletters / reports.”
Whilst the ‘something else’ free text box often elicited thoughtful and impassioned responses from participants, these comments often represented just one or two voices. With limited optional demographic data provided and a relatively small number of respondents, it would be disingenuous to interpret any responses from the wider survey as representative of the sector (or indeed any specific part of it), as opposed to a snapshot.
Next steps for Just One Question
With these reflections and learning in mind, we have decided with some sadness to close our work on Just One Question at the College. Whilst we value hugely the insights and perspectives provided by those who do take part, and the opportunity for partnership with UK Youth, we feel the limited reach and potential for 'change' from the current platform is a restricting factor. We still believe wholeheartedly in the power of collective insight, and in amplifying the voices and perspectives of youth practitioners and young people alike. Our new strategy at YMCA George Williams College will allow us to prioritise a number of other activities that should enable us to continue this work in other ways; for example: the Young Evaluators Panel, Practitioner Panel, and Regional Impact Networks. We will also continue developing our free-to-access support offer for high quality design, delivery, evaluation, and improvement, which provides opportunities to support practitioners with critical reflection embedded throughout.
We’re also keen to maintain a dialogue with UK Youth about the insights that have come from this work, and other work that we are moving forwards with together (more below!)
Past survey data and results will remain accessible from our website here. If you’re a registered user, we’ll also be in touch to confirm that we are deleting your data and to signpost you towards UK Youth’s new offer.
Celebrating a partnership
Although the College will be bringing its work on #justonequestion to a close, we want to celebrate our partnership with UK Youth, and extend heartfelt thanks to wonderful colleagues and partners, at both the College and UK Youth, who have put their time and effort into Just One Question over the past few years. The work has involved multiple different staff at both organisations coming together to try to understand and amplify the experiences and priorities of those working young people. We’d also like to thank everyone who took a moment to pause and respond to one – or many – Just One Question weekly surveys. Thank you.
We are also excited that UK Youth will continue to run an updated version of Just One Question. UK Youth will adapt the weekly survey model in line with the findings from the summer consultation. There will also greater emphasis on the project being youth worker led.
For more information about how to stay involved with the next phase, please get in touch with Somia Nasim, Head of Research and Knowledge Management at UK Youth (firstname.lastname@example.org).
It is not the first and it won’t be the last time that our two organisations work together; we will continue to learn about how we can each complement different areas of our collective work towards supporting young people, building the evidence base for high quality youth provision, and advocating for those who work within the sector. In the summer consultation, the majority of respondents saw the opportunity for critical thinking and reflection as a key motivator for participation. In many ways, this has also been a key feature of the partnership between UK Youth and the College, and will continue in our work on the Healthy Data Ecosystems project, Back Youth Alliance, and Cost of Living response work.