Let’s talk about youth voice: why is it important?
As part of the Maximising Young People’s Voice and Power project, we have developed a typology of youth voice practice. This is to provide those working with and for young people with a standardised – a shared or common – way of describing the different activities that are encompassed under the umbrella of youth voice. This process has been supported by the project’s Youth Steering Group, who are feeding into key elements of the project and ensuring that young people’s voices are central to the insights and outputs generated.
Last month, we ran a session with the Steering Group to gather feedback on the typology, focusing specifically on language and definitions. This included coming up with a definition of youth voice that they were happy with. Together, we agreed that when we are talking about youth voice practice, we are referring to:
Providing support (i.e. the space, skills and time) for young people to express their views and ideas, and action being taken based on what they say. This practice will result in positive change, in the situation, context or organisation that the young person is sharing their views about (e.g. the services they or others receive), in the young person’s personal development, or both.
We also discussed what ‘good’ youth voice looks like, and why it is so important! Here's what the group had to say on the matter.
Why is it important?
Youth voice is important because it supports young people to have a positive impact and affect change in their communities. It can be a really empowering process, giving young people a sense of ownership withing their communities and society more broadly. Young people should be supported to take actions and make decisions themselves, not only through adult-led processes. The minimum threshold for this is consultation, and this can grow into young people developing and forming their own solutions to the problems they discuss.
Youth voice also plays a really important role in making sure organisations have a realistic and accurate understanding of young people’s views. This means organisations that work with young people are more likely to have a bigger impact. Young people are “experts by experience” and when adults can work collaboratively with young people this leads to the best solutions.
What does ‘good’ look like?
Good youth voice practice means that, as a young person, you feel like your views and opinions are genuinely considered and you are able to make a difference. It’s really important that young people feel that the time and effort they give is valued and worthwhile. The process should also provide a cycle of learning, for both young people and adults involved. It should create a feeling of being part of a community with the individuals or organisation young people are working with, as it provides a natural opportunity to form relationships – not simply contributing to a meeting agenda.
We think all organisations working with and for young people should invest time and resource in providing spaces for young people to express their views and ideas, and take action based on what is shared. This isn’t always as simple as it sounds, so we also encourage you to think about how you can incorporate this within the confines of your organisation, and work collaboratively with young people to establish what that looks like in practice.
You can read our Typology of Youth Voice here. We'd love to know what you think and how you might be incorporating the typology into your work, please get in touch with Jo Hickman Dunne to share your thoughts.