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How to engage with young people in your community

Fair Share Trust Local Agents and their funded projects have used a wide range of activities and models to engage with young people. This how-to looks at some of these alternative ways of reaching young people, and – more importantly – how to keep them engaged.

1

Trusted Support

Following the participation of a group of young people in the Tall Ships Challenge in Scotland, the group were invited to present to the Fair Share Trust local panel on their experiences. For many of the young people involved, this was the first time they had been asked to present to a group of strangers and they felt nervous taking part. The Scottish Community Foundation therefore arranged for them to be supported by the Development Worker who had accompanied them on the trip. After some initial shyness, the group really opened up about their experience and ended up engaging wholeheartedly with questions raised by the panel. The extra confidence gained by the group through this experience was thanks in large part to the extra support given by the Development Worker who had already built up a relationship of trust.

2

Involve the whole family

This is not always the easiest thing to do, but a number of Local Agents report some great success stories that come through family involvement. For example, projects in Barking & Dagenham and Knowsley Fair Share Trust areas both identified concerns with young people’s eating habits. Working with the young people to build up their trust, and providing clear but low pressure guidance on healthy eating, both projects were able to interest the young people in finding out more. The crucial family involvement came through the projects communicating their successes with the families, involving a parent in one of the sessions, and sending home reward charts and lists of healthy foods that the child had tried in the second case.

Food plays an important but often emotive role in young peoples’ lives, but in the examples above, the projects were able to report back on improved health & confidence, greater interaction, changing habits, and even a positive impact on the health of those around the young people as their families also heeded the advice.

3

Spread the word

Direct advertising can be ineffective when it comes to attracting young people, but a number of Local Agents report greater success through partnership referrals. For example in Rotherham, a project team has been given an ongoing remit to attend local events and groups to ensure word spreads as widely as possible, and through this networking, service providers such as schools, GPs and Police Community Support Officers have been making referrals to the project.

4

Alternatives to youth groups

In Rochdale, Fair Share Trust funds were used to develop a games facility in an area where anti-social behaviour and low level crime were ongoing issues. The facilities were designed with young people in mind – with floodlighting offering safe accessibility until 10pm and free and open access encouraging community ownership and discouraging vandalism and graffiti. Both youth and adult groups are free to organise their own activities using the area, if they are keen to do so outside the format of a youth group or team. The facility is well used, and local youth services use them as a regular contact point with those young people who choose not to attend an established youth group or project.

Providing an open and accessible facility for the whole community is a great way of avoiding patronising young people, making assumptions about their wants and needs, and treating them differently.

5

Flexible hours of engagement

A project funded through Fair Share Trust by the Tyne & Wear and Northumberland Community Foundation was commissioned to increase young peoples’ participation in activities in the area. The project targets groups of young people who are not interested in attending local youth clubs and works with them to organise projects that they are interested in such as trips, BBQs and in one group’s case, a newsletter called ‘street talk’. This is a flexible project that responds to what young people want to do. The demand for the project came direct from the community, who approached Fair Share Trust to do something for the young people seen to be causing trouble in certain ‘hotspots’. Fair Share Trust does support organised youth clubs in the area, but equally recognises that while not all young people are interested in this, they still deserve their share of support.

At the end of the first year of the project, the workers recognised that session hours had to change in response to the young peoples’ patterns. The issue of young people starting to drink in the afternoon on the street was identified, resulting in it becoming difficult to engage the young people later in the evening. To address this, the team changed its hours to go out earlier and on Saturday afternoons.

6

Learing can be transferable

Don’t forget that learning from your work with young people can be transferred into work with the wider community. This was discovered by North West LCF with a project in Brent. This project challenged 13-18 year olds to make items for sale, find a place to set up a stall and charge a market price for their products, and was a unique project as it offered evening provision for young people as an alternative to music or sports. Despite initial reservation from some local businesses, participants secured a stall from which to sell their product and “We sold the things and actually made some money!”

Once the project was successfully underway, the Local Agent realised that it fitted within their developing emphasis on social enterprise, training, education and employment and it was important skill for people who are long term unemployed or struggling to enter/re-enter the labour market. The model of entrepreneurship developed in this project would be transferrable to other areas. The Local Agent is now keen to build on this project as they develop plans to support residents of all ages into employment and enterprise. What a reward for the young people involved in the initial project – to see their hard work being showcased as a pilot to lead to change across the whole community!

Further information

So Remember:

  • Offer a wide range of activities – something for everyone!
  • Involve families – if possible/appropriate.
  • Involve young people in planning processes … and then listen!
  • Involve young people in feeding back to their peers.
  • Promote through word of mouth & referrals.
  • Show off successes – award achievement, and trial projects with other sections of the community.
  • Assess needs on an ongoing basis – don’t forget that young peoples’ needs change over time!
  • Work in partnership with other agencies.
  • Be aware of the young person’s support needs.
  • Create space for older teens to move on to, to ensure experience remains relevant.

Contributors

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