Youth Voice Steering Group
Kate Elswood talks about the Youth Voice Steering Group and getting young people's views heard on government policy.
In early March, along with seven other young people, I attended the first residential meeting for the Youth Voice Steering Group. We are a group of young people from across the UK and together, we aim to create and use innovative digital solutions to get young people’s voices heard on government policy. The weekend-long event was held in Peterborough and brought us together with the British Youth Council, The Mix, Policy Lab, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the North Youth Work Unit.
At the start of the weekend, we learnt about policy development and the challenges policymakers face. Policymaking is when the government makes big decisions about things like climate change, school curriculum, and how our transport systems run. We learnt that developing policy is a complex process that doesn’t always go to plan or follow a straightforward path. There are a variety of people involved, from new policymakers to more senior figures, who have a range of different interests and objectives. It was useful for us to understand this because we want to ensure our tool is helpful to policymakers, as well as being accessible to young people.
After looking at the perspective of policymakers, we then considered young peoples’ point of view. For young people to influence policy, they will need to respond to the consultation stage of policymaking where the government asks for views from stakeholders (people who will be affected by the policy).
We want our digital solutions to be accessible to a diverse range of young people. This will ensure the views put forward at consultation stage are representative of the people affected by specific policies. We agreed that to achieve this, we need to ensure our digital solutions are engaging and that we need to create a safe space, where young people feel they can share their opinions. We talked about how some people may be reluctant to get involved in policy making, despite politics affecting everyone. Therefore, we need to create a platform where anyone can easily share their views on the things they care about.
Next, we split into three groups, to develop three different digital solutions. Each group had to present their solution back to the rest of the group in a Dragon’s Den-style pitch. The panel was made up of people we had worked with from the various organisations facilitating the weekend. They asked questions relating to their areas of expertise and about how our digital solutions would work in practice. I enjoyed hearing more about everyone’s creative ideas. The digital solutions we put forward were:
Youth Voice Across (YVA)
A mobile gaming app in which users play a young person making their way in the world of politics, aiming to get promoted to Prime Minister. During the game, they will learn more about politics. They can also answer consultation questions and be invited to attend youth voice events. The more the user engages with these elements, the more points they get. These points can be used to improve the ranking of the character in the game, buy themselves accessories, or gain discounts to shops in the real world.
A website where young people can make a profile and choose subjects they’re interested in. They will then be asked questions relating to relevant, real-life consultations, gaining points on their profile for engagement. They will also be told the results of the consultations they have been involved in. As well as this, there will be a space on the website to blog and share opinions.
A new way of using social media in policy development. This involves asking straightforward questions using Instagram stories and other kinds of polls on social media. This gives the policymaker a chance to check the progress throughout the consultation period. The responses will be passed on to volunteers to manage, giving even more opportunity for youth involvement. This idea was even tested and got a lot of responses from young people!
Before the event, none of the young people in the Youth Voice Steering Group had met before. But by the end, we felt like a strong unit. Between workshops, we did a lot of silly icebreakers, which somehow resulted in us all acting like animals and making ourselves look a bit crazy in the process! We also managed to fit in a couple of activities away from the hotel where we were based for the weekend. Some of us went to see Peterborough Cathedral and we all went for a meal together. This was a good opportunity for us to talk and find out more about each other. I really enjoyed getting to know the group. We had all been put forward by various youth networks because we had previous experience in advocating for youth voice. This meant there were a lot of enthusiastic and motivated people in the room.
At the end of the residential event, I was tired from the fast-paced weekend but very proud of what we had achieved so far and excited to see what the rest of the project would bring. Since the meeting, the three prototypes have been developed and it’s amazing to see our ideas taking shape. We are now looking forward to welcoming more young people to the Youth Voice Steering Group as our work continues.
Now, it’s your turn to get involved. If you’re a young person aged 10-25, please take the surveys below to feedback on our prototypes.
Published on 26-Apr-2019
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