Ade Sofola, Citizenship Foundation

Describe your role Ade Sofola
I am the Director of the Citizenship Foundation's Youth Act project; a youth setting initiative aimed engaging young people in political processes through supporting their campaigns for community change. I am responsible for the development and management of the project in London and nationally.

What makes a good participation worker?
A good participation worker is someone who is passionate about working to empower and equip young people to participate in the decision making processes which will
affect their lives. It takes time, energy and commitment and, most importantly a flexible and relaxed attitude!

What are the barriers to involving children and young people?
The real barriers to involving children and young people are basically time and money. We have found that organisations often under-estimate the amount of time required to work with children and young people if they are to participate effectively. This time costs in terms of each worker’s time and the financial outlay involved in providing the range of resources required to fully engage the young people.

What are the benefits?
The creation of a strong, cohesive society is based on the foundation of the effective participation of young people. A culture of participation means that young people feel more involved and have a greater sense of ownership and belonging to society. For decision-makers, the value of their involvement often lies in new answers to old problems. Solutions are achieved because they are based on the real experiences of the people affected by those problems.

What tips do you have for effective participation of children and young people?
Effective participation of children and young people is the method, but our overriding aim should always be the engagement of the young people at the highest possible level of Hart’s ladder in any given situation. Participation is a word often casually used to describe the very lowest levels of engagement, tokenistic consultation or low level activities, but when this is the case the process can be frustrating for all: the young people, participation workers and decision-makers.

It is also really important that participation workers don’t use the same group of young people for all their participation work. Participation is about engaging a community not just creating a sub-committee of people to speak on their behalf!

What is effective participation?
Effective participation is rooted in the words of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
Article 12 states "parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child."

Effective participation is about talking and listening, expressing your own views and listening when others express theirs. It can mean working together for a solution or a course of action or taking advantage of opportunities on offer.

Participation Works is a partnership of…
British Youth CouncilChildren's Rights Alliance for EnglandKIDSNational Council for Voluntary Youth ServicesNational Youth AgencyNCB