Asher Jacobsberg, Involver

Asher JacobsbergDescribe your role

Greg and I set up involver together to help get every young person 'doing democracy'. By this we mean being part of identifying issues in their communities, coming up with solutions, helping make them happen and evaluating them.

Day to day we share the work pretty equally between the two of us, but I spend a lot of time writing new training materials and guides, building our websites and the design side of things.

What makes a good participation worker?

Often being a good participation worker is about being able to say to the organisation you're working with, 'No, that's not participation, that's just pandering/consultation/irrelevant to the group. To really get people involved we should …'.

Part of your job is to shield young people from disheartening, off-putting pseudo-participation and to shield the organisation from the terrible outputs (alongside the undeserved sense of righteousness) of pseudo-participation. Being able to do that makes you great, being able to do that and keep your job/keep winning contracts makes you amazing. 

What are the barriers to involving children and young people?

One of the major barriers is past experience. Most of us (both adults and young people) squirm at the mention of the word 'consultation', not because we don't want to be listened to or involved, but because our past experience tells us it's a waste of time. So to overcome this one of the first things we need to do is show how we are going beyond consultation: how we will actually involve children and young people in design, delivery and evaluation.

What are the benefits?

For me, the essential benefit of young people's participation is the learning that comes out of it. Even if there is a no positive effect on the quality or economy of the service, the learning will be worth it. It is invaluable for young people to see that community is not something that happens to them or around them but is something they are involved in creating. For them to develop the understanding, desire and skills to positively contribute to their communities is priceless.

What tips do you have for effective participation of children and young people?

Think about the learning as your very first step. What do you want the adults involved to learn by their participation? What do you want the children and young people involved to learn by their participation? What do you want anyone else to learn? How well you achieve this should be your success criteria. The changes to your community/organisation/project are subsidiary benefits.

What is effective participation?

Effective participation is about the process and the learning that comes out of it. A project may fail but still have had effective participation (people have learned positive lessons from it). A project can be a great success but the participation may have been poor (people have learned that you are not really interested in listening to them).

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