David Curtis, National Children's Bureau

Describe your role
I am the Young NCB and Participation projects manager. I assist and support the development of National Children's Bureau’s (NCB) work and profile with regard to children and young people’s participation both in NCB and with other agencies nationally. My role also includes actively liaising and working with children and young people to ensure that NCB activity is influenced by their views and experiences and, wherever possible, includes them in the delivery of our work. An example of this would be my current management of the Participation Works young people’s advisory group, called PW's EAR (Engaging, Advising, Representing). This group liases, supports and influences the work of the Participation works Consortium and Participation Works.

What makes a good participation worker?
There are many angles to which this could be approached and the skills required of participation workers I feel just seem to be growing and growing.  However, for me, a crucial part of being a good participation worker (apart from being very good at direct engagement) is having the ability to be an effective communication vehicle and advocate for children and young people when they cannot, or are not allowed to, convey their views and messages themselves.

What are the barriers to involving children and young people?
Barriers to involvement vary a lot and to be honest I think it is best for me to say how I approach things. I try to foresee potential barriers relevant to what it is I am trying to accomplish and achieve. Then I find and work on the solution or means to overcome them. But, if you really want to quote me, I have always found the biggest barriers to participation are generally the limits we in the adult world set, individually, organisationally and nationally.

What are the benefits?
This question is very broad; my initial response is benefits to whom? You, me, my organisation, the young person, the government, the local community, the region, the project and so on. Anyway, I feel anything that relates to a child or young person needs to be having their voices and views soaked throughout it. The benefit of this is that children and young people tend to challenge you more effectively than others, question your decisions, choices, pose things that a lot of adults might not have considered or thought about. So for me, they get you to think about things more and question yourself, which is only a good thing.   

What tips do you have for effective participation of children and young people?
Do not approach the participation of children and young people with thoughts of how they can fit into your existing structures, systems and environment. Rather think of what changes are required of you and your organisation to have them engaging and influencing what you do effectively.

What is effective participation?
My quick answer, though I could write a book, is that the effective participation of children and young people works best when people begin to realise that it is the collective responsibility of all and not just those with participation in their titles.  The participation of children and young people has to be embedded in and part of the culture of what we do and want to achieve for it to be successful. This generally requires the willingness to change the way we work, think and approach the participation of children and young people.

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