Lucy Williams, National Children's Bureau

Describe your role
I project manage the Young Children's Voices Network (YCVN), a national pilot programme which supports local authorities in extending and embedding good practice in listening to young children within early years settings and developing structures for young children's views to be taken into account in the planning and delivery of services.  I help local authorities to set up their local networks, provide guidance and co-ordinate training and networking opportunities.

What makes a good participation worker? 
YCVN offers training to early years practitioners to develop and reflect on participation skills they use with young children in their daily work. A key quality for good participation is the ability to listen fully (to the many ways children communicate, particularly young children and children with disabilities who may express themselves more powerfully through movement and other non-verbal means).  Listening fully also means being responsive and reflective.

What are the barriers? 
One of the key barriers can be the expectations we, as a society, have around children and young people.  Particularly in regards to young children where there can be the assumption that under 5s are too young to hold views or unable to communicate them.  Practitioners are challenging this attitudinal barrier by facilitating young children's voices to be heard and involving them in decision making which acknowledges young children's capabilities.  If you would like to find out more about case studies and examples of this please get in touch.

What are the benefits? 
The most important benefit is the nurturing of self esteem and building of positive self image - it is crucial to have thoughts and feelings acknowledged and responded to and participation can offer that experience which is not always prioritised and for some children entirely denied. Not only are there many other benefits to the child in relation to learning (decision making, negotiation, etc) but also their contribution of views and idea can be invaluable in inform positive change within services and the broader community.

What tips do you have for effective participation? 
I have found that the Listening Cycle Model is a good easy-to-remember reminder of what effective participation is all about - requiring 5 broad elements to make it work - listen, record, reflect, take action and give feedback.  It’s useful to refer to this when planning participatory activities and for evaluation as sometimes key steps can be overlooked or missed out.

What is effective participation? 
Effective participation is the building of positive interactions and in the longer-term positive relationships.  It requires persistence and an acceptance of any communication challenges as part and parcel of the process, which, through creative ways, joint problem solving and negotiation, can be overcome.

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