Mike O'Donovan - Y Care International

Mike O'DonovanDescribe your role
I support youth workers to bring a global dimension to their work with young people in YMCAs and other youth work organisations across the UK. A large part of this is administering a grant programme but it also involves delivering training, managing an online network (yciyouthworkersnetwork.org), signposting to resources and organising youth events.

What makes a good participation worker?
Someone who first-and-foremost genuinely believes that young people’s interests and concerns should drive their work. This doesn’t mean that you will be able to do everything young people ask but this belief will definitely shine through to your work with young people.

What are the barriers to involving children and young people?
In the current economic climate involving children and young people can often be seen as an additional “extra”. Bringing young people to meetings or taking time to induct or train young people in your organisation’s processes are both costly. However, the cost of not involving young people is in my opinion much greater…

What are the benefits?
If your work or project is driven by young people they are more likely to “own” the process, set targets that are equally realistic and challenging for them. From a practical point of view young people are also more likely to turn up to a session on a freezing cold Tuesday in November if they feel it is something that is “theirs”.

What tips do you have for effective participation of children and young people?
Being clear about expectations around things like time, capacity and commitment – sometimes what we expect from young people is not always fair and other times this is true of their expectations of us! Managing and negotiating expectations is therefore very important. Being clear about what you can support young people to do, and giving explanations where you can’t, will help develop trust and hopefully be a reference point for if things go off-track.

What is effective participation?
Effective participation is a little bit of an intangible. The test could be whether the young people themselves feel their participation in a project or piece of work is effective. In essence though, effective participation is about young people having opportunities to contribute, not just to a project but to an organisation and wider society.

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