Natasha De-Freitas, London Youth


Describe your role

London Youth is a vibrant network of around 400 youth clubs and community organisations in London. The Youth Action team encourages young people to design, lead and learn from running their own projects. I work primarily on our Youth Leadership scheme, which trains and supports young people to run sessions with their peers and I also manage our new programme; Athan 31 – My Team, My Club, My Community. This project aims to build a culture of youth action in our youth clubs and ensure that they are places where young people can take on leadership roles and feel trusted to make decisions with their peer group, in their youth club and their community. I also co-chair the Young Londoners Participation Network, supporting the development of around 1,000 participation workers across the capital.

What makes a good participation worker?

Someone who dreams big, is always up for learning new things, open to doing things in a different way and who is great at spotting opportunities that will help the young people they work with progress. For me, finding and encouraging progression routes is the difference between a good participation worker and a great one. Also someone who is able to encourage and nurture a young persons confidence and self esteem, but also challenge them when appropriate.

What are the barriers to involving children and young people?

It takes time and resources to ensure that young people are able to get involved, especially to do this meaningfully, and to work beyond what we call the ‘usual suspects’ – the young people who will self-select themselves to participate. There is a concern that this means that in times when resources are being squeezed, participation projects will become less of a priority – but thankfully it seems that participation workers seem to be rising to the challenge and becoming more creative!

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

For participation to work effectively, it has to be a whole organisation approach – people at every level of the organisation need to see and support the value of young people getting involved and making decisions. It might sound simplistic, but sending out a regular bulletin to let people know what’s been happening with the group, and inviting people from the organisation to meetings, socials, events and projects are a great way to build relationships and trust on both sides.

What is effective participation?

For me, effective participation is when young people feel themselves that they have been able to make a meaningful difference. For an organisation, it is when young people are integrated into all aspects of decision making and take on strong leadership roles within the organisation.

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