Trudy Shephard, Young Lives Cambridgeshire

Describe your role:

As Young Lives is a support / infrastructure organisation my main role is to broker the participation of children and young people into positive enterprise being undertaken by member groups and external partners on behalf of children, young people and their families. This can include such ventures as the design and commissioning and evaluation and monitoring of services for children and young people, engaging in social research interests or the administration of funding. In addition, I work with a variety of youth action groups to facilitate supported events such as our hugely popular Young Cambridgeshire’s Got Talent or opportunities under Takeover Day.

What makes a good participation worker?

A good participation worker is someone who is able to think and act creatively and yet who can remain flexible to the often unpredictable world of young people; who has a good network of contacts and who is keen to introduce and facilitate participative opportunities; a good communicator and an effective listener with good observational skills and a slightly maverick personality; the confidence to champion participation and challenge as appropriate and in short they need to genuinely uphold the inclusion of children and young people to re-educate partners, by marketing children and young people as being indispensible as any other stakeholder.

What are the barriers to involving children and young people?

The greatest barrier appears to arise from the misunderstanding between stakeholders (children,  young people and adults) that may be borne from each others social conditioning, past experience and /or obligations and often requires a third party, similar to an interpreter, to facilitate dialogue and understanding during a partnership’s formative stages.

What are the benefits?

It is both a privilege and a rewarding experience to work with children and young people because they bring their honesty to the proceedings which is invaluable. Whilst as adults we are often constrained, children and young people have an antenna for substance and can prioritise immediately, removing the convolution that seems so important to us. They can challenge, make demands and disengage but they also demonstrate tolerance, heightened social awareness and clarity of thought. The result is an experience that is always unique, sincere and powerful.

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

Identify and resolve any barriers early to maximise mutual understanding, remain transparent throughout the life of the partnership, uphold integrity, don’t make promises and demonstrate change.

What is effective participation?

Effective participation is the genuine and open partnership between adults and children and young people who work together to identify, inform and influence change.

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