If you want your organisation to reach young people and engage with them effectively then there’s no one better to tell you how to do it than the young people themselves.
We were really excited when The Felix Project asked us to investigate why levels of young volunteers at their charity are low compared to the adult numbers. It was a perfect brief for us to run as a work experience project with a group of young people leading the research and analysis stages.
In collaboration with Linda Jackson, who is an experienced research and evaluation consultant at The LOOM and with funding from Mission 44, we ran a week long work experience project with a group of 10 young people from underserved communities to find out what the barriers are amongst young people like them and how to break them down.
Photo: The We Rise research team at The Felix Project’s Poplar warehouse with our clients: Maddy, Charlotte, Alice and Lucy
The Felix project is an ambitious and important London food charity that re-distributes surplus food across London in order to reduce food waste and food poverty. They rely on volunteers but struggle to fill their roles with young people even though many schools and youth organisations benefit from their food packages and Felix Kitchen meals. They want to develop a strategy to engage with young people from underserved backgrounds through their volunteering programme. They know there is a significant double benefit to involving young people as they make a significant contribution to their work and operations whilst also developing their own skills, confidence and networks through the volunteering experience.
Photo: The team with Cath from IPSOS
How we did it.
We recruited our young team of: Alex, Robert, Rosemarie, Jinan, Rose-Anne, Ebun, Akshaya, Angela, Ayoub and Savannah, through our strong school connections. Firstly they met our client The Felix Project at one of their food distribution warehouses in Poplar and got to see how they run their operation. This allowed our team to really understand their brief and the problems they were tasked with solving.
With the support of our long term research project partners, Ipsos the team then mapped out the key market research questions they needed to be included in their focus group script:
- What is the current awareness of volunteering jobs amongst young people?
- Have they ever done it and if so what were their experiences, both positive and negative?
- If they haven’t done it then why not?
- What would make them more likely to take up the roles?
They then created focus group scripts which they ran with 6 small groups of other young people from their schools and local youth organisations. Even at this early stage of the project the team gained valuable team working and confidence building skills through the discussions they had with the client and the work they did together to create the scripts.
Working with students from various different schools meant we had a ready made pool of young people at their schools to run the focus groups with. Through experience we have realised that letting them personally contact the relevant teacher to arrange the focus group as part of their work experience and setting them up within a restricted period of time straight after they have created the scripts gets the best results.
Through the analysis of the focus group responses they were able to present a report to our client with the reasons why young people aren’t volunteering and what would encourage them to do so. They were also able to help The Felix Project start to create an action plan to increase the engagement of young people in the roles they have available.
Photos: Focus group tool kit and focus group facilitation training with Cath from IPSOS
What our Client gained
The added value for the Felix Project in engaging young people in the research process rather than just going to a research consultancy was significant:
- They got effective research questions because they were designed by the target audience
- Reaching their target audience (young people) was easy
- The young people who ran the project would gained invaluable experience that they desperately needed.
Our team found that young people often didn’t hear about volunteering roles and when they did the lack of information about what they would be actually doing in the role put them off applying for it. Other significant barriers were the other pressures such as school work and paid jobs that young people have.
However they appreciated that they could gain valuable experience by volunteering that would help their personal development as well as the value of making a difference by helping others. The social aspects of volunteering and the sense of accomplishment they would gain were draws and being told the actual impact of what they had done was really important.
When asked: “Would you like to do more volunteering or social action in the future?”
The majority said yes, with an emphasis on:
- skill development,
- witnessing a direct change to know their efforts are not going to waste, and
- school-related reasons – personal statements, Duke of Edinburgh, NCS.
“I’d be more encouraged if they’d make it grouped so I’m not intimidated by myself.” Student, Bacon’s College
Working with the young team directly and hearing their reactions to what The Felix Project does and how they do it helped bring home the value in our Client’s aim to increase their young volunteer numbers.
‘I loved going to the warehouse and exploring how The Felix Project works.’
‘The importance of youth getting involved in social action is it improves confidence and connects you with your community.’ – Alex, research team member.
‘It amplifies voices and creates life long advocates.’ – Savannah, research team member.
‘I think this project will have a very positive impact on young people as they are more likely to feel inspired and empowered to take part after seeing other young people representing them.’ – Ayoub, research team member.
What the young team gained
Our projects are designed to up-skill young people by supporting them as they take part in real work experiences they might not otherwise feel confident enough to join. It was fantastic to hear directly from Angela about the impact that this project has had on her:
‘I only came along as I was with friends. I’ve been able to stand in front of people and give ideas. It felt OK. I have felt more comfortable over the week as I have got used to it. I would be more likely to do a new opportunity without friends in future.’
The connection that the team now have with our client was great to see blossoming:
‘I really wanted to see how The Felix Project worked and how they help people with food, so coming here and seeing what it was about helped me understand what they do.’
Photo: the team analysing the focus group responses with support from Kumaran of IPSOS