PRACTICE GUIDE – You want to engage young people? Just talk to us!

Shae, Britney, Pamula, Brian, Diogo and Amy with Evelyn Grace Youth Council after their workshop. This is an example of an instagram post they created with a campaign slogan and hashtags.
Shae, Britney, Pamula, Brian, Diogo and Amy with Evelyn Grace Youth Council after their workshop. This is an example of an instagram post they created with a campaign slogan and hashtags.

Last week we worked with sixteen young people to for a client whose brief was to “create a social media campaign to engage young people”.

Too often as adults we fall into the trap of stereotyping young people. We think, “young people are always on their phones so if we want to engage them we need to speak to them via social media.”

We couldn’t be more wrong! 

Our young team were excited about the project and the chance to have their say and they came up with great ideas to get young people involved in challenges and through street based activities. They saw that building personal connections was the key so workshops were always part of the mix. But when they took their ideas out to test them – at Lambeth College and with the School Council at Evelyn Grace – the message came back loud and clear. 

“We’d like to be involved but if you want to engage come and talk to us face to face.” 

They want a chance to understand the project and talk about the things that matter to them through workshops, debates and focus groups. So engagement needs to start with face to face conversations.

On day one the team brainstormed ideas about how to engage young people. The key message was to make them feel involved by building personal connections.
On day one the team brainstormed ideas about how to engage young people. The key message was to make them feel involved by building personal connections.

Social media is a given. It is a platform for information and engagement with things that young people feel a relationships with. But in itself it doesn’t build a relationship. It cannot replace old fashioned human talking. Stories and posts should support face to face activities – advertising them, sharing what happens at them and providing additional ways of getting involved. 

Engagement and understanding is built in person. 

The message from our team and the young person they spoke to echoes the findings of the recent Lambeth youth violence survey of 500 young people. 60% want more events and activities to consult, discuss ideas and create solutions.

Young people want to lead change

The young people we have worked with have been incredible  – passionate, talented, driven. These are their streets and this is their future – so they really care.

Our year 12 students were brilliant at engaging their peers and children younger than them. They built trust and elicited honest discussion and constructive feedback.

The second really important message from our team was that they want the engagement to be youth led. They want to lead the workshops. They want to design the activities. They want to create social media. 

The team brainstorming their ideas. They want to lead change in their community. Thanks to Squires for letting us use their space.
The team brainstorming their ideas. They want to lead change in their community. Thanks to Squires for letting us use their space.

This is a big challenge for us as adults and for our clients. Are we really prepared to give young people the responsibility lead?

I’d say we haven’t done so amazingly well with the adults in charge.

What we love about working with young people is that they come up with things we weren’t expecting – and they are usually better!

Maybe it is time to do something different and genuinely empower our young people.  

If we do, the results could be spectacular.

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