In this guide we talk about:
Youth Engagement - as projects which seek to work, and interact with young people in any form.
This might involve running a youth club or positive activity; providing information, advice and guidance to young people; or running an outreach project to raise awareness of an issue amongst young people.
and we talk about:
Youth Participation - as projects which seek to involve young people in influencing decision making.
These projects will often be concerned with the participation of children and young people in influencing service provision and organisational decisions, or in creating change in local communities.
This guide is specifically about the use of social media for youth engagement and youth participation in non-profit and statutory sector settings.
It does not address marketing to young people and the non-commercial Creative Commons licence under which this guide is published precludes any use in profit-making settings.
Young people have a right to be involved in the decisions that affect them. This is promoted in law, policy and guidance: the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Every Child Matters, the Children Act 2004, Youth Matters, Children’s Trusts guidance and guidance on inspections. An Introduction to Involving Children and Young People (NYA, 2009)
There are many different forms of youth participation - ranging from the one-off involvement of young people in giving feedback on services, through the involvement of young people as commissioners, grant-makers and members of governance structures.
You can picture many forms of youth participation on a continuum from one-off and unstructured opportunities for participation, through to more formal participation structures.
It is important that youth participation is meaningful - and that it involves a genuine opportunity for young people to influence decision making and bring about change. Meaningful participation is more than just consultation - where young people are asked their views - but adults retain all decision making power.
The different degrees to which participation involves adult power, or shared decision making between young people and adults can be shown on Hart’s ladder of participation - ranging from the manipulation of young people on the bottom rung - to young people and adults working in partnership on the top rung.
You can put the ladder of participation and the different forms of youth engagement together to get a matrix.
Using this matrix you can think about different exampless of youth participation that you know or that are taking place in your organisations (e.g. ‘youth parliament representatives’ or 'youth led grant-making') and you can place them in a column to represent the sort of participation method they use, and on a row to show how well you feel they are operating in practice as examples of meaningful participation.
This is a useful exercise both to think about improving the degree to which young people are being meaningfully involved in a participation opportunity - and for thinking about the spread of engagement and participation opportunities offered by your organisation.