On Friday 18th October 2019 we published our “Growing a stronger youth council” report. This is a summary of our approach during the engagement activities that our report was based on.
Our principles and approach
Our approach to engagement was based around these key principles and ways of working for Democracy in Kirklees:
Everything starts with the citizen
We wanted to put our young citizens at the heart of this work. We achieved this by creating and supporting the Young Commissioner role, and by working closely with our wider team of youth councillors who helped us to design activities for children and young people, led our 10th anniversary event and shared their own experiences.
Working in the open
As we designed our activities and gathered evidence, we shared our experiences live online wherever possible, via @kirkdemocracy on twitter. We also used a range of online tools and platforms to promote our activities throughout the year.
We gathered a huge amount of evidence to help our young citizens decide what should happen next. We used a range of different approaches to do this, choosing the right method for each circumstance.
Working in partnership
We want our youth council to be useful and relevant for young citizens across Kirklees, so it was important that we involved lots of organisations and individuals who work with young people. Working in partnership also helps us to be clearer about our overall offer for young citizens in Kirklees, and to create clear pathways for involving young people in local democracy and active citizenship.
The Kirklees Youth Survey
Kirklees Council officers worked with a group of Kirklees Youth Councillors to develop the Kirklees Youth Survey. The aim was to gather broad insight from children and young people across Kirklees, so the survey had to be suitable for any young person.
We gathered ideas from our young citizens about what questions to ask, and worked with them to gradually refine these into a concise survey that they thought would work best. Our young citizens chose the age range, the title for the survey, what data to collect, and how we would share it with schools and with young people directly.
We tested the survey with groups of young people who had no prior knowledge or experience of Kirklees Youth Council. Our youth councillors and Young Commissioners then helped to engage their peers in completing the survey. We also contacted schools directly and shared the survey with many other organisations.
Our engagement activities
Our evidence gathering sessions with children and young people have involved a range of different engagement methods including self-guided group discussion, role play, scenarios, support from ward councillors and local democratic education. We captured insights and ideas at each session, and some groups also completed a paper copy of our survey.
Our 10th anniversary celebration event was hosted by Kirklees Youth Councillors. We heard some personal experiences of being a member of Kirklees Youth Council. We designed a series of workshops to follow the themes in our survey. We captured ideas and insights from children, young people, councillors, teachers, parents and community organisations.
Youth councillors had self-guided group discussions, answered questions provided for them, took part in workshops and shared their views on video.
Other activities included asking a key question of participants at two busy Calderdale and Kirklees Careers apprenticeship events, gathering ideas from young employees of Kirklees Council, and encouraging young people at a Duke of Edinburgh Award Ceremony to participate.
Some of the Youth Councils from across the UK kindly responded to our email invitation to help us grow a stronger youth council. They answered five questions which covered what kind of format they have adopted and what works well, how they have influenced a local decision, how they encourage local democratic education with their members and other young people, and anything else they wanted to tell us that could help us to plan for the future.
We received written responses from all the local political group leaders in Kirklees (including the Leader of Kirklees Council) to these four questions:
- Can you share examples of good practice in terms of connecting with young people in Schools? What works and what doesn’t?
- What can Councillors do to encourage schools to introduce young people to our local democracy?
- How can young people be a meaningful part of the Councillor decision making processes?
- What can you do to help grow our youth council?
We also received responses from parents and carers, and a written contribution from Jonathan Stephen, President of the University of Huddersfield Students’ Union (2018 to 2019) on behalf of Educating Kirklees.