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OPEN Youth Trust Providing opportunities that make a positive difference to the lives of young people in Norfolk. Youth Participation Strategy 2015-2020 Ben Burt November 2014


Introduction The OPEN Youth Trust was established in 2005 we have a proven track record of making an impact in children and young people lives using a variety of engagement methods. The Trust has always held the views of children, young people and their families at the very centre of what we do, this has included; the creation and refurbishment of OPEN, 20 Bank Plain, the current programme and projects as well as future wishes, ideas and developments. OPEN recognises that meaningful participation can be a significant challenge and this document sets out how the Trust intends to promote an environment and culture where participation is part of the organisations day-to-day operation. We are committed to providing all children, young people and their families with the opportunity to participate in decisions that affect their lives. They will have access to the services and support they need to give them opportunities to shape how these services, are planned, delivered and evaluated.

Contents Introduction The Meaning of Partcipation The Centre Our Commitment Communincate and Engage Create Opportunities Dialogue and Change Learn and Share The Benefits

02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10


Participation has always been central to the work of the OPEN Youth Trust. Participation literally means ‘taking part’. The term is now used to describe many different relationships and participation within an activity. For over 10 years we have put the voice of young people at the heart of what we do. This travels back to the very first stages of OPEN, when establishing what the they wanted from our central base in Norwich. This now includes young people being involved in all aspects of the organisation, including recruitment, evaluating services and planning new services. For children and young people this can range from them giving opinions on a particular issue, to choosing their own agenda and making their own decisions. Using Harts Ladder of Participation, our aim to enable children and young people to participate to their highest potential where possible. We recognise that different approaches are the best way to achieve this and depending on the circumstances and the outcomes being sought.

7. Young people lead & initiate action. 6. Adult-initiated, shared decisions with young people. 5. Young people consulted and informed. 4. Young people assigned and informed. 3. Young people tokenized. 2. Young people are decoration. 1. Young people are manipluted.

Harts Ladder of Participation.

Degrees of Participation

8. Young people & adults share decisionmaking.

Non - Participation

The Meaning of Participation


The Centre

It’s so important to involve children and young people in what you do.

There are so many ways you can work with children and young people. You can use social media, talk face-to-face, create art, play sport, hold meetings, set up steering groups and provide volunteering. Sometimes using simple methods works really well but it’s always good to try new things and get young people to come up with fun, useful ways to involve them. So many decisions get made for children and young people without us having a chance to be asked. So when you do have a chance to involve us, you should!

After all, those decisions and actions could affect our lives. Ryan, Young Ambassador, OPEN Youth Trust

OPEN’s Youth Participation Strategy makes clear our commitment to the participation and involvement of children and young people in all that we do. It describes our understanding of participation and places it firmly within our commitment to children’s rights. We believe participation is the active involvement of children and young people in experiences, opportunities and decisions that have an effect on their lives and their ability to fulfill their potential.

Young people create and try out a chill out area.


Our Commitment We our commited to: • • • • • •

Developing our culture of participation Making participation real and meaningful Planning with participation in mind Making participation inclusive and accessible Ensuring participation is safe and enjoyable Valuing participation within all our work

Participation can range from simple things, like having a say about activities, marketing materials or staff uniform to larger projects, staff recruitment, consultations and funding applications. However, all participation will feature some, if not all of these four elements: • • • •

Communicate and Engage Create Opportunities Dialogue and Change Learn and Share

These four elements demonstrate how we complete the circle and create a meaningful process for all involved. Our belief is that participation must be accessible and inclusive. We must continue to widen the scope of children and young people’s involvement, by listening, reacting and being influenced by children and young people to ensure we build on shared experience and success. This approach maximises opportunities to embed high quality participation for children and young people and staff to drive service provision forward and make change happen.

We are committed to: • Developing our culture of participation • Making participation real and meaningful • Planning with participation in mind • Making participation inclusive and accessible • Ensuring participation is safe and enjoyable

Young People learn creative expression in the ‘Your Life; Project.


Communicate and Engage

What we mean:

We are committed to:

We believe that good communication should be timely, easy to understand and presented in a form that is right for its audience. Good communication is designed to engage children and young people, and it is the important first step for their continued involvement.

Providing high quality information in a variety of formats that enables the widest possible audience of children and young people to participate. All messages to children and young people will be timely and suitabke. This will ensure that communication is a means to participation rather than being a barrier and that children and young people are informed and involved in the services they recieve.

We will do this by: •

Continuing to explore new techniques and approaches using creativity and innovation to catch the attention and inspire the imagination of children and young people.

Communicating with children and young people using a range of methods, eg text messaging, social media, arts-based work and e-questionnaires.

Including children and young people in the design of information and materials.

Writing and producing all our external information and publications in an accessible format designed to communicate with the widest possible audience.

Using photos, videos, blogs, vlogs and interactive media to communicate to a wide and accessible audience which also allows comments.

Young people volunteering and taking part in a creative holiday workshop using photography as a way for expression.


Create Opportunities

We are committed to:

What we mean: We believe effective and enjoyable participation means continually creating a variety of opportunities that enable children and young people to join in safely and in ways that are both fun and meaningful.

We are committed to working with children and young people to continually develop new ways for them to be involved in their own lives as well as in the work of OPEN. Their involvement will always be built into service design and delivery. Across the wider organisation, we will ensure children and young people influence both how we are seen, the messages we give to external audiences and what we deliver.

We will do this by: •

Involving children and young people in staff recruitment of full/ part time, Youth Team and Management posts.

Continuing to develop high-quality arts initiatives that ensure exciting experiences and opportunities for children and young people to express themselves.

Commercial and operational departments will continue to develop opportunities for children and young people to participate in their work and the external face of the organisation, eg work experience opportunities, volunteering, the development of campaigns and fundraising as well as being a part of conferences and events.

Continuing to create innovative and fun ways to involve children and young people in developing new services.

Approaching governance in its widest sense and explore new ways to share power and decision making with children and young people.

Young people test out new activities, equipment and hear from music professionals at the BIG Music Hub conference in London.


Dialogue and Change

What we mean:

We are committed to:

We believe that the catalyst for change is the opportunity for views to be expressed, and the commitment to act on those views.

We are committed to creating opportunities for children and young people to express themselves. We are clear that involvement comes in many forms, and includes opportunities for all children and young people to participate. Children and young people’s contributions should always be acknowledged and followed up in a timely and appropriate way.

We will do this by: •

Continually look for ways that children and young people’s views can be collected on issues that are important to them, eg the review and evaluation of services.

Involve children and young people in developing new approaches to their involvement, eg the types of opportunities we provide and how we consult with them.

Respond to consultations or involvement activities quickly and appropriately, explaining decisions and why they were made.

Explore creative and innovative approaches to capturing views and opinions, and share all lessons through appropriate networks and forums.

Continue to develop and maintain networks and forums across the organisation that help staff improve their participation practice and maximize children and young people’s involvement.

Influence professionals and other organisations to develop their participation practice.

Young people having fun after taking part in training and planning for a celebration event.


Learn and Share

What we mean:

We are committed to:

We believe that learning from our participation work and sharing the outcomes, whether this is knowledge and skills or pitfalls and mistakes, will help to improve our participation practice at all levels throughout the organisation.

As a learning organisation we are committed to creating, maintaining and continually developing a range of methods to capture and share all relevant learning while making sure that evidence is used to inform future planning and delivery. We’ll do this in ways that support the development of our staff, children and young people, and promote a best practice approach to other organisations and professionals.

We will do this by: •

Deliver participation-focused workshops with young people designed to share best practice and new approaches.

Ensure participation and children’s rights are integral to all induction training.

Deliver a regular programme of participation training to staff across the organisation.

Provide mandatory participation training to all corporate staff and trustees.

Ensure that key information and best-practice approaches to participation are available both as hard and electronic copies to all staff.

Young People lead, learn and assist with construction for a summer show.


The Benefits

Involving children and young people in as many things as possible at OPEN, will make the organisation stronger, better and have a greater impact!

It can make a huge difference to how you deliver a project or service. It may mean that business clients can directly see young people benefitting and it can make sure that OPEN continues to provide opportunities that make a positive difference to the lives of young people in Norfolk.

Lizzy, Young Volunteer, OPEN Youth Trust

Evidence suggests that participation can provide benefits for children, young people and their families, the organisation and for the communities they live in.

Benefits for Children, young people and their families include:

Benefits for the OPEN include:

Benefits to the community include:

They feel respected and listened to. Listening respectfully to others, helping everyone to get on better.

Services and policies designed, delivered and evaluated based on identified needs of children, young people and their families.

Enhanced relationships between children and young people and other community members.

Healthier children and young people.

Can build their self-confidence and self-esteem.

Improved behaviour and enhanced relationships.

Better designed facilities and services for children, young people and their families;

They feel that they have an opportunity to play an active part in their community and can make a difference to their own lives and others.

Better targeting of resources. •

Less vandalism.

More effective services and improved outcomes.

Reduce bullying.

They feel more motivated and achieve more.

Enhanced credibility and reputation.

Reduced anti-social behaviour and crime levels.

Combating bullying.

Better safeguarding.

They can gain new skills such as problem solving, decision-making, negotiation, listening, communication and feedback.

Better quality and more inclusive decision-making.

Improves social networks and increases community cohesion.

Increased capacity and sustainability.

They are likely to feel more involved in group and democratic processes and will have a better understanding of the community in which they live.

Improved services that meet their needs.


OPEN Youth Trust Providing opportunities that make a positive difference to the lives of young people in Norfolk. 20 BANK Plain Norwich Norfolk NR2 4SF T: 01603 763111 E: info@opennorwich.org.uk www.opennorwich.org.uk Follow us on Twitter: @OPENNorwich @OPENActivities Find us on Facebook at OPENNorwich Registered charity number: 1108712 Registered company number: 5320333

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