Despite making up 25% of the population, and being highly engaged in political and environmental issues, young people are often on the periphery of conversations about the future of their own neighbourhoods, with very little direct input in planning and consultations.
Research by Grosvenor for their community charter ‘Positive Space’, found that 89% of people between 16 to 18 have not been directly asked their opinion and only 8% have joined a public consultation.
So, why is this? And what’s the solution?
Could it be because traditional public consultation in dusty town halls or community centres, publicised by a paper flyer just don’t appeal to younger generations?
At Iceni, we have been exploring new digital ways of engaging young people and asking them what works and what doesn’t. After all, they are the ones growing up in this new world of social media, engaging with a vast array of digital data and information.
Our work on the South West Hertfordshire Joint Strategic Plan has been at the forefront of this for well over two years having started before those seemingly distant pre pandemic days.
Using social media, we were able to reach a wide audience, engaging thousands and as many under 25s as over 65s.
Given the volume of feedback from young people, it was possible to create a youth forum and we used this group as a sounding board to shape the most recent engagement on the Plan. Together we developed the online feedback survey, asking them, for example, “how, as a young person, do you think we should be engaging people your age?”
We think this is a real demonstration of the success that early and meaningful engagement with young people can have.
But whilst digital tools clearly provided greater outreach to those in their teenage years, there are younger age groups who don’t have access to these tools and whose voices are also left out of the conversation. And yet it’s arguably the youngest members of society, those who will be living in these areas for years to come, who stand to benefit the most from new developments.
In recognition of this, we carried out a series of workshops with 90 year seven pupils (aged 10 or 11) at the Harris Academy in Newham as part of our community engagement on Bromley-by-Bow Gasworks for St William.
And whilst a child’s world view is limited, there is still significant value in their feedback, owing to impressions that can be made from creative exercises such drawing and model making. Whilst this may not generate quantitative, articulate feedback, it is pertinent to start recognising these more implicit forms of feedback if consultation is to become more representative. As lowering the voting age becomes an increasingly hot topic within UK politics, it is high time we put greater emphasis on harnessing the voices of young people.
Iceni Engagement continue to seek opportunities to deliver engagement programmes involving young people, if you would like to understand how this might be beneficial to the pre-application consultation process, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.