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The Young People and Democracy Project Peter McLaverty.

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1 The Young People and Democracy Project Peter McLaverty

2 Aims of Project Project developed by Childrens Society and South Bedfordshire District Council in 1999. Aimed to find ways of involving young people in the activities of the council. Also wanted to give a range of young people experience of the workings of democracy.

3 Interviews Decided to involve the local university in the work of the project. First activity was the holding of a number of group interviews with young people in the council area. The hope was to be as inclusive as possible. However, ended up using existing links & interviewing people via schools and youth clubs.

4 Social Inclusion Had hoped to involve people from travelling communities but did not do so. Reflects a wider problem in area of public participation. Those interviewed were self-selected. This raises issues about how socially representative those interviewed were.

5 Interview Findings We concentrated on peoples experiences of being consulted by the council. Most had been consulted through their school council or youth clubs or in other ways. Big issue was lack of feedback from council & feeling that their input counted for little. (Both common findings). Some felt used by the council.

6 Community Safety People wanted to have a say in the provision of facilities & above all for their views to be taken seriously. The next event was the taking of young peoples views on community safety. A meeting was held which enabled young people to give their views in front of a group of councillors and council officials. A report on the event, agreed by the young people, was sent to a council committee.

7 My Role One of my roles was to conduct a literature review with the aim of outlining the strengths and weaknesses of different participation methods. This was considered by both organisations.

8 Young Peoples Steering Group Funding from the Childrens Society and the council enabled a co-ordinator to be appointed. A Steering Group of young people was established. This was based on elected representatives from schools and youth clubs. Efforts were made to include people from minority ethnic groups, to gain gender equality & make the membership as inclusive as possible. However, group was heavily middle-class dominated and had a slight male bias.

9 Appointment of Co-ordinator The Steering Group, in collaboration with the councils HR dept. drew up the short list and were involved in the interviews & selection process for the appointment. The Co-ordinator and the Steering Group worked closely together. It was decided to have a logo for the project. Young people were involved in designing the logo. Hoped this would increase feelings of ownership. Questions of inclusion of all groups.

10 Focus of the project began to change There was less concern about influencing council policy in a big way (e.g. over major policy issues) & more concern about enabling young people to control certain activities. Older people took less of a role. Co-ordinator acted as a facilitator for groups of young people. Groups happy with progress made.

11 Conclusions Relations between adults and young people & issues of control. Question of how to engage the marginalised. Initial aims were very ambitious and adult formulated. Project developed in an ad hoc way. Satisfaction expressed by groups of young people.

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