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More is more when engaging young people

It is often thought that young people don’t participate in engagement processes because they ‘just don’t care’. 

02 September 2022
Nicola Wass

Australia

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It’s a common misconception that allows project teams to think of young people as ‘hard-to-reach’ when in fact they have been unable to attract them to participate in their generic ‘one-size-fits-all’ engagement. The truth is that young people are just very ‘easy-to-ignore’.

A more considered approach is needed

Taking active steps to ensure the participation of younger people needs to be the focus, particularly for major infrastructure projects or strategic land use processes.

The engagement paradox here is that while young people will be living with the outcomes of these projects for longer than others in the community, their values, priorities and concerns are not heard or considered.

Our research into youth participation and our on-the-ground youth engagement experience have clearly demonstrated that young people are interested in being involved and are strongly committed to making a difference for their communities. They just aren’t attracted to generic processes that don’t ‘speak’ to them.

So, what should we be doing to appeal to young people and attract their participation in engagement?

TasNetworks youth panel participant, Name badge says 'Steph' and wearing clear acetate glasses. Looking away from camera and speaking.

Developing more tailored opportunities

Young people do care about what is happening in their community, so providing genuine and robust engagement that allows them to influence the decisions that affect them and their communities is really appealing. Other critical success factors for engaging with young people that we have successfully applied include:

Fair recognition of their time 

Young people value their time and providing a stipend that is commensurate with the level of the time commitment being asked is necessary to attract them. Unlike older community members, younger people are reluctant to even complete a short survey without some form of incentive.

Meeting and working with other young people

Young people are interested in other young people so youth-specific opportunities – where they will meet and hear from other young people in a comfortable and welcoming environment – are far more appealing than a generic process where they will be mixing with participants from a broader range of ages and their views are often overlooked.

Capability and skills development 

Young people are future-focused and motivated by opportunities that will build their skills and improve their capabilities. Opportunities they can put onto their CVs and that provide formal acknowledgment of their participation and the skills they have developed through their participation are also highly valued, as is having direct access to professionals and opportunities for industry networking.

Active, tailored recruitment

More is definitely more when recruiting young participants. Reaching young people requires a considered and multi-channel recruitment approach that utilises existing and trusted networks, demographic, geo-targeted and tailored social media promotion, and random recruitment. Inviting stakeholders with youth networks to nominate future leaders and other youth participants to be involved also ensures a more successful recruitment process.

A focus on purpose

As a Youth Panel I recently convened to co-design a community benefits sharing framework for TasNetworks demonstrates, engaging with purpose is critical for young people.  To successfully recruit, and importantly to retain our young participants (they were between 18 to 25 years old), we:

  • Created a co-design process that allowed them to significantly influence the framework for the community benefits sharing program (CBSP) and guided them to work together as a group. This allowed them to overcome the challenges of developing the framework for the CBSP and to explore how to come to consensus on the various elements of the framework.

  • Supported equitable participation by reducing barriers that can often affect young people. This included providing support with transport to face-to-face meetings and IT equipment for online sessions, as well as developing meeting processes that were cognisant of the diverse needs of participants, including those of our participants who are living with a disability.

  • Provided formal recognition of their participation to support their employment aspirations, as well as ongoing capacity and skills building, such as public speaking, media training and networking opportunities. This has ensured that participants can continue to improve the skills and capabilities they developed through their participation in the Youth Panel.

More is more when engaging young people and taking a considered and tailored engagement approach is essential when designing best practice engagement. This does take time and resources but the benefits provided by engaged, knowledgeable, and committed young people are well worth it.

Youth Panel North West Transmission Developments

Hear directly from our Youth Panel members and see their commitment and passion for yourself.