Over the last two years I have had the pleasure of working alongside a group of very passionate and committed young people who have helped us to deliver the #iwill Take Action Fund. From day one we wanted young people to be at the core of the Fund, experts by experience helping us to understand the challenges young people face but also what interests and excites them, bringing their unique perspective to our application and decision making process.
We worked with Youth Focus North East to help us to find a group of young people ranging from 15 to 22, young people from diverse backgrounds, some who already had social action experience, some who were getting involved for the very first time. They spent time getting to know each other, to feel comfortable to express their honest opinions and accessed training on how to conduct themselves as a steering group and how to assess applications. Our Trustees spent time getting to know them and breaking down any perceived barriers.
Our youth panel assessed all shortlisted applications and wherever possible a member of the panel attended each assessment visit and talked directly to the organisation and the young people applying. They then attended the Foundation Board meeting to feedback their views. They continued to support us in monitoring grants awarded.
To us it is not about being able to say “we engaged young people”. They challenged us to think in a different way, they asked questions we wouldn’t and sometimes they wholeheartedly disagreed with our views and we had to work hard to come to a consensus. They had the right of veto and they used it.
We wanted to evaluate the effectiveness of working in this way, co-delivering a programme with young people. In talking to the Panel we agreed that a film evaluation would be a great way to do this. The link to the film is below. I hope you enjoy watching it and it sparks questions for you in how you involve the people you hope to benefit from your work in your decision making.
Over the next few weeks look out for more blogs from me and members of the Panel on the research findings and my own thoughts and reflections on working with a youth panel for the first time – a huge learning curve for me!
Virgin Money Foundation