Has your organisation ever struggled to recruit participants to an activity? Even when you did your homework and consulted people about what they would like to see? Do you ever wonder what strategies other similar organisations might be using?
With these issues in mind, we held our first DCF Grantee Forum in Tiverton at the end of April. We invited staff from three organisations funded through the Youth Social Action fund (now known as #iwill) to come together to discuss the challenges involved in reaching out to young people in the 14-18 age group. We were joined by:
- Jeff Dawson from The Pioneer Project in Plymouth
- Jonathan Oliverio from Youth Genesis Trust in Torbay
- Claire Fisher and Kaye Corfe from Encompass Southwest, working in North Devon and Torridge.
It was a very open and wide-ranging discussion, with plenty of practical ideas and observations. Here’s a flavour of some of the insights:
- Some young people experience ‘entrenched isolation’, where they do not feel that opportunities and activities apply to them. We also talked about the surprisingly small geographical area in which many people operate, whether in rural or urban contexts. Some young people in certain parts of Plymouth, for example, have never left the city, or been to the seaside. Offering opportunities that involve travel may be outside the experience and comfort zone of some young people (and their parents).
- Entering a strange building can be a significant obstacle for some young people. Engaging with young people in their own space, wherever that may be, and especially out of doors, can be more successful.
- Establishing working relationships with hard-pressed secondary schools can be an uphill struggle. Those organisations who have been successful in this have often made use of any personal connections they have with individual staff members. Organisations may need to work hard to demonstrate the relevance of their work to the school’s students. Some found that feeding back knowledge of student experience from their outreach work helped establish some common ground with schools, as well as demonstrating their skills and professionalism.
- Involving young people who have experienced challenges themselves in social action is extremely powerful, but it can be difficult to find the right way to engage them. One organisation offered nine young people who had experienced homelessness a chance to participate in making a film about the issue. It took a while to get everybody on board, but has been great to maintain the link.
Many thanks to the participants for a stimulating and very constructive conversation! We’re planning a semi-regular series of these forums as opportunities to learn from each other, and share great ideas as well as frustrations, and will report on their outcomes here. If you have an idea for a forum theme, we’d love to hear from you.
Nicola Frost, Knowledge Guru