In a recent Resourceful Communities Partnership session, we explored the significance of hearing the voices of young people in Wales. Recognising the value and potential of young individuals is crucial, not only for upholding their rights but also for fostering a more inclusive and forward-thinking society. However, barriers and challenges persist, preventing their voices from being adequately heard. This blog post delves into the importance of valuing young people, the barriers hindering their participation, and some actionable steps we can take to amplify their voices and create meaningful change.
The importance of hearing young voices
First and foremost, recognising the importance of hearing the voices of young people stems from upholding their fundamental rights. Just as every individual deserves to be heard and respected, young people's perspectives hold immense value. Engaging with young people brings fresh perspectives, unique ideas, and innovative thinking, which are vital for social progress.
Additionally, young people will bear the consequences of the decisions made today. Including them in decision-making processes ensures that their needs, aspirations, and concerns are taken into account. Treating young people as peers and actively involving them creates a more inclusive and equitable society, promoting mutual understanding and cooperation among different age groups.
Barriers to amplifying young voices
One of the key barriers hindering the amplification of young voices lies within the systems designed for communication. Many systems are adult-centric, excluding young people and, in some cases, even larger portions of the population. To address this, we must create communication systems that are inclusive, accessible, and designed to engage and empower young people.
Fear of losing authority and power over young people can also hinder their participation. Leaders and decision-makers must be open to constructive feedback and understand that young people bring valuable insights. Overcoming this fear and embracing youth perspectives can lead to more informed and effective decision-making.
Another obstacle lies in the nuanced understanding of what it means to be a young person. Acknowledging the diversity within the youth population and appreciating the different experiences and contexts they come from is vital. By avoiding generalisations and adopting a nuanced approach, we can build stronger connections and enhance our collaborative efforts with young people.
Recognising the value of young people
To recognise the value of young people, we must treat them like any other group, acknowledging their diversity and unique needs. Engaging with families and parents is essential, especially when working with younger children, as it provides valuable insights into their perspectives and experiences.
Shifting our focus from what we want to achieve to genuinely listening to young people is crucial. We must design systems and engagement strategies that prioritise understanding their voices and experiences. Utilising creative methods such as play, art, and other interactive activities can help bridge the gap and foster meaningful connections.
Additionally, demonstrating accountability is essential. Young people need to understand how their contributions will be used and how they will influence decision-making processes. Closing the loop and providing feedback on the outcomes of their involvement builds trust and empowers them to continue participating.
Advancing the voices of young people: a call to action
To advance the voices of young people, several actionable steps can be taken:
- Increased funding: Allocate more resources to support in-depth engagement and initiatives focused on young people.
- Systemic change: Move from piecemeal approaches to making the inclusion of young voices a standard practice. Revamp communication systems to be more inclusive and accessible.
- Broaden engagement: Move beyond the traditional school-centric model of listening to young voices. Ensure inclusivity by reaching out to all segments of the youth population, including those who may not be the most articulate but whose perspectives are equally valuable.
- Engage young people in decision-making: Involve young people in the process of allocating resources and designing policies that reflect their perspective.