Young Voices: The Active Engagement of Young People

On Thursday 25th June 2015, MCYS held a daylong method-based workshop, where practitioners, academics, and representatives from local youth organisations, learnt about creative and innovative ways to engage with young people.

Over 50 representatives from organisations including the Children’s Society, Addaction, Positive Steps, Brooke, and Trafford Youth Offending Service, took part in the workshop; students and academics from MMU and the University of Manchester also joined us.

The event consisted of four interactive sessions and concluded with a Q+A with all of the presenters.

Natalie Walton, a Freelance Arts Consultant, kicked off the day presenting on ‘Engaging Young People through Art’. Natalie discussed how using art in this way, is often misconstrued as simply carrying out ‘arts and crafts’ activities. She also explained how many young people felt they were ‘no good at art’. However, many of the young men and women she had worked with found their creative side when given the opportunity to express themselves through less conventional artistic forms. Attendees were then put to work in groups and pairs, for several quick exercises designed to build trust and teamwork skills.

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Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies and Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, led the second session ‘Listening to dis/abled children and young people: a creative approach’. Katherine dismissed the idea of ‘normal’ behaviour and the need to ensure that activities for dis/abled children and young people were age appropriate; enjoyment should be prioritised.

Armed with flipchart paper, sticky notes, pens and glitter, attendees were asked to create their vision of ‘the best researcher in the world’. 

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Katherine also highlighted the tensions that can arise between the competing needs of the researcher, and the young people, posing the question, ‘Who is the stakeholder in your research?’

Following lunch, Joanne Tippett from Ketso presented ‘Hands-on kits for Creative Engagement’. Joanne spoke about how the kits were developed through working with rural communities in Africa but are now used in a number of universities, large business and councils across the country. The kits offer a structured way to run workshops, where re-useable coloured shapes are used capture everyone's ideas. Participants were then given the opportunity to try out the kits for themselves.

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Andrew Clark, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Salford,led our final session of the day, on ‘Working with the visual: challenges and opportunities’. He explained how mobile focus groups help to reduce the power differentials between researcher and young people during one-off evaluations.  Andrew suggested walks also offered young people the chance to create their own narratives of place and identity.

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Using photo-elicitation methods, our participants were asked to conduct a brief interview with each other on the theme of ‘what is community?’  Other questions were also raised on the meaning of the photos themselves, and whether the photos could be considered as data.

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Participants live tweeted throughout the day, using the hashtag #mcysvoices.

Tweets have been storified and can be found at: