Step 2: Plan the project

Identify the scope and purpose of the project, determine if you need ethics approval and set up an independent complaints process so children and young people can raise issues as they arise.

Purpose and scope

Decide scope and purpose. You can do this by:

  • reviewing available literature
  • having preliminary discussions with children and young people to ensure your understanding of the issue is informed by their views and experiences and that the project is something they want to do.

We flip power dynamics by putting young people in the driver's seat of this work.

YLab in the We Hear YOUth project, Loddon

Assess mindsets and assumptions

Check the project team's intentions for the project and whether they hold any negative assumptions about engaging children and young people.

Check your own assumptions about the ‘expert’ mindset, remembering that children and young people are experts in their own lives and experiences.

Determine level of participation

Determine the variety of ways you will seek the views of children and young people.

A multi-layered approached can help you engage with people who are often harder to reach.

Use the IAP2 (International Association for Public Participation) public participation spectrum to help you decide what level of participation your project needs, such as:

  • Involve: work directly with the public throughout the process
  • Collaborate: partner with the public in each aspect of the decision
  • Empower: give final decision-making power to the public.

Ethics approval

Determine if you will need formal ethics approval.

While you always need to behave ethically, you may not need formal ethics approval for your participation activity.

Assess staff capability

Consider the core functions and associated skillsets needed to work effectively with children and young people.

Consider ways to build or find this capability.

Establish independent processes

Establish an independent complaints mechanism so that children and young people can confidentially and comfortably raise issues at any point in the project. For example, this could be through a team or staff member not connected to the participation work. Ensure there are ways for children and young people to provide feedback anonymously if possible.

Plan for how you will evaluate the participation and how this will happen with young people.

Determine project measures of success:

  • Is participation meeting the needs and expectations of participants?
  • Is participation producing better outcomes in the service or policy making process? If not, why not?

Address power imbalance

Determine how you will address any power imbalances.

Strategies may include:

  • Engaging facilitators who share a lived experience with participants.
  • Ensuring language and information are appropriate for age, language, culture and development
  • Ensuring participants have enough time and support to express themselves
  • Considering the physical environment and whether the location, building or setting is intimidating
  • Having the facilitator share some relevant and appropriate details about their own life.

Set up project management and governance

Establish appropriate project management and governance arrangements.

Co-planning and involvement in project governance arrangements can help ensure the views of children and young people are adequately reflected at each stage of the project.

Create terms of reference for the participation that outline:

  • scope of the project
  • roles and responsibilities
  • boundaries
  • privacy and confidentiality
  • skills participants will need
  • means of communication
  • time commitment
  • how conflicts of interest and complaints will be managed.
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