The “Mercenary” Case for Youth Participation

5th August 2010

For me, the conclusion from the “what is it?” conversation was something like this- “Particpation is the process of influencing, changing and acting by sharing power through dialogue and empowerment.“ I think there were four main “mercenary” reasons to bother:

  1. Customer/Consumer focus: Where young people are the customers or consumers, youth participation plays the part of market research. It ensures that services are responsive and tailored to the needs of consumers. This raises engagement and delivers better outcomes as a result.
  2. Funding: Funders are looking to focus on organisations that suit the needs of and matter to young people. Youth participation is a great way to evidence this.
  3. Efficiency: If cuts have to be made then the idea is to cut the extras and focus on the most useful bits. Youth participation can ensure that whatever money is spent, is spent in the best possible way- delivering the government’s new “more for less mantra”.
  4. Skills: There are two sides to this. On one hand, children and young people bring with them fresh creative minds and a willingness to innovate. Their skills can enhance those of an organisation. Secondly, active participation is a great way of boosting young people’s own skills through real life, practical and meaningful work.

Whilst these may be less human than the rights based, empowerment and cultural reasons that used to be sufficient, they are certainly no less meaningful. As such they should act as fresh impetus for youth participation projects.

Do get in touch if you’re interested in the Hear By Right standards in youth participation or the new Hear By Right award.