Iesha Small

writing, career pivots, side hustles

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How to effectively involve Young People in Charity Decision Making


Many charities say they want to involve young people in decision making. Here are 7 tips I learnt directly from YEF’s award winning Youth Advisory Board (YAB). 

Be human- engage as a person, not just as your role

In the context of Youth Endowment Fund this could be briefly explaining why preventing Youth Crime is particularly important to you. In my case, I previously taught young people who lost their lives as a result of youth violence. This context helps young people to understand how you are connected to something they also value.

 Celebrate them and build on success

My first interaction with YEF’s Youth Advisory Board was to consult about possible funding themes and the scope for our families themed grant round. Since that time YEF’s Youth Advisory Board has developed to be involved in many key aspects of decision making, including interviewing potential grantees during grant rounds and being part of YEF’s board. It’s been wonderful and energising when they have joined our team days to update on their collective work and for staff to celebrate their impact on YEF and it’s outcomes.

Communicate what you need from them and why

Members of the Youth Advisory Board said they valued when YEF staff were clear about what actions and opinions we needed from them and how those would then be used to inform our work. This clarity builds mutual respect and demonstrates that we value their time and expertise.

Allow time for preparation and debrief when asking them to be involved in important events

YAB members have been involved in parliamentary launch events and shortlisting interviews for potential grantees. They said that it helped when YEF staff had prepped them well in advance (sometimes weeks or months) so that they could; have early sight of reports being launched, have questions or statements ready ahead of time and be aware of who they would be interacting with and the value they could add.

Create space for young people to observe as well as actively contribute

YAB members who also sit on the YEF Committee (board) said they loved contributing but had also learnt that sometimes it was equally valid to listen and not feel like they had to have an opinion on everything.

Understand the expertise and interests of young people beyond ‘lived experience’

Our YAB members do have lived experience of youth violence in some way- that’s often why they chose to do the role. They are also much more than that ‘lived experience’. Some work in finance, some are at university, some are social entrepreneurs. They each have additional expertise from their wider personal, professional or academic lives and they told us that we can get the most out of them when we are aware of their wider collective and individual interests and pitch our requests or tailor some discussions with those in mind as needed.

Support young people to acknowledge and communicate the skills the have developed

Time on YAB is fixed and the experience should ideally be one where YEF and the young person have mutually benefitted. Young people will be aware that they have developed skills but may not know how to translate that into language that employers understand. It was helpful to have Rose Dowling remind us that YEF also had a role to help young people communicate their transferrable skills gained from time as a YAB member.

Thanks also to Amania Scott-Samuels and Yasmin Jeddaoui who worked closely with the YEF’s Youth Advisory Board.

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I’ll be writing about a wider range of topics than usual because I’m expanding my horizons.

Links to select external writing

How Volunteering for Hyrox can help you on race day (article)

Outside Voices (ebook and interactive project compilation)

The Unexpected Leader (book)

I don’t blame any teacher for not coming out as gay (article)

Inclusive Classrooms, disrupting power dynamics (article)

How to effectively involve Young People in Charity Decision Making