My next stop for conversations about the resources was on 12 April. I visited RMIT University’s futuristic Swanston Academic Building, to speak with a group of 3rd year Bachelor of Social Science (Youth Work) students.
I thought it would be fascinating to discuss the project and explore the concept of ‘youth engagement’ with current youth work students, especially because it would give them an opportunity to shape tools they will go on to use when they graduate.
After a quick discussion of youth participation and engagement theory, I invited the students to consider three questions:
- What are the values of good youth participation and engagement?
- What are the ingredients of good youth participation and engagement?
- What are the barriers to good youth participation and engagement?
Here are their responses:
- Feedback / response
- Mutual respect
- Specific activity for a target group
- Freedom / choices
- Young people
- Professionalised services
- Equal opportunity programs
- Youth involvement / participation in policy making and government decisions
- UN Rights of the Child
- Advertising – social media, schools, youth-attracted locations
- Open door policy
- Cultural / religious differences – workers and youth
- Trust issues
- Age differences
- Mental health issues
- Youth past issues / history
- Stigma / stereotypes
- [negative] Media
- Language [if Culturally and Linguistically Diverse]
- Mixture of personalities
- Negative or judgemental attitudes
- Involuntary involvement
I then passed out copies of Taking Young People Seriously handbooks and invited the group to improve these for youth workers. Here are their suggestions:
- More colour
- Less writing
- Developed by people who have knowledge and experience
- Real life examples and stories
- More relatable pics
- Smartphone / web apps
- Condensed book
- Posters and wall-charts / flyers
- Simple language
- Regular updates
- More visual info
Thanks to all of the students for participating, to Mic Emslie, lecturer in the RMIT Youth Work program for allowing me to visit his class, and to Rachel Humprhys from the project Steering Committee for putting me in touch with Mic.