Nichols delivers award winning project, designed to improve the participation of young people in public consultations
Head of Digital Strategy & Innovation at Nichols, Bernard Fanning, and independent researcher Dr Gemma Bridge have been recognised through the Future Transport Visions Group (FTVG) which is funded by the Rees Jeffery’s Road Fund with the prestigious Outstanding Project Award for 2023.
Their research project, Engaging Young People in Consultations (EYPiC), not only delved into the challenges faced, but also provided practical solutions, to ensure the voices of young individuals are heard and valued in decision-making processes.
Tell us about the Engaging Young People in Consultations (EYPiC) project; what does it set out to achieve and why?
The EYPiC project set out to achieve a better understanding of the challenges facing young people aged 18 – 25 years old in England in public consultations. Additionally, we sought to develop a toolkit that professionals undertaking consultations could utilise to support them to organise and run more inclusive consultations, that consider the needs of young people from diverse backgrounds.
We wanted to explore this because at present, most consultations in England receive most of their responses from a small group of people, very few of which are young people, and therefore their voices are not heard.
Why is it so important to engage young people in the consultation process and what are some of the benefits for those leading consultations in doing so?
Engaging young people in the consultation process is a critical step towards creating inclusive and future-proof policies and initiatives. By providing a more accessible platform for young people to engage and to be heard, we acknowledge their fundamental right to shape the world they will inherit. Incorporating the perspectives of young people in public consultations goes beyond fulfilling a requirement; it brings forth a range of tangible benefits. By actively involving young people, we can enhance service delivery, ensuring that our solutions are not only effective but also responsive to the evolving needs of our communities. Moreover, integrating the insights of young minds can catalyse the development of more pertinent and forward-thinking provisions, aligning our efforts with the dynamic landscape of the modern world. Through this process, we foster an environment of mutual understanding and cohesion within our communities, nurturing a sense of shared responsibility and unity. Equally important, this inclusive approach helps to mitigate the challenges faced by young people, including feelings of discrimination and marginalisation. By creating an environment that values their perspectives, we actively work towards a more equitable and just society, where every individual feels valued and heard, regardless of their age.
How does the EYPiC toolkit work to aid those leading consultations? What are some of its key features?
To develop the EYPiC toolkit we undertook a multiphase research project, including a literature review, an online survey and series of focus groups with young people in England, expert interviews with policy makers and consultation professionals, and refinement discussions with additional consultation experts.
The toolkit is composed of a set of recommendations co-developed with young people and consultation professionals. The toolkit also includes ideas for more engaging consultations, as well as a series of young person personas that highlight the diversity in this age group, and their various needs and preferences.
The toolkit is designed to be a guide for consultation professionals that they can use to help inform their consultation approach to better engage young people. We advocate for consultations to be context specific and offer additional support to help consultation professionals within local authorities to adapt their approaches to the people living within their communities.
How do you think we can make the UK’s consultation process more inclusive, for young people and for those from under-represented groups in society?
From our research with young people, we found that ensuring an inclusive consultation demands a strategic and innovative approach that accommodates the needs of diverse groups.
For many young people, including those from underrepresented groups, the conventional document-heavy approach needs to shift to more interactive and accessible online platforms. Simplifying complex information and offering concise, user-friendly summaries can encourage greater participation, especially among young individuals and those who may find extensive reading daunting.
Embracing digital solutions that offer flexibility and convenience is essential. Providing online options for participation can enable wider engagement. Introducing interactive and immersive technologies such as augmented reality could elevate the consultation experience, making it more engaging and relevant to the younger generation, who are inherently attuned to digital innovations, as we noted during our conversations with young people during the development of the EYPIC toolkit.
Moreover, when deciding on the timing of in person and/or virtual consultations it is important to factor in the schedule of young people, who may be working, studying and/or looking after young people. As such, hosting consultation sessions during evenings or weekends could accommodate individuals juggling multiple responsibilities. Additionally, implementing inclusive communication strategies, including multilingual options and accessible formats, can ensure that information reaches and resonates with all segments of society.
How can our readers find out more about the EYPiC project and are there any upcoming milestones to be aware of?
In terms of next steps, we are undertaking ongoing research to refine the EYPiC toolkit and are on the lookout for case studies highlighting how to engage young people in consultations.
We are also hosting a series of online forums, the next one happening in December. If you are a consultation, planning or policy professional, are interested in the consultation process, or are a young person wanting to find out how to get involved in consultations, register for the upcoming EYPiC forum (7th December, 1 – 2:30pm, Online).