BIG co-designs its new investment with young people, openly

One of the big advantages of open explorations like our current one, compared with more closed research methods, is that you can rapidly see what other explorers are doing, build on their work, and perhaps join up.
Big Lottery Fund – with whom we worked last year – are now undertaking an even more ambitous exploration with a group of 16-25 year olds (pictured above) to see what will benefit other young people in England. During 2012 and 2013 BIG will be investing funds “in ideas that will inspire young people in need to build on their strengths and make a difference to their lives and communities”.
They are not just asking young people for ideas – they are going some way to co-design their investment plans.

Throughout March and April, twenty young people will help develop the investment. They will be presented with evidence on issues like poverty, education, unemployment and mental health and will discuss how each issue affects the lives of young people. The team will also capture learning from the process and use social media to enable other young people and those working with them to have their say.
The young people involved will benefit from training and support from BIG staff and will gain new skills and valuable experience. They also have a unique opportunity to meet other young people who want to make a difference.

Their team blogger Reanna Vernon, 21, has already posted a number of pieces on the BIG blog. Reanna reports that the design team met recently and reviewed work of groups looking at theories of change and social media:

Using the input of these two other groups, the design team were able to spend the weekend exploring the issues young people and those who work with them had highlighted as priorities for the investment. These were:

  • Unemployment
  • Mental health and wellbeing
  • Young people’s portrayal in society

I asked each member of the design team why each area should be a priority for BIG.
Daniel (18, Essex) explained youth employment should be a priority area: “If BIG can do just a little part to show the opportunities that are out there, maybe young people will be more motivated.” He highlighted that it is important to “stay positive and find a role model who can guide you” when looking for work.
For Vicky (20, Birmingham), tackling mental health issues is key, as they are “such a complex issues and can affect everyone – we really need to get to the heart of the matter.”
Discussing the negative media image of young people, Topes (20, London) told me, “It’s a major issue as the media has influence over everyone and no matter which paper you read, you rarely find a good story about young people.”
Jashmin, (23, London) agrees that the media could do more to combat negative perceptions: “The media only ever put out the most catchy story… they just gave a basic story of a hero and a villain without exploring the underlying issues, which really doesn’t help.”

BIG staff will be along to our meeting next Thursday, and involved in further discussions, so there’s great scope for collaboration. It looks as if the BIG process will yield a lot of insights into the real concerns and needs of young people. Jonny Zander, in his recently post, gives us a useful framework for thinking on what we mean by “engagement”. John Popham offers some initial insights into the benefits of digital. I think we’ll be hearing more on Thursday from Alastair Somerville about the Birmingham SkillxShop and app.
So – only a few blog posts into the exploration, and already things are joining up. That’s the other advantage of exploring openly – you gather momentum along the way, and write the report as you go.

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