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Young People’s Voice in the Company Programme

Friday 30th October 2015

In The Boys’ Brigade we can provide fantastic activities for children and young people, and many Companies excel at this, but if we fail to give those young people a voice in the running of their Company and indeed the wider BB, then we are missing the point.

Participation in a Youth Work context means more than turning up or joining in, it means that Leaders share the decision making with young people – even pass over control in some circumstances! Initially, it can feel difficult or odd for young people and adults alike, but you can start with small participation projects and build on these. Ultimately, not only do you reduce your own burden for programme planning and generating ideas, but you give children and young people the opportunity to exceed their own expectations of themselves.

Check out a short video entitled ‘Participation’ which is part of a series of five short videos talking about the four cornerstones of Youth Work.

View the video at boys-brigade.org.uk/4cornerstones

Alan Hunter, in his role as Training & Development Officer in Scotland, has witnessed some great examples of participation at different levels:

  • Regional committees now have equal representation of young people and elected members. The young people have an equal involvement in activities and decision making. They are involved in planning, delivery and evaluating projects on an equal footing with their older counterparts.
  • Under the ‘Young People Taking the Lead’ banner in Scotland, a couple of young leaders are involved in an Advisory Group, which is pulling together an event for around 100 young people later in the year. Working in partnership with young leaders from The Girls’ Brigade, Scouts, Girlguiding and Youth Scotland, the young people have taken an idea, initially suggested by adults, and are developing, planning and implementing the event, which they will take the lead and evaluate afterwards. They have adapted the idea given to them, providing suggestions to make the event more appealing for the age group.
  • You will have seen from a previous Gazette that a group of Seniors/Young Leaders set out to break the world record for the longest game of 5-a-side football. In this case the idea, the planning and implementation were all completed by the young people, from organising the venue, to arranging sponsorship, first aid, catering, independent witnesses, to all dealings with Guinness World Records. The adult involvement came from being part of the support team for the attempt – which was successful and is now in the record books for playing for 55 hours!

All things that have worked very successfully and demonstrated the skills that young people have gained from their earlier days in The Boys’ Brigade, being put to good use.

But what things can you do in the Company to increase participation?

Here are a few simple suggestions:

  • Make effective use of the NCO system, which provides opportunities for young people to take on leadership roles in the Company – taking up responsibility within the Company, helping support younger members, helping lead the programme and running activities; running the tuck shop; being a tent commander at camp; and importantly being the link between the young people and the leaders.
  • Involve all the young people in the development of your weekly and annual programme. Find out the things that they enjoy taking part in and things they don’t like; consider whether you replace them, or look at innovative ways of delivering topics/activities to ensure they are relevant.
  • If your Company does an annual fundraising for a charity, ask the young people for suggestions on what that charity should be or to come up with new and innovative ideas for fundraising activities.
  • Consider longer term projects that can benefit your local community - get the young people visible in the project, ‘making a difference’ to the lives of others. For some more detailed suggestions, visit leaders.boys-brigade.org.uk/ourcommunity to find out more about the ‘Our Community’ initiative.

“Participating in KGVI and opportunities in the Company gave me the confidence to speak out and add ideas to the ‘Young People Taking the Lead event.”

- David, Motherwell

“We often get asked what we want to do by our leaders, and we come up with ideas. We recently got the chance to say what we wanted to do during our summer programme activities this year, once all the ideas were written down the next week all the boys got to vote, I voted for kayaking, paintball and raft building!”

- Christian, 15, London

Giving young people the opportunity to participate will help them grow personally and develop relationship and leadership skills - skills, which become transferrable both internally within The Boys’ Brigade if they continue on to become leaders and also externally into further education or the workplace.

Over the last ten years, increased participation has helped retain young people in the teenage years within the organisation and helped provide a more confident leadership continuing the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom within the BB.

If you have any questions then get in touch at alan.hunter@boys-brigade.org.uk

Follow Alan on Twitter at @alanBBscotland

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