3 great methods to hear more from young people

March 13, 2020

We are loving working with and hearing more from young people. They take such an interesting view and energetic approach to public policy.

Since last year, we’ve held or partnered to deliver 6 major workshops with young people (aged 15-25).

This week we ran a design and prototype testing workshop with a diverse and passionate group of 52 students and recent school leavers from around the country. As always, this group blew us away with their level of engagement, creativity, and comprehension of some pretty complex public policy ideas.

Drawing out opinions and feedback of students and young people isn’t hard. Compared to many adults, they’re in a time of life when questioning and exploratory and critical thinking is happening everyday in their learning, and they’re more comfortable with it. But something we have really focused on over the past year is the best methods to engage young people in public policy issues so that their great ideas and feedback translate into solutions that policy makers can implement.

Here are 3 practical methods we’re finding are working well:

Digital engagement tools that are visually fun and interactive

We almost always start a youth workshop with an interactive and visual engagement tool. Opening up the workshop to ask participants questions such as ‘what the 3 most important …. are to them’ is a great way of getting the juices flowing and making sure participants know the day is about them.

The use of the digital tool also gets them excited, showing it’s not just another day of post-its and butcher’s paper. Digital tools allow us to create interactive wordclouds and live ratings with the whole group, even when there’s more than 100 people in the room. It looks impressive, but most importantly, it produces a great set of data that’s already digitised.

Human-centred design approaches

In a recent workshop we took the elements of the famous Stanford d-school human-centred design ‘crash course’ as one -hour sprint with young participants.

Wow. The designs and prototypes for solutions that young people create were incredible. Not only do they look awesome, but participants were able to interpret the problem of their partner and design a solution that might overcome it, in remarkably creative and empathetic ways. This is really important to help participants feel free to think outside of the box and to be real about their solutions. We have seen apps made out of paddle-pop sticks, lego mentors and inclusive learning facilities built entirely with paper and glue.

Testing visual prototypes

With the help of our in-house designer, Sam, and our awesome freelance design and illustrator, Kirstin at design meld, we create visual prototypes to test policy processes and ideas with young people.

These visual prototypes involved graphically illustrating a process into a poster. They illustrated the key steps and the impacts a new process or

policy might have. Similar to user journeys, they can follow a certain persona or focus more on what would be needed by anyone. Participants engage with the visual process – usually as a group – and provide feedback on key questions such as: the benefits of the idea/prototype; the limitations of it; whether it meets the needs of everyone, including diverse groups; and what is missing from the prototype.

While workshops with young people are heaps of fun, they’re also very important. The most important being that governments can meaningfully engage with people who are often the most affected by their policies. Whether it’s health, education or the environment, we agree that it’s our future leaders who hold the keys to the most remarkable solutions.

If you want to know more or you’re developing a new policy or need to test ideas with young people, get in touch with our Director of Impact and Engagement, Mel Butcher at mel@thesocialdeck.com

How can we help?
Lucy Wilson
Projects and Change Consultant 
Kate Bowmaker
Managing Director & Director of Communications
kate@thesocialdeck.com0435 038 720
Melanie Butcher
Director of Impact and Engagement 
mel@thesocialdeck.com0400 426 545
Alix Harrigan
Impact and Inclusion Consultant