Event Blog | R U Engaging Young People

From youth panels and co-production projects to internships and volunteering opportunities...

I know that the cultural sector has a huge amount to offer young people – and can gain so much more in return.

Prior to joining The Audience Agency I worked at the Museum of London and one of the best bits of that job was developing programmes with and for young people. From youth panels and co-production projects to internships and volunteering opportunities, I know that the cultural sector has a huge amount to offer young people – and can gain so much more in return. In my first blog here at The Audience Agency I’m excited to tell you about the ‘R U Engaging Young People’ workshop Helen Ball and I delivered in Manchester in early February, which is soon to be repeated in Birmingham.

At The Audience Agency we work with many organisations that do inspirational work with young people. From those thinking about attracting this audience for the first time, to others who are involving young people as programmers, communicators and artists. We started the day off reflecting on some tips directly from young people. This was a key theme for the day – whatever you are doing and whatever your resources, always involve some real young people to help you plan.

We also focussed on who young people are. It is true that the media’s portrayal of young people is far from reality. Although every young person is an individual, there are some unifying characteristics. Understanding the many demands on their time and how socially motivated this audience is, can help you develop your offer, from supporting career and personal development to providing a safe social space.

Next up was digital engagement. I will be the first one to admit that technology and social media can move so quickly it can sometimes be overwhelming, but it was great to discuss some of the current platforms, how young people use them, and which are most effective to connect with this audience.

In the afternoon we heard about two fantastic examples of youth engagement. Caroline Marcus from Kids in Museums told us about the successful Takeover Day initiative. Linking up with a national project can be a strong advocacy tool. Kate Reynolds from the Royal Exchange’s Truth About Youth programme then shared this wonderful project, which strives to challenge negative perceptions of young people. Fifty percent of the places on this project are reserved for young people referred through partner youth and community organisations. Some of the most successful programmes, like this one, enable different kinds of young people to access opportunities in ways tailored to their needs.

We finished the day thinking about how to ensure you develop a youth offer that supports the overall vision of your organisation, which is key when advocating internally and externally. It was great to spend the day with lots of arts and culture professionals committed to involving young people, and we look forward to meeting more in Birmingham soon.