In 2014, I was commissioned to support a national housing organisation to develop and implement a youth engagement strategy.

It was very interesting to see a national housing organisation placing so much emphasis on youth engagement.

The aim of my work was to develop a sustainable strategy and implement a structure to allow the organisation’s regional members to be effective in engaging local young people.

In undertaking this project, a lot of questions were raised regarding how the housing sector can engage young people effectively and how this work can be sustained.

In this article, I will share with you the top five questions housing managers asked me about youth engagement and the answers I provided them.

 

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Question 1. How can a national housing organisation implement a successful and sustainable youth engagement structure?

Answer: Youth engagement should be a corporate priority running through the entire organisation from the top down.

The ideal organisational structure would have the following elements;

Commitment at Executive Committee Level – This would ensure that Youth Engagement remains as an agenda item at an executive level.

Youth Engagement Officer – A named person within each local organisation, who is accountable for ensuring Youth engagement remains an active priority.

Senior Youth Leader – A named person either within the local organisation or from a local partner organisation, who has some youth work knowledge or experience and will lead the development and delivery of work with local young people.

Local Volunteers – The entire organisation should aim to actively recruit and retain local people with some youth work knowledge or experience, or who are passionate about engaging with young people. These volunteers will support the face to face work with local young people.

Young Leaders – The entire organisation should aim to actively recruit and retain a core group of local young people who can influence, encourage and maintain other young people’s involvement in youth activities and opportunities provided by the organisation.

 

Question 2: What are the main components for the successful implementation of a youth engagement strategy

Answer:

Understand and respond to local issues – The most effective way to engage young people is to offer them something that they are interested in. Something that they care about. Something that they will benefit from. There are local issues that affect the local community you serve, and local young people will, without a doubt, be very aware of these issues. Give them an opportunity to participate in activities that are both interesting and engaging but also address a local need that affects them.

Links to Local Organisations – Build and maintain positive working relationships with local organisations with access to a range of resources that can support your youth engagement efforts. there are local organisations who have existing relationships with local young people, would benefit from partnering with your organisation. Leverage those partnerships.

Offer Opportunities – Identify and offer existing opportunities within the organisation for young people to engage in. You should look beyond a “Youth Club”. There are day-to-day activities that you do in your organisation, that you could get young people involved in. Write out a list of your core business and the daily tasks associated with that work. then look for opportunities that you could get young people involved in. Think – “Young Apprentice”.

Proactive Social Media Engagement – The majority of young people’s attention is on social media platforms. You should be creating and distributing a consistent stream of high quality, valuable, outbound communication from your organisation. And when the opportunity arises, you should post honest and personable responses to public inbound communication across all appropriate social media platforms.

Sharing Best Practice – Develop and promote a culture of proactive information and knowledge sharing across your organisation. Programme plans and ideas, documents, funding opportunities, resources etc. This could be facilitated through your organisation’s website.

 

Question 3: How can we equip our existing staffing resources to deliver on our youth engagement strategy?

Answer: Establish a Youth Engagement resources and support package that staff can tap into.

This would provide staff with access to a range of resource and training to better equip them in their youth engagement efforts. This resource could include access to youth related training such as;

  • Introduction to youth work
  • Consulting young people effectively
  • Street-based youth engagement strategies and approaches
  • Engaging with challenging young people
  • Building and maintaining effective partnerships
  • Using Social Media effectively
  • Recruiting and retaining volunteers
  • Identifying and applying for funding
  • Monitoring and evaluating the impact of youth engagement

 

Question 4: How can we use our current online resources to help support our youth engagement efforts?

Answer: Develop a dedicated area on your organisation’s website into a Youth Engagement Knowledge Hub.

Registered members could log in and make personal connections with peers, find, share and discuss topics that are relevant to both the housing sector and youth engagement.

This could have the functionality to allow users to:

  • Connect with other users and keep up to date with what others are up to in relation to Youth Engagement
  • Download useful documents and resources
  • Publish articles, blogs and other content to keep the Hub fresh and continually populated.
  • Read and submit case studies of good practice
  • Receive notifications and updates from other users

 

Question 5: We don’t have any staffing capacity to deliver a youth engagement strategy, what can we do?

Answer: Secure an arrangement with a youth engagement agency.

For many housing organisations, a lack of staff with not only the time but also the relevant skills and experience is a barrier to successfully delivering a youth engagement strategy and engaging with young people in general.

Having arrangements in place with a youth engagement agency would give your organisation access to professionally qualified youth engagement staff on a casual “As required” basis.

This would allow you to benefit from having access to a pool of professionally qualified and experienced youth work staff you could deploy to develop and deliver youth engagement activities without having to the long-term commitment of employing them.

The agency would take away the hassle, stress and expense of recruiting, training and managing the additional workforce. Agencies can also be extremely selective in the identifying and vetting of the most suitable staff for your project.

 

If you would like more useful tips and advice on how to engage young people effectively, or if you would like to find out about our dedicated youth engagement support specifically for the housing sector, then click the link below, and let start a conversation.

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