FTVG 2022/23: Engaging Young People in Consultation

Photo of young people collaborating

FTVG project aims for EYPiC gains in youth engagement

FTVG are pleased to profile the findings from each of their projects this year, and participants’ reflections on taking part.  Our first feature covers the Engaging Young People in Consultation (EYPiC) team; formed of Bernard Fanning, Head of Digital Strategy and Innovation at The Nichols Group, and Dr. Gemma Bridge, an independent researcher based in Leeds.

The project’s focus is to capture insights from young people (aged 18-25) to identify ways to better engage them in public consultations.  The project also captured views from key stakeholders across the public sector to understand their perceptions of the barriers and enablers to youth engagement.

“We were both initially interested in researching new ways of reaching out to wider audiences in public consultation, such as augmented reality”, says Gemma, “But as we delved deeper into these techniques, we found there was a much broader issue around getting people to engage with public consultations in the first place”

Bernard added, “We found that current participation in public consultations is limited, particularly from certain groups such as young people.  We decided to focus on this aspect in particular as we both felt younger people are often overlooked in the planning process.”

FTVG supported a series of networking sessions to bring people together with similar ideas, with both Gemma and Bernard joining the session on engagement.  They were then matched with two mentors and supported through a series of project milestone meetings with the FTVG Steering Group.

“FTVG provide loads of support”, said Bernard, “From the initial pitches, to understanding what’s expected. We have been supported financially as well as academically. I really enjoyed the Steering Group sessions whereby you get insight and critique from industry experts. This really helped frame the project and ensure a great end product.”

Engaging on Engagement

The team conducted a literature review to identify barriers and opportunities to engaging young people in public consultations.  They then conducted an online survey, which received over 250 responses, followed by three online focus groups with young people in England.  They also spoke to a range of planning and consultation professionals to gain insights from the wider industry.

Gemma suggested that, “Collaboration was key for us; with both of us working remotely, we used various tools like Notion, Super and Canva to compile the findings from all stages of data collection and draw out the key themes.”

The group were keen to ensure diversity within younger demographics was adequately represented too.  Gemma reflected on the work needed to ensure this was embedded into the project.

“We found it difficult initially to reach and engage with a diverse range of young people, but we were determined to make sure that we enabled as many young people to take part as we could.  We used a survey recruitment platform called Prolific and we collaborated with gatekeepers like colleges and youth groups to ensure we got a good mix of young people involved”

“Getting young people’s insights was fascinating”, added Bernard, “We reflected on what we understood about consultation at that age which was also very eye opening.  It helped to better understand what barriers they faced.”

The final interviews with industry experts helped to frame some of the issues and challenges and develop a clear and user-friendly set of recommendations.

Theory into Practice

Based on their research and industry feedback, Team EYPiC have now produced two support packs to give an outline to the tools and to better engage with younger people.  This includes a pack for schools about the importance of consultations and engaging young people and a pack for local authorities and organisations running consultations to summarise the recommendations.

A valuable part of the process was then testing these outputs with the stakeholder groups once more.

“When doing research that affects a particular group of people, it is critical to collaborate with them as early in the process as possible, and include them when developing outputs so that the outputs are actually useful”, said Gemma.

Bernard agreed, adding, “This was an important point for me in learning how to run a research project well.  Gemma was so adept as it is her background and skillset. I thoroughly enjoyed the process and learnt on the way how you can distil lots of data into key tangible takeaways.”

The group hope that these road-tested products can be genuinely helpful to transport practitioners in bringing more young people into the consultation process.  Bernard hopes it helps to emphasise that young people should not be treated as a single homogenous group;

“I hope that we have given decision makers food for thought when looking to go to public consultation. Our tool helps them to think about objectives, the setting of the consultation and should lead towards better outcomes.”

Gemma wants the legacy of the project to lead wider industry change when it comes to engaging younger people;

“At the moment, there are no specific regulations in England that require young people to be included in public consultations. It would be great if our toolkit could be used to promote to raise the profile of young people in consultations so that they can get their voices heard.”

The group will be presenting their findings at this year’s Transport Practitioners Meeting in Greenwich, June 28th – 29th.

Their engagement materials and research can be found here:

The team’s webpages can be found here:

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