UNCRC implementation ‘The Right Way’ project: developing a framework for youth participation with young people at the centre
The right for young people to have their views heard on matters that affect them and for those views to be taken seriously is one of the general principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). For many of the young people I represent as a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYP) there is work to be done to ensure this right is fully realised.
‘The Right Way’ is a year-long project run by the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) and funded by the Scottish Government’s Children’s Rights Unit. It aims to support government, as duty bearers, to work to ensure young people’s Article 12 right is respected. As the Trustee for the SYP with a responsibility for projects, I am working with SYP staff to lead on this. This blog will introduce the context for why we are focusing on young people’s meaningful participation and how the project aims to contribute to a wider culture change within government towards involving young people in decision-making.
Why participation, and why now?
SYP have spent a long time arguing for the meaningful participation of young people in decision-making and so it’s probably not surprising that we’re continuing to do that.
Meaningful participation – the practice, process and policies that enable young people to have their views heard in decision-making and for those views to be genuinely considered – leads to more inclusive and effective policies that better serve the needs of young people.
While there have been challenges, the expected incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots Law has put children and young people’s rights at the centre of our national debate. This provides a brilliant opportunity for us to tackle some of the problems that persist in young people’s participation in decision-making.
Although there are some brilliant examples of meaningful youth participation in Scotland, too often young people have told us that too much engagement is either tokenistic or non-existent. And while we’re starting relatively small with the project, our aim is to contribute to a wider culture change and education of decision makers about what makes participation meaningful. ‘The Right Way’ to do this might be different for different policy areas, organisations or groups, but the only way to know if it’s meaningful is to engage with young people themselves in creating those policies and practices.
The Right Way project
Over the past few months I’ve been working with 13 other MSYPs and SYP staff on ‘The Right Way’ project. To achieve our aim of improving knowledge, understanding and practices of meaningful participation in Scottish Government, we are:
- Working with 3 Scottish Government policy teams to research an element of youth participation within their policy area. Each team was selected through a process which gave the MSYPs involved a say in who they would work with, The hope is that the process of engagement will look different for each policy team, which will then support three different case studies of how meaningful youth participation can be developed in government departments.
- Second, we’re planning shadowing opportunities for senior officials to come into youth friendly spaces at SYP and see the work that goes into creating a meaningful participation process. So, they will be offered the chance to shadow MSYPs in SYP projects or workshops – whether that be virtually or in-person.
- We’re also developing ad-hoc participation support, and opportunities for officials to learn more about participation through things like FAQs, top tips and more.
- And then finally we’re going to bring all of this learning and resource together into a “participation framework” which will hopefully include best practice case-studies, training resources, youth-led explainers on all things participation and so much more!
Participation is, inherently, about process. Building a good process and a culture of good engagement processes will lead to more inclusive and effective decision-making that benefits the lives of Scotland’s young people.
For this to work it requires longer-term thinking, planning and, crucially, resources. Engagement and participation can’t be afterthoughts stuck on the end of processes to tick a box, they have to be embedded throughout. Then, when this is done properly, we get better outcomes for young people.
Find out more
The project will run until March 2023. Anyone interested in finding out more can get in touch with SYP’s UNCRC Participation Manager, Matt McDonald.
- Taking forward UNCRC implementation in Scotland
- Collaborative approaches to planning the UNCRC national children’s rights awareness raising campaign – the story of the young people’s awareness raising subgroup