Co Producing Youth Employment Policy

We've just come to the end of a major project, The Youthforia Youth Employment Commission, run on behalf of NWRYWU and Youthforia, with additional support from Inclusion NW. This project was focused on working on a long term basis with both adult experts and young people to create policy recommendations around youth employment for the North West of England.

A small group of adult experts and young people were brought together, over several months to look indepth at employment policy, and how it plays out in practice across the region.   Combining the lived experience of young people and knowledge base of adult subject experts, was an extension of previous approaches used by PDC for policy co-production.  We are a strong believer that such collaborative approaches to policy can produce the most informed and effective policy, by allowing those involved to draw from both adult and young people's perspectives in an arena of shared discussion and joint responsibility.  Many of the projects we have run on this basis in the past have been very effective, but they are often designed so that the contact time between adult experts/decision makers is relatively small, perhaps based around a single day event.  For the youth employment commission project, we wanted to significantly extend the amount of contact time between adult experts/decision makers and young people, and allow the people involved to develop effective working relationships by working with a single, small mixed group of adults and young people for an extended period of time.

The results were an interesting development for co-production approaches to policy.  We found that we were able to analyse issues raised by young people in a significantly greater depth than the models we were building on , whilst still maintaining young people's  involvement in this analysis. It also allowed us to road test the policies the group game up with with both other young people (through youthforia) and other policy makers, prior to publication, so that we could increase the credibility of the final recommendations with both parties. The final "voice" of the report was an interesting challenge - was this young people speaking? was it adults? In reality it was a dual voice, with some areas strongly influenced by adults and others by young people.

We certainly wouldn't argue that such extensive co-production, should be used as a replacement for a discrete youth "voice", projects that speaks purely from the perspective of young people. This style of project is highly valuable, and an important part of young people's right to a voice,  particularly in democratic settings.  However, extended co-production does allow for young people's involvement in more nuanced policy making process, and enables participation projects to think differently about the role of "decision makers" in our work. Often we paint decision makers as having a very black and white role-  they either agree or refuse to implement what young people want - and participation's job is to increase the power of young people, so decision makers find it harder to refuse.  But sometimes policy making can be more subtle; with issues like youth unemployment,all sides agree this is an issue,  so more nuanced debate between adults and young people about which solutions will be effective is required.  Such debates require both the the views and experiences of young people, and the professional expertise that adults with have a body of relevant knowledge or experience can bring.

The YYEC report was launched at the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion Youth Unemployment Convention Conference in may 2014 -

You can download a copy of the report here