To consult or not to consult

 In Blogs

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend break, or maybe you were busy working doing all the wonderful staff that youth workers do to ensure that young people get the best service. Maybe is that time where you and your team are thinking about a project/programme for your young people and you’re excited of the prospect of involving young people.

Have you been in a position where you have come out with a brilliant project, put in all the time and effort planning and developing your project to perfection? With this shear excitement, you steamed ahead only to find out that during the point of delivery your young people are not interested in taking part. L So what happened where did it all go wrong you ask yourself… ah-ha how could you have missed that crucial part of your planning…CONSULTATION.

Think of it like that what if you went to your doctors (I know the example is pretty Liam) and without him doing any checks or discussing what the problem is rights a prescription by just looking at you. How would you feel? For a fact, you know you won’t be too happy about it at all. So bear that in mind next time before rushing into the delivery of your project think back and consult your young people to enable your project to be a success.

Here at Youth Work News, we thought we would write a blog to cover the basic fundamentals of consultation for youth workers, teachers, community workers, local authority workers, facilitator and other organizations and individuals to use with young people, who may be involved or interested in organizing a consultation exercise.

Challenges of undertaking consultation with children and young people;

  • Planning and preparation time
  • Accessing children and young people
  • Pre-conceptions of adults, children and young people
  • Encouraging children and young people to participate in the consultation at a community centre if they currently do not access the services.
  • Children and young people’s attitudes towards those undertaking the consultation
  • Matching the right consultation methods with the right target group
  • Children and young people following their peer’s ideas in fear of being embarrassed to express their personal thoughts, ideas and feelings.
  • Ensuring all safeguarding policies and procedures (i.e. child protection policy and procedure, data protection policy and procedures, Health and safety of activities/risk assessment undertaken, parental consent for video/photo images etc) are in place prior to and during the consultation activities.

Now that we have all this out-of-the-way and we have an understanding of what is the definition of consultation we can now progress to the next stage. Before I go to the next stage I believe that there is another important part we need to be aware.


Youth participation is an essential aspect of any successful youth development initiative and may manifest on a variety of levels. The most successful initiatives take youth from passive beneficiaries to full contributing partners of the development process. Young people may also be trained to play roles such as community leaders, activists, and service-providers, youth club representatives.

This ladder still assumes the need for dynamic, trusted adults to accompany participatory processes at every step, but for them to act within a new paradigm of youth-adult partnership in which the young person takes on steadily increasing authorship of the process—including the ability to make and learn from their own mistakes.

Let’s explore some of the ways in which we can do this with our young people


Place four signs around the room. The signs read “agree”, “disagree”, “strongly agree” and “strongly disagree”. Readout prepared statement or questions and the children or young people have to run to a label that best reflects how they feel.


Children and young people can draw ideas on balloons and then decide whether as a group they release or pop an idea.


Children and young people write their idea on a postcard (free ones from bars) and put them in a suggestion box.

Bead boxes

Children and young people vote by placing a bead in a pot.


Draw around two volunteers on giant sheets of paper. One is the “World’s worst…” the other “World’s best…” They then write and draw their ideas all over the sheets of paper.

Speech Bubbles

Put up a picture to represent what you want feedback on (your activities and services on offer or proposed new services). The children and young people can draw their thoughts and ideas on the speech bubbles on the display.

Graffiti Wall

Hang large sheets of paper on a wall and invite the children and young people to their opinions on the sheets in the form of graffiti.

If time and resources allow, prepare large pieces of paper with sponge print to give a brick wall effect and prepare different pieces of paper for children and young people to express their ideas on in their own graffiti writing. Display these pieces of paper on the wall.

Ideas Avalanche

Set a topic for discussion and ask for suggestions. As people call out their ideas write them up on the flip chart. Once the avalanche of ideas is over you can discuss which ideas are most practical, whether any are impossible and which should be discussed further.

Post-it Ideas Storm

Divide into groups and give each some post-it notes and a pen. Write the question to be discussed upon a flip chart. Ask the group to write ideas onto post-it note (one idea per post-it). Collect the notes and stick them on the flip chart, clumping similar ideas together for discussion.

Dot voting

Create a list of possible answers in response to a question or statement on a flip chart, for example, things children and young people do in their spare time. Leave space next to each answer. Give everyone three sticky dots and ask them to place their dots next to three activities they do most often. You can all see immediately which activities are the most popular.

Video Booth( Love this one)

Set up a video camera in a small room with a chair for children and young people to sit on. Either allow children and young people to express openly their ideas and suggestions to the camera, or ask questions that they answer to the camera.

Wishing Well

Using whatever materials you can (clean dustbin, wide tube, children’s’ play tunnels) set up a wishing well. Children write their thoughts, suggestions, and ideas on a round piece of paper (coin) and throw it into the wishing well.

Freeze Frame

Get into small groups of about 5 to 7 people and challenge them to pose in a freeze frame of a scene. Give them a theme such as “young people enjoy themselves”. They should use their imagination to decide as a group what they are trying to depict and then devise a way to represent it as a freeze frame.

Arty Mural

Set a topic or theme for the mural, for example, “what children and young people in the area do in their spare time” or “the best playground ever”. Then encourage people to express their views on that topic by drawing a picture or creating a collage.

Diamond Ranking

Set a question and have nine ideas for people to prioritise. Write each idea on a post-it note and ask each group to arrange their nine ideas in a diamond shape with their priority at the top, two in second place, three in third place, two in fourth place and the lowest priority idea at the bottom. They need to get a consensus as a group and can move the ideas around until they reach an order with which they all agree.

Online questionnaires/Surveys

If you have a website you may be able to use it. Placing online questionnaires or surveys on your website is also another popular way that young people use to give their thoughts and feelings. You could place a series of questions on the site and ask them to e-mail you a response (easiest and cheapest form). Developing an online survey which asks children and young people a series of questions that they can select yes or no etc can be very expensive but if the funding is available it may be worth looking into. (Adapted from Family Learning Initiative – Family Friendly Guidelines (2007)- ‘Consulting with Children and Young People’.)

I am finished here hope this helps and if you have any ideas that you would like to share please leave your comments below.

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