Young people play an important part in our communities and may use a range of council facilities such as playparks, benches and public toilets. Although they have their own needs and desires for the community, they can sometimes be a hard group for local councils to reach but there are benefits to engaging with them. They are the future of our communities so it is critical to support their development. Councils can work to engage young people, either by getting them involved in the work of the council or by delivering services and assets designed to support them.
Councils could try and reach out to young people by working with other organisations, such as schools and local youth groups, to help educate youngsters about local councils and encouraging them to participate. This might include going into schools or youth meetings (such as the Guides or Scouts) to give talks, putting notices or updates in school newsletters, or actively working with groups to promote local democracy. For example, councils could run art competitions in schools to design a logo for the council or to design a poster. South Tawton Parish Council carried out a competition to choose a winning design for their ‘slow down’ road signs.
Streaming or videoing important events may also help as young people could watch them at school or at home; Okehampton Town Council streams their Mayoral choosing event so that schools are able to watch it live.
Other ways to include young people in your community might be to use social media; different media will reach different groups so it may be worth considering an Instagram, or Twitter, page. Perhaps you could use community awards to recognise young people in the parish who are already working hard to benefit the community like South Brent Parish Council’s Community Champion awards
Meet Harley Carpenter, Horrabridge’s latest parish councillor! Harley was co-opted in April, having just turned 18 years old.
She has lived in the parish for 5 years and felt it was important to join the council to encourage other youngsters to feel more involved with the community and to express any concerns they might have.
Harley also volunteers with the local youth club, youth coffee mornings and U.B.A.K.A. (Urban Bulldogs Against Kids Abuse).
NALC has a range of resources aimed at how councils can encourage young people to become councillors and make a change in their community, but also the ways that councils can support young people including funding youth groups, consulting young people and installing relevant assets such as skate parks. This includes a Young people case studies publication, which includes several councils from Devon including Bradninch, Peter Tavy, Chulmleigh and Buckland Brewer.
Our partners, Breakthrough Communications, run training on how to effectively engage with young people in your community (please note the course costs £30 +VAT, invoiced by DALC), to help you explore the issues that matter to young people, how to effectively reach and engage with them both online and offline, and how to build partnerships with them to improve your community and the work of your council. More information on our training with Breakthrough Communications is available here, with a range of other courses to help you engage your community.
If you are a young councillor (under 40) then you may be interested in joining NALC’s National Network for Young Councillors which meets regularly to help connect councillors, share good practice and provide mutual support.