Planning for Real (PFR) has an excellent track record of working with young people. Since joining the Accord Group in 2009, we have had increased opportunities to work with our housing association partners, and in particular on specific projects to engage with young people.
One of our recent projects involved working with Ashram Housing Association in partnership with Lozells Recreation Group, a Birmingham City Council youth centre in Lozells, north Birmingham.
The focus of this project was on improving community cohesion by bringing together young people from all ethnic backgrounds in the Lozells area of Birmingham. The project aimed to engage with young people in a meaningful way and to increase their awareness of their roles as citizens and the wider political system around them.
The 2008 Birmingham opinion survey showed that residents in Lozells felt that activities for teenagers were one of the three top priority needs in the area. Community cohesion is a challenge in Lozells as illustrated by the Birmingham Customer Segmentation File which classifies the population as Group F – ‘Diverse communities, with many people from minority cultures’.
In order to deliver the programme, we worked in partnership with the Bangladeshi Youth Forum, First Class Youth, Wallace Lawler and Lozells Youth Inclusion Project.
After initial awareness raising in the area, led by PFR’s Project Officer Kamran Hussain, a group of eight local young people came together to lead on this project, from the initial planning stages, through to delivery of the programme of activities for young people. A Planning for Real® style approach was used for this project, from the visual tools which the group used to plan the project through to the consultation exercises with young people from Lozells which aimed to find out what facilities and activities already existed and what was needed in the area.
The group of eight young people assisted in devising the programme and organising the venues, costings and transport for the activities which were provided. The aims of the project were to:
- Provide the opportunity for young people to access new outdoor sporting facilities
- Provide the opportunity for young people from different ethnic communities to interact with each other in a fun and safe environment away from home
- Increase the sense of pride in the local community
- Reduce the number of actual and perceived incidents of anti-social behaviour in the local community by encouraging young people to occupy their time positively.
The intended outcomes for the project were to:
- Improve community cohesion by bringing together young people and their youth workers from different youth organisations, each who historically represent a different ethnic group. Links would be built both on an individual level and between the existing organisations
- Engage with young people over the summer months in a meaningful activity
- Increase awareness amongst participating young people of their roles as citizens and build their knowledge of how the wider political system works.
In terms of measuring progress of the project, this was done through monitoring (group evaluation, staff debriefs at the end of each session, recordings and ongoing consultations with young people) and recording (photos, minutes of meetings and recordings of sessions).
The project was very successful with wide ranging benefits for both the group of young people who were instrumental in leading and organising the programme as well as all the young people who participated in the activities.
Skills learnt by the young people included:
- Telephone skills
- Working to a set budget
- How to work as part of a team to achieve targets
- Organisational and planning skills (as the young people chose the venues and the activities)
- Assessing risk.
The knowledge gained included:
- The importance of personal hygiene
- The impact of their behaviour on others around them
- Dealing with their emotions while away from family
- Being honest when sorting out a problem
- Raising their awareness of the importance of their identity both individually and collectively.
This project had a positive impact on the wider community who benefited by having less young people hanging around on the streets with nothing constructive to do. The partner organisations benefited by new members becoming aware of and accessing their services for young people. A diverse mix of young people in terms of their ethnic background, gender and age interacted, and this project helped to reduce some of the barriers between different groups of young people in the Lozells area.
The project was very successful and with sufficient funding we would be keen to work with more young people and deliver this project again. High numbers of young people attended the activities, and we would be confident of attracting even more young people to volunteer again for a future project.
Kamran Hussain, PFR’s Project Officer was instrumental in the delivery of this project. We asked Kamran what made this project a success, and what we can learn about successfully engaging with young people from this project:
“A Planning for Real® type of approach was perfect for this project as it lends itself to really understanding the youngsters in the community and listening to their views.
This project was set up for youngsters in the local communities to develop their interest in working together. The aim was to deliver a high quality service and to welcome youngsters from all communities and backgrounds.
This project focused on engaging with, empowering and bringing together youngsters. The Planning for Real® approach has really had an impact in reducing barriers between groups and raising ambitions amongst the young people who participated.”