Why Esmée started involving young people in our work

We want to do better at listening to and involving young people more directly with our work. So, in March 2020, we started working with Hudl Youth Development Agency to establish the Involving Young People Collective to help us design and test ways in which we can do this.

We have always believed that young people should be at the heart of decisions that impact on them. They bring insight, energy and fresh thinking to the social and environmental challenges we face today.

But while we ask organisations we fund to listen to the views of young people, we have done little of this ourselves. We want to change this, and we’re pleased to be working with the Involving Young People Collective (to help us.

Ultimately, we want young people’s insights and expertise to enrich and inform decision-making within Esmée so that we increase the impact of our funding and wider work.

Below, you can find out more about the Collective, how we’re working with them and what we hope to achieve. Do also read our recent blog on how we work with the Collective.

What is the Involving Young People Collective?

The Collective is formed of 12 young people who have been recruited to work with Esmée for around 9 months from May 2020 to help us design and test ways in which we can involve young people in the future. This includes helping us develop our new strategy and putting forward recommendations as to how we work with young people – both in thinking about what we fund and how we fund.

We have commissioned Keji Okeowo and Floree Zama Neagra at Hudl Youth Development Agency to help guide this process, facilitate sessions, and capture learning. At Esmée this work is being led by our Lead for Children and Young People, Catherine Hillis.

How were the young people selected? Are they paid?

We reached out to organisations we fund that we know are expert in involving young people to create change to see if any of the young people they work with would be interested in working with us.

We held an information session for those interested to learn more about our plans and how they could be involved before being invited to apply to join the Involving Young People Collective. Together with Hudl, we selected the young people to join the Collective.

The young people will be paid the London Living Wage for all the time they dedicate to this work both in and outside of the set sessions.

Why are Esmée including young people in their work now? Why not before?

The review of our strategic plan created an opportunity to think about the way we work and to explore how we might involve young people in delivering the new strategy.

Although we have always believed and funded youth leadership, we recognise that we’re not experts in this ourselves and have only involved young people in some specific initiatives.

Recently, we gained some experience of involving young people by working alongside and learning from other funders, for instance:

However, we have a lot to learn. We realise we are by no means the first to do this kind of work. This is just a first step to improving the way we work. We appreciate that it is long overdue to take a step back and think more strategically about how our own practice, processes and decision making could be improved. Thanks to the input and challenge from Phil Kerry from New Horizon Youth Centre during his placement at Esmée as part of the Clore 6 Leadership programme, we decided not to look just at how we involve young people in panels, but to think about every aspect of Esmée’s work.

What do you want to achieve from working with the Collective?

We hope that this 9-month process will allow us to involve young people in a productive, meaningful, and mutually beneficial way. 

We will set outcomes for this project together with the Collective.  After this process we hope to have: 

  • A better understanding of how to co-produce productively 
  • A plan for including young people in Esmée’s work going forward  
  • Listened with an open mind to what young people have to say and with a willingness to adapt and make changes  
  • To have tested ways of including young voices in one or more of the following: 
  • The development of our strategy 
  • Decision making process 
  • Application process  
  • Operational processes  
  • Any other areas that are identified throughout the process.   
What will the process be?

We will work together with the Involving Young People Collective, facilitated by Hudl, to produce a plan on how best to embed young people’s voices and involve them in our work. 

The Collective have helped to shape how they work, and we have taken their lead on ensuring that we work in a way that meets their needs and allows them develop skills in areas they are interested in. 

The process will include: 

  • Introduction and an oversight of the work Esmée funds and how we work 
  • Scoping Session with the Collective and a range of Esmée staff 
  • Consultation on the revised strategy document (1 of 3 external consultations) 
  • 2X Hackathons  
  • Testing period  
  • Recommendations made and a plan for including young people beyond the 9-month project
How will you set outcomes for this work?

We will set outcomes and indicators for measuring the success of this work with Hudl and members of the Collective. 

Rather than setting outcomes on how we will change as a result of this work, we will think about:

  • What we want to have achieved by the end of 9 months
  • How we will know if the co-production process was inclusive and effective  
  • Lessons for going forward  
What will Esmée change as a result of working with the Collective?

While we have ideas about how we could change as a result of this work, we have left this open for now to allow for authentic co-production, only providing our initial ideas to help focus conversation when needed.

How will Esmée be held accountable if the Collective make suggestions that are not followed through?

The Involving Young People Collective have adapted the way that this process works to meet their needs and ensure the process is mutually beneficial. The process is led by the Collective, already they have produced a working agreement and changed their name.

As a result of this work, Esmée will have tested ways of including young people in our organisation in the future and have a plan for how to commit to embedding young people’s voices in the longer term.

Throughout this process, we will share our plans, expectations for our work and learning along the way. We are keeping track of questions or ideas as they come up to allow us to reflect at the end on all ideas, not only those that are tested.

Learn more


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