On a cold Saturday morning in March 2019, the group met for the first time. Our challenge: to create a digital solution that would allow young people to engage in government policy, without having to wade through pages and pages of information, or navigate the gov.uk website.
We started off by learning about the policy-making process. I’d love to be able to explain this in a succinct way, but I think all that I can say is this – it’s pretty complicated. It was a little bit like trying to understand the London Tube Map for the first time, without any knowledge of London or the tube.
After spending a little while scratching our heads, we moved on to think about something more familiar to us: young people. We thought carefully about how we could create a platform that gave all young people the tools to engage with government policy in a quick but meaningful way, regardless of their background or personal experience. Inclusivity quickly became one of our guiding principles: we wanted this platform to capture voices that are often not heard.
Following a morning of learning and listening, it was time to get creative. We broke off into three groups, with each group creating an idea for a digital engagement platform. Before we knew it, the weekend was over, and we had three initial ideas that we could take out into the world and test.
During the few months that followed our first residential, a great deal happened. We each went out and held focus groups to gather young people’s opinions on the platforms that we had created, and used their insights to shape our ideas. More group members were recruited, and before we knew it it was time for residential number two.
We came together again in June 2019, to share our insights and to hear the views of new members of the group. Fast forward to the end of this residential, and we had settled on our proposal. We wanted to develop a platform that would utilise social media as a tool to engage young people, taking government policy-making into the very spaces where young people thrive.
From this ambition, Involved was born. We have spent the last year working together to develop the idea from a concept, scribbled quickly onto a few pieces of paper in a hotel conference room, into a reality. I’ll be honest, it’s taken a little longer than we had hoped – but we hope you’ll agree that it is worth the wait.
So, now you know how Involved came to be, you’re probably wondering what Involved actually is, and what we hope it will achieve. Involved will be an Instagram based platform, using the stories function to ask young people a series of questions, agreed upon by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Youth Policy Group members. Your responses and views will then be analysed, and fed back to the policy teams within government. What this all means is that, by answering a question on the Involved platform, you have an opportunity to influence government policy. Pretty cool, if I do say so myself.
I just want to end by addressing one final question – why should you care? You might feel disillusioned with politics at the moment, or maybe you think that your voice doesn’t matter. At one of our residentials, a member of the group came up with a slogan: ‘I may be small, but I have a big voice’. Sure, you’re only one person, but we each carry with us our own experiences. Your experiences are unique to you as an individual, and that makes them valuable. This is your chance to shape the future, to influence change in the areas and issues that really matter to you, to use your experiences to build a better world. Maybe youth voice is right up your street, or maybe you’ve never engaged in anything like this before. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Use this platform, and let’s get the voices of young people heard.