Consulting and Involving Young People

Approach consultation creatively!

January often begins with sorting through old files, both the digital and paper type. Digging deep in boxes I came across these notes on consultation with young people from nearly twenty years ago. Do they still ring true? What else might you add? 

Key Principles


  • Be prepared to spend more time planning and analysing than you might otherwise – drawings, interviews and voting systems for example, require more energy than analysing questionnaires.
  • Vary methods to keep the process interesting.  This might involve focusing on one issue in depth or breaking up topics over time.
  • Consider the quality of input and results, and how to analyse differing elements. Use of a variety of methods can make it more difficult to identify patterns, progress or individuals.
  • Align involvement with the emerging priorities from other consultations in the community/sector.


  • Encourage participants to see engagement as part of an action process in which they can get involved.
  • Consider creative, attractive and low-commitment ways of presenting results at different stages during the process and plan this feedback into your overall consultation.
  • Involve young people in the presentation of feedback to adult members of the community.



  • Consider who is being consulted and represented. Ask young people as a matter of course who they know isn’t there, why this might be, how their opinions might differ, and how they could be engaged.
  • Think about access. With events, ensure timings reflect when young people are available and anticipate where they may have to travel to and from. Consider what venues they may find intimidating. With questionnaires ensure simplicity of design and phrasing.
  • Use common-sense Child Protection measures to keep young people safe and protect adults. Stay up to date with current laws and policies.


  • If you have set structures, present them simply and make it clear how they communicate with other structures.
  • Be honest about any decision-making power that groups have.
  • Make any adult roles clear for everyone and in a long-term process keep the number of adult contacts to a minimum.
  • Encourage enthusiastic participation but be wary of individual young people or particular agendas taking over.


A Few Consultation Methods


Use sports equipment such as basketball hoops, goals or objects that can be moved to indicate opinions.

Give out a set of cards with a variety of options or answers and place them in order of preference/importance.

Use an agree/disagree scale to indicate views and ask people to stand along it.


Interview individuals and record expressions in the form of a ‘video diary‘ or a ‘diary room’.

Represent a group view through the development of a video argument or debate.


Give out disposable cameras and set a challenge to capture the best, worst or most important aspects of a place, project or process.



Encourage descriptions about provision. Describing these as inanimate things, such as colours or fruit, can often unlock words and feelings or select from pre-developed descriptors.


Use dots on local maps to indicate where people are from and where they feel unsafe/happy/creative/lost.

Create maps to show individual and/or group ‘life’ journeys, showing where they are, how they reached that point and where they hope to go.


Useful for individual and anonymous responses to give an idea of progres.

Problem Walls/Solution Trees

Add thoughts throughout a session/process. Handy to refer back to and track progress.


Visioning an idea through drawing/collage can often lead to new/surprising results.


Deeper creative responses can be developed through poetry, drama, music and other art forms.