Effectiveness of a Co Creation Approach
Schools were supportive of the project and found it easy to identify cohorts of young people who might benefit from the pilot. Understandably, there were variations between schools in terms of the frequency and duration of time that young people could be released from their timetable to participate in the pilot. Delivery therefore needed to be flexible and very adaptable to school context.
Sessions that worked well and met the needs of the young people, schools and local authorities were:
- Small sized groups of 8-10, which allowed the facilitator and young people to get the best out of the process and the chance to properly listen to all group members.
- Encouraging of young people to adopt and display a set of values and behaviours for the process.
- Face to face, not online.
- Regular sessions for relatively short periods of time, with breaks built in.
- Based upon topics that are relevant to young people’ lives – e.g., social media, what they do in leisure time.
- Not too ‘academic’ – these were generally more disengaged young people, and the sessions offer something different to usual lessons.
- Task based, that use flip charts, stickers and post-its and working in pairs/threes, encouraging participation from quieter young people.
- Inclusive of elements of physical activity, which can be classroom based, requiring no special kit/equipment, with young people allowed to arrive ‘gym-ready’ in comfortable clothes.
- Led by reinforcing to young people that the process is being steered by them, giving ownership.
- Opportunities for young people to speak to adults other than teachers, without teacher presence.
- Inclusive of ‘perks’ which motivate and are enjoyed by young people e.g., water bottles, t-shirts, freebies, rewards for commitment.
- Clarified with school’s up front. Flexible timescales and flexible content within a session is likely to be a necessity to accommodate short notice changes.
- Resourced with a modest budget for delivery to put young people’ ideas into practice.
As the pilot reached the stage of operationalising the young people’s ideas, it emerged that there was not a consistent way of funding activities that had costs attached. Building in a small budget for delivery would be beneficial. It would also further demonstrate to young people the commitment to them. Sharing the amount available up front with young people could a) help them feel valued in the process and b) a mechanism to help them develop their understanding of the financial viability of their suggestions and the practicalities of putting things into practice. Should the pilot be extended elsewhere, allocating a very modest sum for a few weeks of delivery / transport costs to kick start activities would be beneficial.
“What was helpful, in an ideal world we’d do this a lot more, having that time to sit down with the young people and really ask them about what makes them tick and what they would like. That sort of consultation is helpful and good practice to adopt in other schools and environments, the sense of co-creation and listening to young people – it’s recognised as good practice but in reality it’s not always done that much” (Local authority representative)
Outcomes and conclusion
Young people who ‘always’ feel listened to are more likely to participate more frequently in sport and enjoy PE and sport at school. This pilot has gone some way to emphasising the importance of consulting and listening - as a result, these young people have benefited from sustained support over a six + month period, and some have re-engaged with physical activity, albeit at a very early stage. This has provided them with a chance for their voice to be heard through this pilot, and more importantly, for their voice to be acted on. Their feedback has been insightful and relevant in helping the workforce understand how disengaged young people feel, and what the potential solutions might be.
Importantly, all the local authorities involved in the pilot are continuing these group sessions in varying formats and some are planning their next cohort of young people to work with, independently of the consultancy support. These local authority staff are skilled and confident in developing relationships with young people. They are also sharing the insight gained with their wider teams. Even as a small-scale project, the potential impact and ability to change the mindset and future activity levels of some young people who are disengaged, or on the cusp of becoming so, is highly valuable. Further tracking to follow up any progress and longer-term outcomes for young people has been recommended.
Strategically, the pilot has been a good fit and means of addressing local and national aims and policies. The pilot has complemented rather than duplicated existing work programmes. It has fitted in well with the sector’s focus on underserved communities, targeting female participation and building relationships with schools and young people.
For Sport Wales, it addresses several areas of strategic intent: to be person centred, to give every young person a great start, and to ensure everyone has the opportunity to be active through sport. Through this process evaluation, we have identified things that work well and can be replicated and some alternative ways of delivering steps to speed the process and maximise the opportunities to listen to and build relationships with young people.