In 2013, Young Scot was approached by the Children’s Rights and Participation Team in Scottish Government to facilitate a project to explore and gather disabled young people’s views, insights and experiences of services and to create recommendations and solutions for change.
Young Scot Agents of Change was a co-design project, supported by the Scottish Government, which aimed to empower disabled young people from across Scotland to explore ways in which they could influence, inform and participate in local service delivery and have their say on decision-making processes within their local area, particularly when making the transition to adulthood.
Young Scot Agents of Change was managed by Young Scot, working in partnership with local authority and third sector providers who specialise in working with disabled young people. The project involved groups of young people from five different geographic areas (Glasgow, Highland, East Lothian, Angus and Edinburgh). Each of the five groups consisted of 8-15 disabled young people with ages ranging from 12-26 years. All groups were involved for a period of nine months and were supported by the following partner organisations:
East Lothian Council
Glasgow Disability Alliance
Young Scot took on a facilitation and project management role, working closely with support workers for each of the groups and with the young people, as well as liaising with Scottish Government. As an organisation, Young Scot had not worked with disabled young people in such an in-depth way before and wanted to understand how its co-design methodologies could be used, adapted and evolved to support disabled young people in becoming more active citizens.
“The Scottish Government was keen to receive authentic, grassroots insights into the hopes, fears, and passions of disabled young people and to understand what issues are important and how these can be dealt with and improved; the young people were keen to tackle local issues, become more active citizens, learn lots of new skills, increase their self-confidence, and make new friends.”
The project started by mapping the organisations that supported disabled young people to establish a baseline. Following consultation with stakeholders, online/offline communication materials were created to promote and recruit local partners to participate in the project. These were then sent around local authority, third sector and statutory networks in Scotland and partnership agreements were signed between Young Scot and the local partner organisations.
In each of the five areas, the young people involved formed their own Youth Investigation Team and carried out research and consultation to find out about other young people’s perceptions and experiences of accessing services. Each Youth Investigation Team chose a topic to investigate in detail and the local partner organisations were given a budget and resource kit including digital equipment, to support the facilitation of the group’s investigation.
The local investigations enabled the groups to identify an issue within their community that they felt strongly about and produce a core set of recommendations to inform local service development. Each Youth Investigation Team researched and consulted on disabled young people’s perceptions and experiences of accessing services that supported their transition to adulthood in their local area. An integral part of Young Scot Agents of Change was to ensure that the youth engagement methods used were meaningful to the young people involved. This allowed for a supportive structure, enabling the groups of young people to take ownership of their Local Investigations, building on their skills and confidence.
Support from Young Scot
In partnership with stakeholders and young people, Young Scot developed and delivered a flexible and responsive training package to suit the individual needs of each group. This included training in co-design methodologies and digital media, such as audio-visual production and social media.
Using cultural probes in the form of an Investigation Kit, the groups were able to gather a wealth of deep insights. Young Scot uses cultural probes as a means of gathering inspirational data about people’s lives, values and thoughts. The probes can include any sort of object (like a map, postcard, camera or diary) along with evocative tasks, which are given to the participant to allow them to record specific events, feelings or interactions.
The aim is to elicit inspirational responses from people in order to understand their culture, experiences, thoughts and values on an intrinsic level.
“Together we developed a sensory approach to delivering the research methodologies and cultural probe training. We explored local issues, services and areas for change by building a sensory map using a range of resources based on the five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and scent. The group members could identify probes, such as a texture and associate it with a scent and service. For example, a wool pompom smelling of candy floss was used to describe youth services (safe, friendly and welcoming). We used the same approach when identifying which stakeholders the groups would like to interact with and influence throughout the project.”
There were a number of learning points throughout this project such as learning about the resources required to enable local partners to meet young people’s needs in participating. For example, the majority of the young people required taxis to attend and additional training and subsistence was required as the young people needed to meet as a group more often than anticipated.
Young Scot supported local partners by providing additional resources to enable them to carry out their projects, additional face-to-face support where needed and supported the project teams to build wider connections locally and nationally. Timescales for delivery were tight and it took extra time and resource to build the capacity of local organisations to support the co-design process. Halfway through the project, all the local workers were brought together for peer support to share their practice and experience, which made a positive difference.
Young people participating in Young Scot Agents of Change mapped their circles of support during their transition into adulthood e.g. family, friends, health care providers, social workers, local councillors and MSPs. Groups explored their circles of support to identify key stakeholders who do and could support them.
Each Youth Investigation Team, in partnership with local organisations and community planning partnerships, developed recommendations for local action. These included:
Advocacy: Create fairer opportunities across Scotland by improving access to advocacy support for disabled young people
Transport: Increase accessibility on public transport for disabled people across Scotland
Bullying: Create an environment so that anyone who is being bullied can be more open about what’s happening- no one should have to suffer alone
Access: Access, support and funding activities- including social activities that the young people organise/can take part in
The project culminated in a “national discussion day” where the Youth Investigation Teams, Scottish Government and key stakeholders/decision-makers came together to listen to and discuss the young people’s insights and recommendations.
A final report was then produced which included all the recommendations and actions for change which the young people involved identified. This report was disseminated to the Scottish Government and to local partners to help inform delivery of services going forward.
“The young people involved in the project were inspiring. Their commitment and enthusiasm was amazing and seeing their confidence to participate grow was a real high for the team involved in the project. The response the young people received from the Minister for Children & Young People and other decision-makers was extremely positive and they left feeling empowered and confident.”
Some of these outcomes are best demonstrated by quotes from the young people and workers:
“The project gave us something to do that helps the community and helps my friends, that’s what I enjoy doing. We want to see better access for people in wheelchairs and people with disabilities, into shops and other premises, like nightclubs. We need better funding for the shop owners to help them.” Person involved in the project
“I got involved because I didn’t want to feel isolated anymore and I wanted to see if I could make a change in my life, which I now have. Through the Agents Of change project I wanted to stand up for my own rights and the rights of other disabled people and to get people to understand disabled people more. My favourite thing about being involved is standing up for each other’s rights, because there are so many people with different disabilities, and even though we have different disabilities we still stand up for the same or similar rights.” Person involved in the project
“What inspired me to get involved is the fact we’re looking at advocacy across Scotland and Midlothian for people with visual impairment needs, people who are deaf and people like myself. Advocacy would have helped me as I was very shy and I didn’t really speak to anyone. We need to feel as though we are getting our voices heard in a way we would like them to be and we need someone to speak up and say ‘Excuse me, but this kind of treatment is not on’. Being at the Parliament is so important to me because it’s all different groups and we get a chance to meet other people and share our views with each other.” Person involved in the project
Why is this co-production?
Young Scot Agents of Change is an example of co-production because of the principles which underpinned the way the project was delivered. Young people with disabilities were valued for their skills and experience, in recognition that in order to design services which meet their needs it is vital that their voice is heard.
Assets – the project aimed to ensure young people living with disabilities were seen, and will continue to be seen, as equal partners in the design and delivery of local services for them. Young people were empowered to identify the local services which need to be improved and use their capabilities to work in their community to better inform these services about what matters to them.
Networks – the Caithness group is working in partnership with their local licensing forum and Community Councillors to make local services, such as restaurants and bars more accessible for disabled young people. The Arbroath group are working at a national level with Enable Scotland to challenge disability hate crime and bullying.
Mutuality – young people worked in partnership with local service providers, community planning partners and other stakeholders, as well as engaging with peers, to deliver the outcomes of the project and to make recommendations for action and change. All of the groups involved in the project are working with local service providers to improve current service provision.
The Partnership Agreement was a key feature in this respect as it set out mutual responsibilities of agency staff and young people. For example, the Kindred group are working in partnership to increase advocacy support for young people; the young people in Caithness have joined the Caithness Disability Access Panel in order to feed in young people’s experiences and implement these into community planning structures.
Catalysts – in East Lothian, the young people have shared their findings with the local Community Planning Partnership and are now working together to look at how more social activities for disabled young people can be designed and created.
Lessons and learning
Adopt a proactive, flexible and responsive approach and allow plenty of time to build capacity for everyone to participate in a fully informed way.
"At Young Scot we believe it’s that young people get the opportunity to not just have their say and share their thoughts on the issues that affect them, but are actually involved at the centre in the co-design and co-production of services and polices that have such a major impact on their lives, especially as they go through transitions. It’s our vision that we live in a country where ALL young people are able to take responsibility for changing our world now and tackling social issues- so that they grow up in a Scotland that promotes aspiration, enterprise, opportunity, inclusion and wellbeing.”
This case study was produced as part of the resource ‘Co -production – how we make a difference together’, developed by the Scottish Co-Production Network, the Joint Improvement Team, the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland( the ALLIANCE) and Governance International.
As part of its work with the People Powered Health and Wellbeing programme Scottish Co-Production Network produced a series of case studies which relate the principles of co-production directly to health and social care. You can access the others here.
You can find out more about Young Scot Agents of Change from Alison Hardie – Information, Research & Strategy Director, Young Scot; email@example.com