Five tips for setting up a youth advisory board

number five

Author: Nicky Crabb, Director, Little Green Pig

In 2019, Little Green Pig got an #iwill Fund grant to help us set up our first ever youth board; a long held desire for the organisation, as we are always trying to improve the ways we centre the voices of the children and young people we work with in the work we do.  The grant enabled us to take on a young intern to help us research and develop the youth board. 

Developing our youth board

The process of recruiting the intern, Mai Hindawi, was hindered by the impact of Covid-19, but they finally started with us in the autumn of 2020. Mai researched other youth boards around the country to help create all of our recruitment materials (shout out to Roundhouse and Young Identity in particular for sharing so generously!) In the process, Mai was supported by myself, and one of our Young Trustees, Sunetta Kiarie. We focussed on making the materials as accessible as possible. 

We were delighted to recruit an initial four youth board members aged between 15-19. All had previously participated in our projects and three of them are still with us now in 2023. We ran a second round of recruitment in 2021, recruiting a further four members, two of whom remain with us today. We realise that as brilliant as it is when they stay with us in the medium or longer-term, it is the nature of young people to move on, move to new places, and start new things. Mai also left us to return to her home of Egypt in 2021.

Our top five tips for setting up a youth board:

1. Plan your youth board thoroughly 

Spend time first thinking about what your youth board will look like: how often will they meet, what will they be doing in their meetings, who will chair the meetings and prepare the agenda, where will you meet, and how will you make this process accessible. Will they be facilitated by a staff member or self facilitated by the board members? You may want to change things as you go when you learn how the group functions well together, but having a specific plan removes ambiguity and will bring structure to the group and process.

2. Make recruitment accessible  

Make sure your recruitment process is as accessible as possible. Whilst we wanted to know why young people wanted to be on our youth board, we didn’t want to create a process which created barriers for them. We emphasised that they could submit a video or voice recording responding to the questions we asked, and we kept the questions simple – focussing on who they were and why they wanted to be part of our youth board.

3. Do meetings ‘well’ 

We found that having one clear focus for the meeting, instead of many agenda items, worked well – for example, designing a new youth brand. All of our first few meetings happened online due to covid, and one of our founder members was living in Iraq during the lockdowns. We initially aimed for the meetings to be 2 hours long, but then realised this was too long when online and we reduced them to 1 – 1.5 hours. Once we returned to face-to-face meetings we needed to make sure we had a fully accessible space as two of our youth board members are wheelchair users.

“Little Green Pig has helped me, it’s like a different thing to do…. I enjoy being part of the behind the scenes…. I feel more important, it makes you feel like your opinion and voice does matter.”

Bara’a, youth board member

4. Be conscious of exams 

All of our current youth board were taking GCSEs or A levels in the spring-summer of 2023. We realised that we had to pause meetings during this time and listen to them and what they needed – which was time to focus on their studies, even if this meant delaying decisions about our projects or booking in training sessions later than planned.  Organising meetings can take a while as young people have busy lives – especially around exam time. It can take perseverance and lots of messages to make sure everyone knows when and where the meeting is, but it is always worth it!

5. Provide food and fun!

Since we returned to in-person meetings we always provide snacks and drinks, and make the meetings feel informal and as fun as possible, with time to catch up with each other.  We take their feedback very seriously and have been pleased to discover that they in return value being listened to and seeing their ideas manifesting.  

Sitting down and talking at a youth board meeting made me feel more confident. These meetings are fun, I feel like we have an impact… “

Mia, youth board member

We are now at the stage where we are going to buddy each young board member up with an adult board member, and then hopefully bring two youth board members onto the main board sometime in 2024 as Young Trustees. 

We are planning a further round of recruitment in the New Year to make sure we are bringing in new voices. We have also asked youth board members to help out with interviews both for interns and staff members; an experience they have found very valuable and eye opening. We are always looking for new ways to involve them in the running of the organisation as they have so much to offer!

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