Youth e-consultations at NIYF
This study was undertaken by ECRG Project sponsorsed Michele Smyth, reading for a PhD degree on "Exploring capacity for youth participation in online public consultation".
What is the NIYF
The Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NIYF) is a key agency in current youth participation activity, developing mechanisms for enabling youth participation across Northern Ireland. Working with the 14–25 age group, NIYF currently delivers a number of programmes in various settings, such as youth clubs.
Smyth 's research explored the capacity for e-enabling appropriate aspects of youth participation in public consultation within existing structures in Northern Ireland. Various stakeholder perspectives were interpreted with a view to developing an online resource offering experiential learning opportunities on citizenship and related themes.
The purpose of the research is to inform the design of appropriate online mechanisms that may be used by NIYF to complement their existing consultation work. To date, a website using wiki technology has been set up to act as a platform for complementary e-consultation activity and a number of online technology interventions have been introduced
To date, a number of issues have emerged: Recruitment and maintaining interest, and Child Protection
Recruiting respondents for a consultation process and maintaining interest throughout the process is a key issue. Participants need to know why it is important for them to take part. What specifically is at stake? In what way will their contributon, and its impact, count?
The nature of the NIYF work with young people carries with it legal and ethical responsibilities in terms of providing a safe and secure environment free from the threat of harm. Upon introducing these online methods it became quickly apparent that a careful approach would be necessary in order to ensure that these requirements were met.
Despite a desire on the part of Smyth and NIYF to roll out the online consultation activity to as wide an audience as possible, child protection considerations have hindered this development.
A number of perceived benefits have been observed to date:
- Young participant expressed enthusiasm for the discussion forum environment, and,
- The Consultation coordinator commented on the usefulness of having such a platform.